05/24/05 — Red Cross offers safety tips as hurricane season nears

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Red Cross offers safety tips as hurricane season nears

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on May 24, 2005 1:46 PM

Heavy winds are pounding your home, destroying trees and shrubs all around you. Torrential rains are falling from the sky by buckets.

Suddenly, your power goes out. Are your prepared for the worst?

Hurricane season officially starts June 1 and goes through Nov. 30. Officials are predicting 13 named storms, seven hurricanes and three catastrophic hurricanes of category 3 or higher for 2005.

To make sure Wayne County people are not caught off guard in case of a hurricane, the Wayne County Chapter of the American Red Cross is offering hurricane preparedness tips.

Teresa Williams, disaster services director, said the first thing to do is assemble a disaster supply kit now. Include these items:

*Nonperishable foods and a manual can opener.

*At least three gallons of drinking water per person. You can purchase bottled water or save your own in plastic containers such as soft drink bottles. Seal them tightly, label them and store them in a cool, dark place. Rotate every six months.

*A first aid kit and essential medicines.

*Protective clothing, rainwear and bedding or sleeping bags.

*A battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries.

*Hygiene supplies.

*Special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members.

*A shovel and other useful tools.

*Money and matches in a waterproof container.

*A fire extinguisher.

*Written instructions on how to turn off electricity, gas and water if authorities advise you to do so.

If you should be caught with no water stores, Mrs. Williams said you can get water from these sources -- rain water, streams, rivers, other moving bodies of water, ponds and lakes and natural springs.

"Avoid water with floating materials, an odor or a dark color," she said. "Be sure to purify the water one of three ways -- boiling, disinfection or distillation."

The Red Cross has more information on how to purify water along with several different brochures and pamphlets on hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding.

"You can also use the water in your hot-water tank and pipes and ice cubes," said Mrs. Williams.

If activity is reduced, healthy people can survive on half their usual food intake for an extended period and without any food for many days, Mrs. Williams said.

"If your power goes, you can use a fireplace, charcoal grill or camp stove outdoors to cook on," she said. "You can also heat foods with candle warmers, chafing dishes and fondue pots.

"First use perishable foods and foods from your refrigerator. Then use foods from your freezer. Lastly, use non-perishable foods."

If your power goes out, make sure you go around and check and see that everything is turned off, said Mrs. Williams. "We have had incidents of the stove being on when power went out and when it comes back on catching the house on fire because people have left their homes."

Mrs. Williams strongly encourages everyone to know what their evacuation routes are and know more than one way to get out in case of a hurricane, tornado or flooding.

"Have an out-of-state emergency contact so if your family is separated during a hurricane and you can't get back together for some reason, you have someone everyone can check in with," she said. "Then you can call that person to make sure everyone else in your family is okay."

Mrs. Williams also noted that with hurricanes comes the increased threat of tornadoes.

If it becomes necessary for the Red Cross to open shelters before, during or after a hurricane, details will be available in the newspaper and on the radio and TV.

According to the Red Cross, hurricanes are products of a tropical ocean and a warm, moist atmosphere and are powered by heat from the sea.

A tropical depression is an organized system of persistent clouds and thunderstorms with a closed low-level circulation and maximum sustained winds of 38 miles an hour. A tropical storm is an organized system of strong thunderstorms with a well-defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 miles an hour. A hurricane is an intense tropical weather system with a well-defined circulation and sustained winds of 74 miles an Watch means hurricane conditions are possible usually within 36 hours.

A watch means hurricane conditions are possible usually within 36 hours. A warning means hurricane conditions are expected usually within 24 hours.

Mrs. Williams noted that North Carolina has had 60 direct hits by hurricanes since records were first kept.

"We don't want to make people really afraid of hurricanes, just prepared," she stressed. "The more prepared you are, the less afraid you will be. Of course being a little afraid is healthy."