Guest Column: Hurricane Awareness

DAVID B SHOARGuest Column: Hurricane Awareness

David B. Shoar
St Johns County Sheriff

It has been nearly 48 years since a hurricane struck the first coast directly from the east and that hurricane, Hurricane Dora has been the only one to strike from the east since records have been kept dating back to 1851.

Only a small percentage of residents remember the destruction that Hurricane Dora caused in the early morning hours of September 10, 1964. The storm made a direct hit at then sparsely populated Vilano Beach with its 120 mph winds and a storm surge of 12 feet.

Dora continued east to Lake City, and then made a right turn and traveled north through Georgia and the Carolinas before going out to sea. The storm caused one death directly and $280 million damage.

Although we have been spared from devastating storms we should not let down our guard and be prepared if a hurricane is headed our way, remember it was not too long ago, we had the outer effects of three storms coming from the west coast that caused substantial damage.

In addition, later this year marks the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, which caused devastation to South Florida.

With that said, I would like to devote this month’s column to Hurricane Awareness and Safety. Hurricane season began at the beginning of last month and lasts until the end of November and meteorologists are predicting a near normal season in the Atlantic basin.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, predicts that there will be nine to 15 named storms. Of those, between four and eight could reach hurricane strength; and of those, one to three could become a major hurricane.

You should be familiar with the terms Hurricane Watch and Hurricane Warning. A Watch is issued when conditions are favorable that a hurricane could strike in 36 hours. A Warning is issued when hurricane force winds are expected to strike in 24 hours. By then, you should already have an emergency plan for yourself and family and begin implementation of that plan.

Some things to consider in your preliminary plans are:

• Take photos of your property from all angles
• Plan for elderly/handicapped/invalid care at a shelter or at home
• Learn which routes will be safe during a storm
• Learn where official shelters are located
• Trim any dead wood from trees prior to the storm
• Check loose items like shutters, screens, gutters, or satellite dish
• Get and use a hurricane tracking chart
• Plan what you and your family will do if you have to evacuate
• Get necessary supplies and secure them in safe area
• Plan for pet care
• Review your insurance coverage
• Protect your important documents
• Show other family members how to turn off gas, electricity, and water
• Make outside repairs

When a Hurricane Watch for your area is issued, you should do the following:

• Listen to official bulletins
• Check all batteries and supplies to see if they are working
• Fill gas tank of vehicles, check oil and tire pressure
• Inspect mobile home tie-downs
• Board, tape, cover windows and doors or skylights
• Secure boat
• Secure any objects and furniture that are outside
• Check on all medical supplies and special needs for elderly
• Plan to evacuate if necessary

When a Hurricane Warning is issued here are some suggestions:

• Stay tuned to TV, radio, Internet or NOAA Weather Radio.
• Move valuables to higher location
• Move furniture away from windows and cover
• Fill containers (bathtub, plastic jugs) with drinking water
• Use phones only in an emergency
• Bring in and secure pets providing food and water
• Shut off water and electricity at main breaker
• Leave mobile homes
• Leave low areas early

Sometimes a hurricane path may not be predictable and evacuation orders could come at any time. If you are asked to evacuate, please do so early and know the route you will be taking. Remember there will be many folks taking the same route from a very large area so be sure to give yourself plenty of time to leave safely.

Advance planning will save you unnecessary stress from not knowing what to do or not having the supplies you will need to get you through the hurricane watch, warning, storm, and aftermath.

Print and post this list on the refrigerator or somewhere it will be easily seen. Please visit our website, www.sjso.org for additional information concerning Hurricane Preparedness and of course feel free to drop me a line at dshoar@sjso.org. It is our hope at the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office that you have a safe and happy summer.

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