NEWS | June 27, 2011

Hurricane season heats up ... remain vigiliant

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jennifer Hudson Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Hurricane season, which began June 1 and lasts through Nov. 30, is the time when Mother Nature produces one of the most dangerous weather phenomena. These storms form in the warm, tropical waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico and can produce winds up to 170 miles per hour.

Hurricane Katrina, which struck the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts in August 2005, grew into a catastrophic Category Five storm, with winds in excess of 175 miles per hour destroying virtually everything in its wake.

In 1989, Hurricane Hugo became one of the most intense tropical cyclones to strike the Atlantic coast north of Florida, hitting the Isle of Palms and devastating the Carolina coast. More dangerous than the 160 mph winds were the destructive storm surges, taking a total of 50 lives.

Hazards associated with hurricanes come in many forms including: storm surge, high winds, tornadoes and flooding. It is important for your family to have a plan that prepares all of these hazards. Planning ahead helps reduce stress during the season and also helps to ensure safety.

"The months of August through October are the peak times for a hurricane to hit during the season. It is essential for everyone to remain alert and attentive to what is going on with the weather," said Emergency Manager Steve Gottula, 628th Readiness and Emergency Management Flight.

"Having a plan is the ultimate key to success. If you have a plan already drawn out it will help to not only reduce stress, but will ensure your family can cope with the hardships following a severe storm," he continued. "This is especially important for people who may have a special needs person living with them."

A survival plan includes preparations the family in case of evacuations and also encompasses plans for pets. A family plan is a written guideline that discusses the hazards that could affect your family if a storm hits. It should indicate escape routes and a meeting place as well as arrangements for the family pet should the time come to evacuate.

"A disaster supply kit is also very important to have," said Mr. Gottula. "There is no telling how long outside services could be shut down; it can be anywhere from 72 hours to weeks at a time, so it is important to have at least one week's worth of essential items. This includes cash in the form of small bills to purchase gas, medicine and batteries. It should also contain enough food and water - anything you may need to ride out a storm."

According to Debbie Harris who works at the JB CHS - Weapons Station Child Development Center and a Hurricane Hugo survivor, you can never have too many candles and batteries or too much fresh water in the aftermath of a storm. Also, have some sort of radio to keep up with any updates about the storm.

"When Hurricane Hugo hit, we were prepared and we didn't sustain much damage to our home," Ms. Harris said. "One of the biggest tips I can give anyone is that if you have children, plan on evacuating with enough items to keep them entertained.

"We haven't had a hurricane for years now, so everyone needs to be prepared to face one," she added.

When the order to evacuate due to a hurricane is made, obey authorities and evacuate immediately; expect long travel periods as traffic congestion grows.

For Charleston area residents, most evacuation routes lead inland to Columbia, S.C. Residents must arrange their own shelter and evacuation routes, but should do so well before the order to evacuate is given. Whether traveling to a friend's house, hotel or shelter, pre-planning is essential when it comes to evacuating.

"We want people to be prepared as much as possible when it comes to dealing with a hurricane or any natural disaster," said Mr. Gottula. "The most important aspects to keep in mind when dealing with these types of situations is to take them seriously, pay attention, listen to officials and most importantly, have a plan. You can never be too prepared."

To find out more information on how you can better prepare your family during natural disasters contact your command or unit emergency manager. For step-by-step instructions on planning ahead for a hurricane and lists of what to include in a disaster survival kit, visit website www.nhc.noaa.gov or www.ready.gov . For tips on hurricane evacuation routes visit website www.SCtraffic.gov .