Officials encourage preparation for hurricane season

By NIKKI SMITH,

With many still left reeling in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and the increasing threat of Irma’s approach, officials are encouraging anyone who may be impacted by the storm to begin making preparations in case it takes a turn.

It is still unknown exactly where the hurricane will hit, or if it will impact the area at all.

“We are watching the forecasts very closely and have gone over our checklist of things we need to do to be prepared in case (Hurricane Irma) does come more our way,” said Mayor Hal Marx. “We are making sure our generators are working, preparing to store gasoline for our vehicles, making sure we have our personnel on standby if we need to call them in.”

Marx said Petal city officials are knowledgeable when it comes to disaster preparedness, given the recent damage left behind by storms cutting a path through the Pine Belt.

“We have been through these situations several times in the past,” Marx added. “I am sure we will be as prepared as possible if we should come into the path of the storm.”

FEMA offered some tips for those who may be impacted by the hurricane.

FEMA officials suggest:

• Put together a go-bag: disaster supply kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash, first aid supplies, medications and copies of your critical information if you need to evacuate;

• If you are not in an area that is advised to evacuate and you decide to stay in your home, plan for adequate supplies in case you lose power and water for several days and you are not able to leave due to flooding or blocked roads.

• Make a family emergency plan;

• Hurricane winds can cause trees and branches to fall, so trim or remove damaged trees and limbs to keep you and your property safe;

• Secure loose rain gutters and downspouts and clear any clogged areas or debris to prevent water damage to your property;

• Reduce property damage by retrofitting to secure and reinforce the roof, windows and doors, including the garage doors;

• Purchase a portable generator or install a generator for use during power outages. Remember to keep generators and other alternate power and heat sources outside, at least 20 feet away from windows and doors and protected from moisture; and never try to power the house wiring by plugging a generator into a wall outlet.

The National Hurricane Center suggests assembling a kit, storing items in airtight plastic bags and putting the entire disaster supplies kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers such as plastic bins or a duffel bag.

A basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items:

•           Water - one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation;

•           Food - at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food

•           Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert

•           Flashlight

•           First aid kit

•           Extra batteries

•           Whistle to signal for help

•           Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place

•           Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation

•           Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities

•           Manual can opener for food

•           Local maps

•           Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has designated the month of September as “National Preparedness Month,” and the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) is encouraging residents to be prepared for potential emergencies.

MDOT offers the following tips for those who encounter severe weather while traveling:

•           Turn around; don’t drown. Never drive through a flooded area; the water can sweep your vehicle away or cause it to stall.

•           Turn the cruise control off. Cruise control can be highly useful in dry conditions, but deadly when roads are wet.

•           If you encounter hail, do not keep going. Stay in the vehicle and seek the nearest shelter.

•           Headlights are important. If windshield wipers are required, headlights need to be utilized.

•           Turn the radio on. If you suspect severe weather, tune into local radio stations to stay aware of weather conditions in your area.

MDOT officials say the only thing drivers can control about weather-related emergencies is how to prepare for them before they happen. They suggest finding time to talk with family and friends about a severe weather plan, and the best evacuation route available in the area.

“The most important thing to remember is safety,” said Melinda McGrath, MDOT executive director. “Part of being safe is staying prepared. It is not if an emergency will strike, but when. We want all Mississippians to be prepared and know the steps to take if they are faced with an emergency.”

For more safety tips, visit GoMDOT.com/drivesmartms or like and follow @MississippiDOT on Facebook and Twitter. For hurricane specific information, including evacuation routes, visit GoMDOT.com/hurricanes.