During National Hurricane Preparedness Week, which ran from May 25 through May 31, Emergency management officials reminded residents of Delaware that the official start date of the 2014 Atlantic Hurricane season began on Sunday, June 1.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts a 50 percent chance of a below-normal season, a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season, and only a 10 percent chance of an above-normal season. For the six-month hurricane season, NOAA predicts a 70 percent likelihood of 8 to 13 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 3 to 6 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 1 to 2 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher). The prediction from NOAA does not predict how many of the storms could affect the mid-Atlantic region.
The Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) encourages Delaware residents and visitors to be personally prepared for the possibility of a tropical storm or hurricane affecting the state sometime during hurricane season, June 1 to November 30. While Delaware has been fortunate to be out of the critical impact areas from storms in recent years, officials warn that residents should not be lulled into letting down their guard. In a statement sent out on Friday, May 30 Governor Markell urged Delawareans to prepare themselves, their families, and their businesses for the 2014 hurricane storm season.
“Hurricanes have resulted in real damage to homes and businesses across the state in recent years, but we’ve also limited the damage because of the support we have received from the public in prevention and response efforts” said Governor Jack Markell. “Our best defense is to be well prepared before any storm arrives and we all have a role to play. Keeping our communities as safe as possible requires advanced coordination and cooperation among state government, the general public and organizations like the Red Cross.”
Delaware residents are urged to know their risk from hurricanes and floods, take action, and be examples for family and friends. National Hurricane Preparedness Week provides an opportunity for people to take action now to respond to the possibility of a tropical storm or hurricane sometime during the year. Actions to be taken now include making an emergency evacuation plan and knowing evacuation routes, preparing an emergency kit or making sure an existing kit is up to date, and inventorying and copying important documents and making sure valuables are secured in a safe place.
Essential to every household is an Emergency Supply Kit. This is a collection of basic items that should be readily available in the event of an emergency of any nature. Basic items to have in an Emergency Supply Kit include:
WATER – One gallon of water per person per day for at least 3 days (4 person household = 12 gallons), for drinking and sanitation. If a storm is anticipated, fill a bathtub to provide water for sanitation purposes (refilling toilet tanks).
FOOD – A supply of non-perishable food for three days. Take into account that cooking might not be possible. Make sure you have sufficient food for pets, as well. And very importantly, a manual can opener is needed in the event power is lost.
RADIO – A battery-powered or hand-cranked radio, and a NOAA weather radio with a tone alert. Make sure to have extra batteries.
LIGHTING – A flashlight with extra batteries at the least. Battery-operated lanterns can also provide safe indoor light. Battery-operated, flameless “candles” can also provide illumination. Solar-powered lawn lights can be recharged during the day by placing them outside (when there is sunlight), and brought inside after dark to provide safe, renewable light. Avoid regular candles and other open flames.
FIRST AID KIT – You should also make sure that medications are current and there are sufficient amounts, especially prescription medications, to last three days.
WHISTLE – Allows you to signal for help.
DUST MASK – Certain events could put large amounts of dust and other contaminants in the air.
PLASTIC SHEETING & DUCT TAPE – Certain events might result in emergency officials advising residents to shelter in place. These items can help prevent damage to the residence.
PERSONAL SANITATION – Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties.
TOOLS – You may be instructed to turn off utilities such as gas or water. A wrench or pliers can help do the job.
EVACUATION SUPPLIES – An evacuation plan should be made well in advance, but it is a good idea to have maps available if you are not familiar with the area.
COMMUNICATIONS – In an emergency, electrical power could be lost for days. A car charger, inverter or solar charger can keep a cell phone working. If the household has only cordless phones, keep a “corded” phone on hand – if the power is out, the cordless phone will not work, but a corded phone could be plugged in, providing phone service. Keep calls to a minimum, but to conserve power and to keep phone lines from becoming clogged.
GENERATORS – Generators should never be used in enclosed spaces, including garages, or near doors or windows. Plenty of ventilation is needed to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Gasoline and other fuels need to be stored outside as well. Generators should be tested and care used when re-fueling.
In the same release as Governor Markell, United States Senator Tom Carper added, “If the superstorms of the last several years have taught us anything, it’s to be prepared for everything,” said Sen. Carper, chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. “Now is the time to protect your homes, businesses and property from severe weather.”
Both officials stated that even communities far inland from the coast can experience hurricanes depending on the course of the storm, often with the threat of powerful winds and widespread flooding. In addition, strong rip currents even at large distances from the storm can threaten those at the beach many miles away. The release highlighted that as hurricane season approaches, it is important to know the difference between the threat levels. The statement reminded individuals that a Hurricane Watch is when conditions are a threat within 48 hours. It’s then time to review your hurricane plans. Get ready to act if a warning is issued, and stay informed. A Hurricane Warning is when conditions are expected within 36 hours. It’s then time to complete your storm preparations and leave the area if directed to do so by authorities.
More information on how to prepare can be found at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/prepare. DEMA also has a Delaware Hurricane Evacuation Guide. It can be obtained in printed form, or viewed as a pdf file at www.dema.delaware.gov.