Officials urging storm readiness|Experts predict average hurricane season

Published 11:37 pm Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Staff Writer

The Atlantic hurricane season kicked off Monday, and the message from officials is simple.
“Hurricane season has begun. Get a plan,” said Dennis Feltgen, public-affairs officer with the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Locally, the Greater Pamlico Area Chapter of the American Red Cross is offering hurricane preparedness classes at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday at Twin Lakes Camping Resort and Yacht Basin.
During the weekend, the group participated in Disaster Readiness Day at Lowe’s of Washington.
Residents should not only have a plan, but also a kit of emergency supplies, said Lorrie Beach, the Red Cross chapter’s executive director.
And if a big storm comes, residents should be ready to hold out for several days without outside assistance, Beach said.
“They need to be prepared to be self- sufficient in the event of a huge hurricane, for three to five days,” she said.
Local officials are ready to work together in case a storm comes, said John Pack, Beaufort County Emergency Services coordinator. That includes working with police agencies to coordinate an evacuation, should it become necessary.
And if an evacuation order comes, residents should leave, Beach said.
“The biggest mistake is when they’re asked to leave and they don’t,” she said.
Government climate scientists are predicting an average hurricane season, and they say there will likely be between nine and 14 named storms, including one to three major hurricanes. But government officials aren’t good enough to say when or where or how hard those storms will hit.
And officials are worried that residents won’t take the danger seriously enough.
“We’ve gotten complacent about preparedness because we have been so fortunate for a very long time,” Beach said.
Feltgen explained that in many places along the East Coast, life-taking hurricanes haven’t been seen in several generations, and many residents are transplants from hurricane-free places.
Instead, Beach said: “You prepare for the absolute best and hope for the very best.”
Local officials used this past weekend’s planned power outage by Washington Electric Utilities as a chance to test emergency power generators, Pack said. The test found some problems that are being worked out, he said.
The county also has trailers ready to go with fresh maps and wireless Internet capabilities, he said.
“We plan for a Category 4 storm, but I’m happy when they’re like Hannah was,” he said.
Hannah was a hurricane-turned-tropical storm that passed over the area last year, but caused little damage.
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