DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. --
Members of the 436th Civil Engineer Squadron emergency management flight urge Team Dover to prepare for the annual hurricane season, June 1 through November 1.
“The 2017 hurricane season produced three of the five costliest hurricanes in U.S. history: Harvey, Irma and Maria,” Staff Sgt. Ian Gonzalez, 436th Civil Engineer Squadron Emergency Management NCO in charge of operations and logistics. “In total, all three produced a combined $265 billion in damage and losses.”
These storms may have been far from home, but the effects were felt within the Dover community as dozens of Airmen and several aircraft mobilized in support of hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
It is not uncommon, however, for hurricanes and tropical storms to travel farther up the eastern coast of the U.S. In 2011, Hurricane Irene flew just past the coast of Delaware and completely devastated the coastlines of New York City and Long Island and caused flooding in several other locations including the Delmarva Peninsula, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
“The majority of damage that is produced from hurricanes like these is from storm surge, flooding and high winds,” Gonzalez said. “As far as the Delmarva area [is concerned], Hurricane Irene missed us fortunately, but caused catastrophic inland flooding in the northeast part of New England. Altogether, Irene caused $15 billion in damage and losses.”
The heavy rains and tropical-storm-force winds resulted in power outages for up to three million residents that lasted for one week, throughout Connecticut and Long Island, according to a National Hurricane Center tropical cyclone report published Dec. 14, 2011.
Hurricane paths can be tricky to predict; landfalls and intensity can vary greatly from early storm tracker predictions. Early planning and preparation is key to staying ahead of the storm.
“The loss of power and potable water for several days, and isolation caused by flooding or blocked roads are serious concerns after storms,” said Tech. Sgt. Mikel Rogers, 436th CES NCO in charge of emergency management. “Adequate supply accumulation should be a part of the planning conversation, and creating a disaster kit should be one of your family’s main priorities.”
Lorie Bellamy, 436th Airlift Wing occupational safety manager, personally felt the impact of Hurricane Andrew, which in 1992 became America’s most costly natural disaster causing $26.5 billion in damage. Today, it is considered the fourth worst hurricane in American history.
“I knew people that lost every single thing they owned: paperwork, photos, memories,” Bellamy said. “Some people weathered the storm and wished they didn’t. I evacuated. I couldn’t even find my house when I came back because it was so destroyed down there that I couldn’t recognize anything.”
Bellamy said where she was in Florida, there was access to food and water about an hour away, but the infrastructure was so devastated it was nearly impossible to reach.
“Having an ample supply of non-perishable food and bottled water, flashlights, batteries, diapers, formula, food for pets and other recommended items is critical, because immediately after a storm you cannot buy those items,” Bellamy advised from her experience. “It could be days before you have access to supplies.
“It can be very stressful if you don’t properly plan,” Bellamy added. “You could be short on food and water, and it might be days before assistance is offered from Red Cross and other agencies, especially when there is significant damage to roadways, which will prevent assistance from reaching many areas. In addition, the power will likely be out for an extended period of time, so flashlights and batteries are a must.”
If forecasted weather is bad enough, or if an evacuation notice is issued, it is important for families to know their evacuation plan, and for supervisors and emergency contacts to also know the plan.
“It’s a great idea to know where to go if you are ordered to evacuate,” Rogers said. “Learn the local hurricane evacuation routes to take and have a plan for where you can stay. The base will be notified of any state-mandated evacuations. One of the most important items that people fail to plan for is being financially ready; if all electronics and power are down for an unforeseeable amount of time, it’s important to have enough cash on hand for emergency purchases.”
Here are a few tips provided by the 436th CES Emergency Management office:
∙ Use sand bags to keep flood water from entering homes or buildings.
∙ Have plenty of bottled water and non-perishable food to last for up to a week for your entire family in case of power loss or travel restrictions. Remember you may not have a readily accessible heat source for cooking.
∙ Affix boards outside of non-storm windows to prevent glass from shattering into your home, reducing the risk of projectile hazards.
∙ Have flashlights and plenty of batteries, or candles and matches on hand as a light source during power outages.
∙ Consider having an alternate power source available, such as a generator. Always run them outside and keep them elevated to avoid water damage and electrocution.
∙ If you have large quantities of perishable food that you normally keep, buy some coolers and get bags of ice to keep it from spoiling. Spoiled food that gets placed in garbage containers can attract hungry animals driven out by the storm.
∙ Identify an alternate place you can stay if you have to evacuate.
∙ If you have to evacuate or go stay with family or friends, make sure you have these items:
- Important paperwork and evacuation orders
- Cash – widespread power outages may limit usefulness of credit or debit cards
- Weather-appropriate clothing
- Potable water and food
- Prescription medicine
- Supplies needed for special needs family members or pets
For additional information about emergency preparedness, visit www.ready.gov
, the National Hurricane Center website at www.nhc.noaa.gov
, or the Air Force Emergency Management Association website at www.af-em.org