By BECKY GILLETTE
Hurricane season started June 1 and wherever you live in the coastal area, it is important to have a plan, said Earl Ethridge, director of emergency services for Jackson County. Plan where you will go in the event of a hurricane, and what you need to take especially medicine, cash and insurance information.
“We don’t recommend anybody stay if we get into a situation when there is a landfall in Jackson County,” Ethridge said. “We have shelters in Jackson County, but they are not comfortable. They are to be used as a last resort. It is better to plan to go inland and stay with friend or relatives.”
For businesses, he recommends making sure you know your inventory before the storm compared to afterward. That makes it easier with insurance claims. And make sure employees know your hurricane business plan.
“It is no good if the boss has a plan but no one else in the organization knows about it,” Ethridge said. “Businesses need to understand employees have family responsibilities, so businesses should pull their trigger fast enough to make sure employees have time to take care of their families.”
Some people might decide against evacuating when they see the forecast is for only a category one or two hurricane. Ethridge said that isn’t a good idea.
“It doesn’t have to be a massive category four or five storm,” Ethridge said. “These small storms can have just as devastating of an impact. You don’t have the surge, but you’ve got the rain. Hurricane Isaac in 2012 delivered 25 inches of rain in eastern Jackson County, and that impacted Chevron and the Bayou Casotte area, not to mention road transportation and everything else. We did 500 water rescue evacuations.”
Another example he gives is Hurricane Harvey this past year in Houston, Texas, which deluged that area with 60.5 inches of rain in five-day period.
“A slow-moving storm can have major consequences,” Ethridge said. “Hurricanes are typically just a coastal event, but they can have far reaching impact. Hurricane Katrina went up through the whole state. And just from the business point of view, if Chevron Pascagoula or some of refineries in Texas are not producing gas, it makes cost go up and can affect transportation.”
Harrison County Emergency Management Agency Director Rupert Lacy highly recommends businesses have a continuity of operations plan.
“If we should have to make those recommendations that businesses need to close, we always want to get those businesses up as quickly as possible after the storm,” Lacy said. “But in our business, we have to make sure we have the infrastructure that will support them. We encourage business owners to have a communications plan to have a way to check on the safety of staff, and to verify their insurance. Just as we recommend people have a go bag at home, we encourage people to have a go bag at work when a disaster happens.”
Credit cards might not work after the storm if the power supply is out, so a supply of cash is handy. Medications can be critical, and families need a communication plan and a way to charge electronic devices like cell phones.
“One of the things we saw in Irma is that it is a good idea to encourage people to print out their phone directories just in case the cell phone or computer goes down because we have gotten to point don’t use a lot of muscle memory dialing numbers,” Lacy said. “The phone automatically dials numbers. So, we may not be remembering numbers like we used to. And always have a backup plan if you have to evacuate. Know where you are going and let someone know you are going there.”
Lacy said that in the past month or so they have been actively campaigning for community preparedness: Get your home ready. Get your business ready. Get your car ready. Be prepared if there should be any type of tropical system.
“We had an early practice run with Alberto,” Lacy said. “We weren’t necessarily so worried about wind, but the rainfall was a concern. Off Cuba and the Yucatan, it was a big rain producer. It exited in the north part of the U.S. and there was a lot of rain and some deaths as a result.”
Research done by the National Hurricane Center has shown that most deaths from hurricane are water related whether it is storm surge, rainfall, river flooding or flash flooding.
“We always take rainfall very seriously,” Lacy said. “Our history has shown us we have had some bad storms and we have seen some high-water marks. Run from the water and hide from the wind. This past year was a little more intense than what we’ve seen most years. This year the Hurricane Center is forecasting an average or above average season. Last year major storms were all around us that didn’t hit us. Even then, we had Nate late in the season.”
Lacy said Nate brought some incredible training for them because it was such a fast-moving storm. Nate came up with 48-hour notice. It developed off the Yucatan Peninsula, grew quickly and moved fast.
“It actually came ashore between Biloxi and Ocean Springs,” Lacy said. “And it was a hurricane. It was an ill-defined hurricane, but it was a hurricane. We did see right at ten feet of storm surge along the beach in Harrison County. The good thing is we lost no life, so that is very rewarding that we did our jobs properly that nobody was harmed.”
Lacy said all the coastal counties and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency have more information about hurricane preparedness on their websites.
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