Hurricane forum opens eyes to the importance of preparation

-A A +A
By Staff Brunswick Beacon

They are the largest, deadliest storms on Earth, and 14 of them have affected the Brunswick County coast since 1900.

Hurricanes are a constant threat for the residents of Brunswick County, and last Thursday evening Brunswick County Emergency Services sponsored a public forum to help residents understand how to prepare for these storms.

With an expert panel of speakers that included representatives from FEMA, the state department of crime and public safety and the National Weather Service, the message seemed to be the same—be prepared.

Hurricane preparedness begins at home, with each family making their own evacuation plan. Each year around the third week in May, my mom starts chirping about updating our “hurricane box.”

The box is really a giant Rubbermaid container that contains canned food, matches, sterno, candles, flashlights, batteries, a battery-powered radio, dog food, medicine and everything else you may need if the power goes out.

My mom extensively discusses our evacuation plan, and hammers it into our heads as we eat dinner. As this may go on for several nights, my dad usually becomes irritated around day three or four and tells her to evacuate, and he will stay here and hold onto a palm tree.

However, we should all be as vigilant as my mom. She has the right idea. It is much better to be prepared and not need to be, than not be prepared and wish you had been.

After last Thursday night, I urge all Brunswick County residents to get with their families and come up with their own plan.

If you weren’t able to make it to the Hurricane Forum Thursday evening, here are some tips from the professionals:

• Decide whether or not you will evacuate and if you will be leaving, leave early. Don’t wait until the last minute to evacuate because chances are you will be sitting in traffic. By leaving early, you will avoid the crowds and traffic on the roads.

• If you decide to stay, keep in mind you may be stuck for several days. Sometimes, those who stay cannot leave immediately after the hurricane because of flooded roads and bridges. Also, if roads are impassable, it may not be possible for help to get to you, so you need to be prepared to survive on your own for several days.

• If you choose to leave, you need to avoid heading for I-40. Use other familiar routes such as N.C. 87, N.C. 211, N.C. 421 and N.C. 74. These routes will take you west, out of danger, and will be less crowded than I-40.

• Remember to have a plan for your pet. Plan to take them with you if you leave. Bring them in out of the storm if you stay. Pets are not allowed inside the shelters (unless they are service animals), so you will need to make other arrangements for them if you head to a shelter.

• Always plan for one category stronger at landfall. According to the National Weather Service, it is difficult to predict the intensity of a hurricane when it makes landfall. Therefore it is best to be prepared for one category higher than anticipated. If it is anticipated to be a category 1, plan for a category 2.

• It is possible to seek shelter from wind, but the real danger of a hurricane is in its storm surge. The storm surge is the most dangerous part of a hurricane, and if you suspect you may be in the path of the storm surge you should evacuate.

Being familiar with these tips can help you prepare for hurricane season. Some helpful Web sites are: www.noaa.gov, www.weather.com and www.nhc.noaa.gov.

Right now, meteorologists are predicting a more active Atlantic hurricane season than normal, with four storms predicted to make landfall in the U.S.

While I hope they are wrong, I will be busy making my own “hurricane box,” and I suggest you do the same.

RENEE SLOAN is a staff writer and page designer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or rsloan@brunswickbeacon.com.