It’s hurricane season again, and the weather experts say it’s going to be an active one.
The inevitable response: “but we don’t get hurricanes here.”
We all know we see weakened hurricanes or their remnants here in Maryland from time to time — remember Isabel? We’re familiar with (usually) minor flooding and downed trees and power lines, but it’s not just Western Maryland you may need to worry about. What would you do if a hurricane hit while you were at the beach on vacation?
By some estimates, rental reservations in Ocean City, Maryland are up 20% this year — thought to be at least partially related to would-be Gulf Coast vacationers choosing to stay closer to home and away from beaches affected by the BP oil spill. While year-round Ocean City residents might have a grasp on how to prepare for a hurricane, I think it’s fair to suggest many vacationers have little to no experience with them (I know I don’t).
What do you think you’d do? You’ve rented a hotel room — maybe even a house — taken the time off of work, packed up the family and made it to the beach for a few days when the forecast turns ugly. The evacuation order is made. Traffic is backed up for miles (and miles, and miles) from the Eastern Shore, across the Bay Bridge, and all the way back home. Of course you know you should join the mass of humanity running inland — but in the moment, what’s your decision?
The Frederick County Chapter of the American Red Cross and the Frederick County Emergency Management Division don’t want you to let it come down to that moment in the first place. Whether you’re staying right here in Frederick County this summer or hitting the road to the beach, they strongly suggest taking the following steps:
- Build a disaster supply kit or check the kit you prepared last year.
Include a three-day supply of water and ready-to-eat non-perishable foods. Don’t forget a manual can opener, battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries. You’ll also want to throw in a first aid kit, prescription and non-prescription medications and copies of important documents.
It might seem like a lot of work to get this stuff together, but think back to this year’s blizzards. Were you ready? Take the time to put the kit together and you’ll save yourself the stress later.
- Prepare a personal disaster and evacuation plan. Identify two meeting places — one near home, and one outside the area in case you can’t return home. Make plans for pets. Select an out-of-area emergency contact person.
This goes for at home and while you’re away. Your first meeting place could be your hotel or house where you’re staying — find a second one on your drive into town. An out-of-area emergency contact person might be a neighbor or family member back home.
- Be informed. Know what a hurricane WATCH means. If a hurricane WATCH is issued:
Listen to weather updates from a battery-powered or hand-cranked radio;
Bring in outdoor objects like lawn furniture, hanging plants, bicycles, toys and garden tools — anchor items that can’t be brought inside;
Close all windows and doors;
Cover windows with storm shutters or pre-cut plywood;
Fill up your vehicles’ gas tanks
Check your disaster kit to make sure items have not expired.If a hurricane WARNING is issued:
Listen to the advice of local officials and leave if they tell you to do so;
Secure your home by unplugging appliances and turning off electricity and the main water valve. If you are not advised to evacuate, stay inside, away from windows, skylights and glass doors;
Do not use open flames as a source of light;
If power is lost, turn off appliances to reduce damage from a power surge when electricity is restored.
Perhaps most importantly, remember these words from Frederick County American Red Cross Chapter Operations Supervisor Judy Peterson, “the best time to prepare is now — when we have no storms.”