It's that time of year again! Hurricane Season started this week and will last for six months - from June 1 to November 30.
Many people ask me why should we worry about hurricanes since we are not a coastal community. While It's true that we don't have to worry about storm surge, we are close enough to the coast to feel the powerful effects should a Category 3 or higher hurricane strike the Georgia coast.
Destructive wind, tornadoes, flooding, and subsequent loss of utilities are some of the reasons that every family should get prepared.
History teaches that a lack of hurricane awareness and preparation are common threads among all major hurricane disasters.
First, know what protective actions to take for hurricane force wind, tornadoes, and floods.
If a hurricane is projected to impact our area, you should:
• Monitor weather conditions intensely so you know what is going on.
• If a "watch" is issued for our area, start securing loose items on and around your house. Have a hand tool available so you can turn off utilities, if needed.
• Review your "safe room" location with your family and place blankets, pillows, NOAA alert radio, first aid kit, battery operated radio and other items you may need inside your "safe room."
• If you live in a mobile home, go ahead and leave during the "watch" period. Make plans to stay with friends or relatives in advance. Don't wait until the weather is approaching to try to drive. Make sure you communicate where you are with a friend or relative.
• Do not drive during high wind or flooding.
• If you live in a flood zone, develop a plan to leave during the "watch" period. Don't wait until water is rising to try to leave.
Next, ask yourself, "Can I go it alone for three days?" Following a major disaster, help might take a little while and you need to be able to take care of your family's immediate needs, unassisted, for at least 72 hours. Bread and milk will not be enough.
Store at least three days worth of food (that does not need refrigeration or heating), bottled water, NOAA alert radio, first-aid items, battery-operated radios or TVs, flashlights, medicine, and other items you may specifically need, such as spare oxygen tanks. Also, remember your pets!
Natural disasters are becoming more frequent and more destructive. Forecasters say that the 2008 hurricane season will be near average in the number of storms, but there is a higher risk of a destructive storm hitting the U.S. east coast.
The expectation is that there will be 12 named storms, with two or three of those likely to affect energy production areas in the Gulf of Mexico. Every three years there is usually one major storm in the Gulf.
Please visit the Columbia County Web site at www.columbiacountyga.gov and click on the Hurricane Preparedness link, or call the Emergency Services office at (706) 868-3303 for more information to help you and your family get ready.
(Pam Tucker is director of the Columbia County Emergency Services Division.)
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