Now is the time to prepare

As many as 9 hurricanes could form this season, meaning that residents need to get serious

June 04, 2008 at 9:51 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

As many as nine hurricanes could form this year, with anywhere from two to five of them being Category 3 or higher.
Ann Taylor
As many as nine hurricanes could form this year, with anywhere from two to five of them being Category 3 or higher.
It could be a rough six months for St. Charles Parish if predictions by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration prove to be accurate.

The administration’s Climate Prediction Center has announced a 60 to 70 percent chance that this year’s hurricane season will have 12 to 16 named storms, including six to nine hurricanes. Anywhere from two to five of those hurricanes could be either Category 3, 4 or 5.

An average season has 11 named storms, including six hurricanes, two of which reach major status.

“Our forecasters are ready to track any tropical cyclone, from a depression to a hurricane, which forms in the Atlantic Basin,” Bill Read, director of NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, said. “We urge coastal residents to have a hurricane plan in place before the season begins and NHC will continue to provide the best possible forecast to the public.”

Since the hurricane season officially began on June 1, Tab Troxler, director of the parish’s Emergency Operations Center, says residents need to start getting those plans together as soon as possible.

“Now is as good a time as any to start making plans,” Troxler said. “It’s important that everyone gets their emergency preparedness plans together and gets their proper evacuation routes down. You need to make sure you have at least two separate routes and locations.”

The NHC says that residents need to know the storm history and elevation of their area, while also learning about safe routes inland and the locations of official shelters. One of the biggest problems that surfaced during the Katrina evacuation was the availability of gas. Plan ahead to have enough gas to get to your evacuation site because there is a good chance stations along major evacuation routes will run out.

Everyone in the area should also have enough food, water and medicine to live self-sufficiently for at least three days.
“The general rule is 72 hours,” Troxler said. “Make sure you have enough food and water to last for three days, while having enough medicine for a week.”

St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne agrees and says that if a storm is not significant enough to force a mandatory evacuation, residents still need to be prepared.

“People need to understand that the employees of food, drug and convenience stores that sell gasoline evacuate also and those items may not be available for an extended period of time depending upon the damage we receive,” he said. “The elderly need to be especially careful due to the lack of power, medication and medical assistance.”

Besides food and water, residents should also be sure to have a camping stove with fuel, a small cooler, extra batteries, first-aid supplies and an extra supply of cash. All important financial, insurance and personal documents should also be kept together in a safe place.

Maintenance of the home is also an important part of preparing for a hurricane. Homes need to be checked for loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts. Trees and shrubbery should be trimmed and lawn furniture and other loose, lightweight objects should be tied down.

“Right now, for the home, it’s important that people begin to keep their yards tidy,” Troxler said.

Debris and lawn objects could not only cause problems to a person’s home, but could also cause severe injury to neighbors if the winds pick up enough to turn them into dangerous missiles.

According to cell phone giant Verizon Wireless, employers also need to make sure to update their contact list, including mobile and home phone numbers and e-mail addresses, for all employees. Text messaging should be used more during a storm because they are more likely to get through, especially when wireless networks are overwhelmed during and after a hurricane.

However, the most important thing may just be to stay informed.

“People need to pay attention and heed the advice of our local officials,” Troxler said. “They need to take the storm seriously and understand that our parish is very vulnerable.”

Champagne says that because the parish lacks adequate shelter, listening to public officials can help save lives.

“One of the biggest challenges emergency responders face is suitable shelter in the parish to ride out major storms,” he said. “There are few if any locations sufficiently safe to ride out a Category 4 or 5 storm.

“Another problem we face is our concern for the safety of residents who do not evacuate when asked to. Other than that, we will be prepared for a storm threat and have extensive emergency plans to feed and house personnel as well as protect our equipment. This job is much easier for us if we do not have to worry about the safety of citizens who chose to ignore evacuation warnings.”

View other articles written Jonathan Menard

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