Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hurricane Irene

Photo courtesy of
As we watch the news day after day here in WNY, we keep expecting the news of that pesky Hurricane to subside! The East Coast just had an earthquake, and now a hurricane is hurling towards us? Come on! But alas, no matter how bizarre the phenomenons are, it’s our responsibility to get prepared. 

A cyclone is a low pressure system that generally forms in the tropics.  They are accompanied by thunderstorms and a counterclockwise circulation of winds near the earth's surface in the Northern Hemisphere. There are three types of cyclones:
*A sustained wind is a 1-minute average wind measured at about 33 ft above the surface
  • Tropical Depression- An organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds* of 38 mph (33 knots) or less
  • Tropical Storm- An organized system of strong thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds* of 39-73 mph (34-63 knots)
  • Hurricane- An intense tropical weather system of strong thunderstorms with a well-defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds* of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher
    • Hurricanes are categorized by the strength of their winds, with a category 1 having the weakest speed of wind and a category 5 having the strongest speed of winds. 
      • Category 1: Sustained winds of 74-95 mph
      • Category 2: Sustained winds of 96-110mph
      • Category 3: Sustained winds of 111-130mph
        • Hurricane Irene is currently a category 3
      • Category 4: Sustained winds of 131-155mph
      • Category 5: Sustained winds of 155+mph

The above information is courtesy of NOAA

Because this area of the United States is not particularly prone and/or used to storms like these, it’s important that we take extra time to learn how we can prepare.  That’s why we’ve compiled some great emergency preparedness tips on how to get ready for a hurricane, what to do during a hurricane, and what to do after a hurricane.

Before a hurricane
  • Know the difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning
    • A hurricane watch is when hurricane conditions are a threat within 48 hours so you should stay informed and be ready to act if a warning is issued.
    • A hurricane warning is when hurricane conditions are expecting within 36 hours, you should complete your hurricane preparations, stay informed, and be prepared to evacuate if told to do so
  • Take out extra cash in case the electricity goes out (ATM’s and credit card machines won’t work!)
  • Put all important items (I.e. birth certificates, deeds, wills, titles, cell phones, credit cards, camera) together in a plastic bag so that they do not get wet and so if you need to evacuate you can grab them and go 
    • On your camera or cell phone, take photos of your house and important items in your home so you have a record in case the storm does serious damage to your property
    • Worried about your home flooding? Visit to learn about getting coverage to protect your property
  • Stay informed
    • Be listening to the news or NOAA weather radio for information from the National Weather Service
  • Make sure your emergency supply kit is up-to-date and stocked with everything you and your family needs for at least 3 days
  • Bring in or anchor down anything that could blow away
  • Close and board up your windows and doors with plywood
  • Turn your refrigerator to the coldest setting and keep it closed, that way if the power goes out your food will stay good for longer
  • Turn off propane tanks and turn off small appliances
  • Make sure your car has gas in it in case you need to evacuate
  • Make sure that everyone in your family/household knows what your plans are if you need to evacuate
  • Find out what your community’s evacuation plans are and where shelter locations are
    • If you or someone in your family has special needs think about how you will be accommodating those
    • If you have pets, what is your plan for them? Many shelters don’t take animals
  • If told to evacuate, evacuate! Be sure to avoid flooded roads and washed out bridges 
During a hurricane
  • If you do not evacuate and are in your home, stay indoors and away from glass
  • Listen to NOAA or the news to stay up to date on the storm
  • Close all interior doors and secure all exterior doors
  • Keep all curtains and blinds closed
  • Take refuge in an interior room or hallway on the lowest level
  • Lie on the floor or under a table 

The above information is courtesy of FEMA
After a hurricane
  • Listen to NOAA to stay up to date on the storm
  • Stay alert for extended rainfall and subsequent flooding, even after the hurricane or tropical storm has ended
  • If you evacuated, return home only when officials say it is safe
  • Drive only if necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed-out bridges
  • Keep away from loose or dangling power lines and report them immediately to the power company
  • Stay out of any building that has water around it
  • Inspect your home for damage. Take pictures of damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance purposes
  • Use flashlights in the dark
    • Do NOT use candles
  • Avoid drinking or preparing food with tap water until you are sure it’s not contaminated
  • Check refrigerated food for spoilage. If in doubt, throw it out
  • Wear protective clothing and be cautious when cleaning up to avoid injury
  • Watch animals closely and keep them under your direct control
  •  Use the telephone only for emergency calls

For more information on hurricanes and how prepare for one, check out the Red Cross’ Hurricane Preparedness sheet , FEMA, NOAA, and check out the great information in the video below courtesy of MSNBC.

American Red Cross disaster preparedness starts long before a hurricane makes landfall, beginning with keeping supplies and equipment on stand-by all year to help people in need. On average, the Red Cross spends about $450 million on disaster relief every year. If someone would like to support Red Cross disaster efforts, they can make a donation to American Red Cross Disaster Relief by visiting, calling 1-800-RED CROSS, texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation, or sending contributions to their local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.                                                                     

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