09/21/09 — Are we ready? Public will be key if another Floyd comes county's way

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Are we ready? Public will be key if another Floyd comes county's way

You are never really ready for a hurricane -- or its aftermath.

As sure as you figure out a pattern, it will change and what you thought was going to be merely a bunch of rain becomes a mess like the flooding left by Hurricane Floyd.

And it is true, officials at the local and state levels have learned a lot since that September in 1999 -- how to keep more homeowners safe and how to handle the resulting public emergency if the county again faces multiple feet of floodwater.

But there is an even more key component to managing a hurricane -- if one like Floyd, or worse, should ever decide to sit on the North Carolina coast.

The difference between a terrible tragedy and a manageable emergency is how local residents react when they hear the news that a weather concern is coming.

If those who are told to evacuate do so, and officials have the emergency shelters and other needs in place, the loss of human life will be minimal -- and more personal property might even be saved. If evacuees do their job, there will be less need for rescuers to risk their lives to save them from the rising waters.

And some of the other steps that have already been taken will help, too. Restricting building in flood zones, as well as insisting those who stay in the flood plain take some extra precautions, could save homes and lives.

If you want to see how NOT to handle a hurricane, look at New Orleans. How many hundreds of lives could have been saved if people had been forced to evacuate, and if city officials and state leaders had done more to coordinate rescue efforts and to provide transportation to the shelters.

North Carolina has hurricane preparation down pat -- that has been proven many times.

But keeping residents aware of the dangers -- and encouraging them to develop their own escape plans -- is the best insurance against a tragedy like Hurricane Katrina.

Published in Editorials on September 21, 2009 11:42 AM