05/23/04 — Hurricane season is here

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Hurricane season is here

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on May 23, 2004 2:07 AM

The sun is shining, the temperature has warmed up and thoughts are turning to having fun in the summer time.

But with the summer comes hurricane season, which starts June 1 and goes through Nov. 30.

Wayne County has been lucky the past four years -- a hurricane hasn't blown through since Floyd in 1999. But the Wayne County Chapter of the American Red Cross doesn't want people to become complacent.

Red Cross officials are urging people to be prepared.

Teresa Williams, disaster services director, said hurricane experts are predicting 13 named storms this year, seven hurricanes and three intense hurricanes.

"They are saying that the East Coast has a 48 percent probability of seeing a hurricane make landfall," she said. "We just need to be ready this year."

She said that a poll of American coastal residents released in February showed that many households are not prepared for hurricanes and flooding. And only 40 percent of those polled reported that they have a disaster supply kit that contains items their family would need if they have to leave home due to a hurricane.

"Last year, Isabel was more of a non-event," said Chuck Waller, interim Red Cross chapter director. "So we don't want people to get a false sense of security this year. Five years ago, Hurricane Floyd reminded us of just how devastating Mother Nature can be."

He stressed that people's chances of being OK in a hurricane improve greatly if they prepare first.

There are various categories of hurricanes.

A Category 1 hurricane has winds from 74 to 95 miles an hour and causes minimal damage.

A Category 2 hurricane has winds from 96 to 110 miles an hour and causes moderate damage.

A Category 3 hurricane has winds from 111 to 130 miles an hour and causes extensive damage.

A Category 4 hurricane has winds from 131 to 155 miles an hour and causes extreme damage.

A Category 5 hurricane has winds greater than 155 miles an hour and causes catastrophic damage.

Mrs. Williams said the first thing to do to get prepared for a hurricane is to make a disaster supply kit.

"Assemble a disaster supplies kit and keep it handy during hurricane season," said Waller. "And if a hurricane happens, then you are ready. During the height of a storm, you're not going to have a very clear head to be running around trying to get everything for your disaster kit."

"Then get your evacuation plan and involve the children in it because you want your children to know what it's all about, too," Mrs. Williams said.

Waller reminded everyone to remember to plan for people with special needs like those in wheelchairs or someone on oxygen.

Mrs. Williams said another good way to prepare for hurricane season is to cut all the dead limbs off trees around your house. "You are not going to be able to stop everything from falling, but anything you can stop makes you that much better off," she said.

A hurricane watch is issued when there is a threat of hurricane conditions within 24 to 36 hours, according to Red Cross officials. A hurricane warning is issued when hurricane conditions, which include winds of greater than 74 miles an hour, are expected within 24 hours.

During a hurricane warning, turn on a battery-operated radio to get the latest information. Also fuel your car, check emergency supplies and bring in outdoor objects such as lawn furniture, toys and garden tools.

Close all storm shutters or cover all windows with plywood panels and secure your garage and entry doors.

This is the time to review your evacuation plan.

During a hurricane warning, listen to the radio or television constantly for official instructions. If you live in a mobile home, check tie-downs and evacuate immediately. Store your valuables and personal papers in a waterproof container in the highest possible spot in your home.

If you are staying at home, stay inside away from windows, skylights and glass doors. Store drinking water in clean bathtubs, jugs, bottles and cooking utensils. Keep flashlights and battery-operated lanterns handy.

If you lose electricity, turn off major appliances to reduce the power surge when the electricity comes back on.

If you are ordered to evacuate, leave during the daylight if possible and turn off your electricity, gas appliances and water.

Take blankets and sleeping bags with you to a shelter. Also take your pre-assembled emergency supplies and warm protective clothing.

If you have time before evacuating, elevate your furniture to protect it from flooding. And call an out-of-town friend or relative to them him know you are leaving and where you are going.

Free pamphlets available from the Red Cross chapter include "Family Disaster Supplies Kit," "Food and Water in an Emergency," "Family Disaster Plan," "Hurricane," "Before Disaster Strikes," "Hurricanes ... The Greatest Storms on Earth," "Against The Wind" and "Before the Wind Blows." These can be mailed, too. Also a hurricane tracking map is available.

"We don't know what's coming, but the better prepared you are, the better off you will be," Mrs. Williams said.