For years, Georgia’s been blessed with quiet hurricane seasons, but a state emergency management executive suggests we not take that for granted. Despite forecasts of a silent 2015 season, he advises all Georgians to prepare. In the other column, a Taiwan diplomat writes about the efficacy of the sovereign state’s health-care system.
Prepare for hurricane season
By Jim Butterworth
In a deadly storm 117 years ago, Cumberland Island was struck head-on by a hurricane. The Category 3 storm pounded the Georgia coast with 135-mph winds and massive waves, causing a 16-foot storm surge in Brunswick that left much of the city underwater. It’s estimated that hurricane killed 179 people across the Southeast.
That’s the last time Georgia was directly hit by a major hurricane with winds of at least 111 mph. Despite our 100 miles of coastline, we’ve gone more than a century without a direct hit from the biggest storms. More recently, it’s been a record-breaking nine years since a hurricane made landfall anywhere on the U.S. coast (Sandy was not categorized as a hurricane when it hit the Northeast in 2012).
It would be nice to hope our streak of good luck will continue. But hope is not a plan.
With its proximity to the coast, Georgia is at high risk from tropical storms. The National Weather Service has called the threat of Georgia hurricanes a “sleeping giant.” Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center, named Savannah as the fourth most-overdue city for a hurricane.
Hurricane Preparedness Week is May 23-30. I encourage every resident, along the coast and inland, to get prepared before the Atlantic hurricane season starts June 1.
Hurricanes are the most powerful storms in the world and can cause catastrophic damage even hundreds of miles inland. Straight-line winds can knock over buildings and take down power lines; they can also spawn even more powerful tornadoes. Large waves and storm surges can produce devastating floods along the coast, but dangerous flooding can also occur inland due to heavy rainfall.
Tropical storms don’t have to directly hit an area or even be particularly strong to cause significant problems. While Hurricane Katrina didn’t directly “hit” Georgia, it caused serious flooding across the western parts of the state and spawned 18 tornadoes here in one day.
To prepare, there are three mains steps to take: Be informed, make a plan and build a kit.
Being informed about the weather is crucial to staying safe. Luckily, there have never been more ways to stay weather-aware. Pay attention to local news and download a weather app for your smartphone, such as the Ready Georgia app, that will alert you to severe weather in your area.
Making a plan with your family ensures everyone will know what to do, whether it’s a hurricane or a tornado or flood produced by a hurricane. Your plan should make sure everyone knows where to shelter during a major storm, how to contact with each other and where to meet if communications are down. You should also consider the needs of older relatives or those with special needs, as well as pets.
Building a ready kit with emergency supplies ensures you have what you need to weather a storm or evacuate on short notice. Your kit should include at least a three-day supply of food and water, a first-aid kit, a flashlight with extra batteries, back-up chargers for your mobile phones, paper maps of your area and a NOAA Weather Radio.
You should also know the terms used to describe severe weather. A tropical storm or hurricane watch means a storm with major sustained winds is possible within 48 hours, and you should be prepared to evacuate. A tropical storm or hurricane warning means a major storm is expected in the next 36 hours. If local authorities advise you to evacuate, leave immediately.
To make sure your home is prepared, cover your windows with hurricane shutters or marine plywood. Bring in or tie down all outdoor furniture and decorations. Keep your trees and shrubs pruned. Keep the gas tank of your vehicle at least half-full.
For more about information on how to prepare, visit www.ready.ga.gov or download the Ready Georgia mobile app for your phone.