Ready or not, it’s hurricane season
By Samantha Lyles
Forecasters with the National Hurricane Center are predicting an active storm season, and with more heavy rain and high winds ahead, preparation can make a big difference in how much any given storm impacts our lives.
Molly Odom, Darlington County Emergency Management coordinator, says the 2020 season is already shaping up to be formidable.
“We’re in mid-July, about six weeks into hurricane season, and we’re already on our seventh named storm of the year,” Odom says. “We’ve seen for the last several years that late fall, during peak hurricane season, has been when we’ve seen storms. But we were already impacted this year by Bertha. When that tropical depression came through, it affected us with a good bit of rainfall.”
Heavy rainfall typically causes big headaches for county residents, with recurring troubles from flash floods, creek overflows, and storm water ponding – all factors that impact us regardless of whether a storm is named or ranked high on the category scale. Odom says that when gauging whether a storm might endanger our area, residents shouldn’t focus exclusively on those category ratings.
“A category describes the sustained wind speed at the eye of the storm, so a major storm with an organized eye might be in a higher category like a 4 or a 5, but a messier storm like a tropical depression doesn’t have an organized eye and would be a lower category,” explains Odom. “A lot of people hear that category number and assume how bad the storm will be … but a tropical storm with low wind speed at the eye can bring heavy rain in the outer bands and cause flooding, and thunderstorms that produce tornadoes.”
While Darlington County doesn’t normally see sustained storm winds of in excess of 50 mph, those sustained winds can produce much stronger gusts that damage homes. Securing outdoor items such as patio furniture and toys can lower the risk of property damage.
Since 2015, Darlington County has been affected by five hurricanes and two tropical storms, and only four of those hurricanes (Matthew, Florence, Irma, and Joaquin) were covered by FEMA for public assistance. Often, the cost of recovery falls solely on the individual. To lower the financial burden of recovery and repair, Odom suggests sitting down with your insurance provider to make sure your policies have appropriate coverage. Insurance claims are easier if you can provide a current inventory, so take photos of your property – including vehicles and valuables – just in case you need to file a claim.
The last thing people need in the midst of a natural disaster is a major injury, but it happens more often than you’d think. Odom stresses that people should exercise caution in all phases of storm prep and response. She notes that many people each year are badly injured falling off ladders while trying to board up windows, so never climb up a ladder without someone to help secure its footing. Numerous injuries also occur when people attempt to drive or walk through flood waters. Odom says that vehicles can quickly be swept away in moving water, and pedestrians can be electrocuted by water in contact with downed power lines.
More ideas to help ensure you’re ready for the storm:
• Prepare emergency kits containing food, medicine, hygiene items, first aid, and personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, hand sanitizer) for your home, car, and work. Keep them current, with no stale food, dead batteries or expired medications. Tailor the kits to suit the needs of each family member.
• Secure your important documents (deeds, wills, etc.) because these can be difficult to duplicate after a disaster.
• Make sure you have food, medications, and transport crates to move pets securely in case you need to evacuate.
• Designate a rally point where your family will gather if you are separated.
When deciding how to respond to a threatening storm, accurate information is crucial. Odom warns against making decisions based on random social media posts and advises reliance on proven sources, such as the National Weather Service. You can follow Darlington County Emergency Management for updates on Facebook @DCEmergencyManagement, on Twitter @darcoemd, and Instagram @DarCoEmMgmt