For a few days now, I’ve seen news items regarding Hurricane Joaquin, which is headed Northwest through the Bahamas toward the eastern United States. Forecasters are warning that there will be heavy rain, winds, and flooding from the storm surge.
The Weather Channel and other news outlets are warning that this will start this weekend and carry through into the first of next week. News outlets are warning of “Historic rains” and naming specific states that should be preparing for their homes for a strong potential of flooding now. Some are even suggesting getting away from down-slope areas through the weekend.
Other than worrying for friends and family, this storm will have no impact on me because I am on the WEST COAST, but I’m paying attention. Unfortunately I know that, just like every other year, my television, Twitter feed, and Facebook will be flooded for the next week or two with stories and pictures of people and places being overrun, as if surprised by the arrival and impact of this Category 4 Hurricane (right now that means it has a wind speed range of 130-156 mph).
I’m sure I look like a bitch, but the tracking mechanisms and technology in place allow plenty of advance knowledge of the likelihood of the storms’ paths, so I have a couple of huge problems with what then always comes next. Hmmm
- Pictures of people who didn’t evacuate as ordered and have become stranded causing first responders and other emergency personnel to risk themselves rescuing them when they could be helping those who legitimately COULD NOT get out of the storm’s way;
- The inevitable pleas for donations that are needed as a result of people:
- Not evacuating when they had advance notice and warning
- Not keeping the supplies necessary on hand: in basements/garages/attics, etc., to secure windows, etc. since they know that there is a great likelihood, due to where they live, that they will see storms
- Not preparing their families and pets/livestock for the possibility of being on their own, without services for a time, and unable to leave where they are due to bad roads, debris or residual flooding after the storm passes
- Not checking to make sure neighbors who may be less well off or who are elderly/disabled are adequately prepared or have made arrangements to evacuate
So, for those who’d like a refresher, here is what FEMA recommends be done in preparation for the arrival of Joaquin, or any other severe weather or natural disaster that could occur where you live, for that matter:
- Hurricane winds can cause trees and branches to fall, so trim or remove damaged trees and limbs to keep you and your property safe: especially those close enough to fall on your home
- Secure loose rain gutters and downspouts and clear any clogged areas or debris to prevent water damage to your property
- Reduce property damage by retrofitting to secure and reinforce the roof, windows and doors, including the garage doors (including sturdy weather stripping under and around doors, garage doors, outdoor basement access, and windows)
- Purchase a portable generator or install a generator for use during power outages. Remember to keep generators and other alternate power/heat sources outside, at least 20 feet away from windows and doors and protected from moisture; and NEVER try to power the house wiring by plugging a generator into a wall outlet.
36 Hours before a storm:
- Turn on your TV or radio in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions
- Build or restock your emergency preparedness kit. Include a flashlight, batteries, medicines, cash, a fully charged portable cell phone charger, Baby food/formula/diapers, Pet food/supplies (leashes), heavy duty trash bags, water, non-perishable food (stored in a sealed Rubbermaid type container or clean large locking trash can lined with a trash bag and zip tied closed to keep food dry), first aid supplies, heavy tarps and duct tape in case your building sustains damage allowing rain in, and copies of your critical documents in resealable bags to keep them safe
- Plan how to communicate with family members if you lose power. For example, you can call, text, email or use social media. Remember that during disasters, sending text messages is usually reliable and faster than making phone calls because phone lines are often overloaded
- Review your evacuation plan with your family. You may have to leave quickly so plan ahead
- Keep your car in good working condition, and keep the gas tank full; stock your vehicle with emergency supplies and a change of clothes
- Bring pets inside, crate them if you feel evacuation will be necessary or if they are particularly anxious. Keep their harnesses or collars on for a quick snap of their leash in event of an emergency evacuation
- Bring loose, lightweight objects inside that could become projectiles in high winds (e.g., patio furniture, garbage cans); anchor objects that would be unsafe to bring inside (e.g., propane tanks)
- Cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” exterior grade or marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install
6-18 Hours before projected storm arrival:
- Turn on your TV/radio, or check your city/county website every 30 minutes in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
- Charge your cell phone and other portable wifi/cellular devices fully so you will have a full battery in case you lose power. Shut off all but your cellphone to conserve power in those devices
- Turn your refrigerator and/or freezer to the coldest setting and open only when necessary. If you lose power, food will last longer. Keep a thermometer in the refrigerator to be able to check the food temperature when the power is restored. If you have prepared a 5 day or longer capable cooler with ice, store dairy and quickly spoiled foods in this. Leave it shut!
- If you’re not in an area that is recommended for evacuation, plan to stay at home or where you are and let friends and family know where you are
- Check on your neighbors
With any luck this storm will decide to turn more to the east and dissipate over the Atlantic Ocean so that the impact isn’t as severe as forecasted, but it is never a bad idea to be prepared.
I’m reviewing my own emergency preparedness list for the El Nino rains forecasted for the west coast this winter, and the hard to predict, earthquakes that we get occasionally in California.
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