By Rachel Hogan Carr
Hurricane Sandy has been making headlines in the news, and for a reason. The potential impacts of a significant hurricane on the East Coast of the United States are serious, and include major river and coastal flooding, power outages and wind damage. Current forecasts show the storm arriving in the Northeast early next week, and forecasts will become more confident and more accurate as each day passes.
Starting to follow news of the storm now is a good idea. The National Weather Service Forecast Office for our region is in Mt. Holly, NJ. Each day, they produce a new briefing about the storm that explains what is expected and how people should consider responding. The most recent briefing is here: http://www.erh.noaa.gov/phi/briefing/packages/current_briefing.pdf.
Talk to your neighbors and family about what they are doing to get ready, and start making plans to prepare. The final track of the storm is not certain, but we want to be ready and prepared should this large and well-organized storm come close to our region.
Below are some general preparedness steps we shared during Hurricane Irene, that apply to Hurricane Sandy as well. What steps have you taken? Which do you still need to complete? Let us know.
1. Get ready, and tell others what you’ve done.
One of the most important things for motivating people to prepare is to know what their friends, families and neighbors are doing. So spread the word: be specific, and tell each other how you are preparing. It might help you think of things you forgot, and it might encourage your neighbor to take care of their property. It could also help make the neighborhood clean-up after the fact much easier.
2. Stock up on essentials: Food (include plenty of non-perishable food, too), water, ice, prescriptions and any other needed medical supplies.
Plan on a gallon of water per person or per day. Even in areas that don’t flood, sustained power outages can occur, and people should always be prepared with at least three days’ worth of food and water. Store ice in a cooler in the basement. Get any medical prescriptions filled now.
3. Prepare your “Go-Kit” or “Ready-Bag.”
This bag is ready to go with you if you need to leave, and also helps you if you need to stay put for a few days. It can include items you don’t want to lose, like hard drives and family photographs. The point is to make sure you that if you leave , you don’t have to go back to the house: it may be too risky. Check here for a list of items, including batteries, flashlights, pets: http://focusonfloods.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/family-go-kit-list.pdf.
4. Outside your home: Secure your stuff.
Put away, or secure with bungee cords or chains, any items that could fly away in a storm. In the sort of sustained high-winds associated with hurricanes, that’s just about everything: patio furniture, umbrellas, bicycles, children’s toys, tools, bird feeders, grill covers, etc. Inspect for vulnerable tree branches and remove any loose branches that might fall during the storm. Clean your gutters.
5. Secure your windows.
Those in the areas near where the hurricane is expected to land should be boarding up their windows with plywood or shutters. Areas expected to receive less severe, but nonetheless serious, sustained high winds can focus on vulnerable windows. Caulk up any cracks or leaks to prevent water inside your home. Rain combined with high winds can bring rain into buildings where it has never leaked before.
6. Inside your home: Get ready for flooding.
If you live near the river, move belongings to upper floors; expect water in your basement or first floor, especially if you have been flooded in the past. Prepare to turn off mechanical equipment and utilities if instructed to do so, or have your furnace disconnected if you know you are likely to flood. Test your generator now. Unplug electrical appliances. Don’t touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
7. Have a Family (And Pet) Plan.
Know the evacuation routes from your property, and which access roads flood. Make sure family know where to meet. Make sure pets have a safe place indoors, and include them when buying food and water. If you need to evacuate, take pets with you, so you don’t have to go back to your property later to get them, when it may be too late. Follow National Weather Service watches and warnings and also river gages at water.weather.gov/ahps.
8. Turn Around, Don’t Drown.
Even 12″ of water can sweep a car away, and heavy trucks aren’t much better. The water can be very deceiving: what appears to be one or two inches of water may be much more. It’s even harder to tell at night. If you see water on the road, turn around.
9. Expect flash flooding.
Those near creeks, like the Bushkill or Monocacy, should expect flash flooding. Small creeks and streams can rise several feet within minutes. Plan to evacuate and plan alternate driving routes.
10. Evacuate when told.
If asked to leave your home or business, follow directions the first time. Don’t put rescue workers in jeopardy by making them come rescue you when waters are high and dangerous. In all your decisions, consider the effect on others, and don’t create unnecessary emergency rescues.
If you found this post helpful, please consider sharing it with your friends. The more people who are prepared, the better. Thank you.
Rachel Hogan Carr is the director of the Nurture Nature Center in Easton, PA, a non-profit organization that has been working for the past several years to help local communities address flood risk. You can follow them on Facebook or visit www.nurturenaturecenter.org.
Image from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website.