Being prepared for storms is a very important topic to discuss amongst your family. A storm can happen at any time, without warning, and can range from a small thunderstorm to a hurricane.
Being prepared means you are not only ready for the storm but also you are prepared for what may come after a storm. Preparedness can mitigate damage, injury, or consequences that otherwise could be avoided. Being prepared can be as simple as having an emergency kit on hand or even discussing emergency exits out of your home with your family members. It’s important!
The National Hurricane Center has indicated that Norfolk is the fourth most likely city in America to be hit by a hurricane. As Norfolk is only 75 miles southeast of New Kent County we often find ourselves hit as well as storms sweep up the coastline. Since 1933 over 42 hurricanes have been recorded as hitting New Kent County. Our many areas of water including the Pamunkey River make flash flooding a concern. New Kent County is a heavily wooded area that often presents the danger of falling trees and branches. Even straight line storms such as the Derecho that hit New Kent in the summer of 2016 caused major power outages.
Did you know? – Virginia is such a risk for hurricane and severe storms that the state offers a yearly tax holiday for those buying supplies for storm preparedness. Every August the state releases dates where citizens can buy certain items from hardware stores free of sales tax. The items that can be bought range from generators, bottled water, coolers, flashlights, portable radios, chain saws, first aid kits, and a lot more. Information on this tax holiday and the complete item list can be found on the VA Department of Emergency Management website.
Citizens can learn more about these storms by joining PFVFR as a volunteer first responder, becoming certified Storm Spotters, or joining the Citizen Emergency Response Team (CERT).
Hurricanes are rapidly rotating storms that form in low pressure and warm areas of the ocean. These storms often travel from the ocean to land and can cover large areas before they weaken and
die out. Characteristically hurricanes bring heavy rain, strong winds, and can cause tidal and flash flooding. The rotation of the storm can produce tornadoes of varying strength levels. Hurricanes are categorized into levels of strength under the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) gives the following descriptions:
- Category 1 will produce dangerous winds and some damage. Winds are on average between 74-95 MPH.
- Category 2 will produce extremely dangerous winds and extensive damage. Winds are on average between 96-110 MPH.
- Category 3 will cause devastating damage and can cause moderate to major damage to structures. Winds are on average between 111-129 MPH.
- Category 4 will cause catastrophic damage and can severely damage structures. Winds on average are between 130-156 MPH.
- Category 5 will cause catastrophic damage and has the power to destroy structures. Winds on average are between 157+ MPH.
Did you know? – Hurricane Katrina which hit Louisiana (among other states) in 2005 was a category 5 hurricane. To date it remains the strongest hurricane to ever hit the United States of America and caused damage costing over $108 billion dollars. Areas affected saw destruction on a level that took months to years to rebuild.
Tornadoes, Derechos, and Severe Storms are storms Virginia can see at times as well. While a Tornado or a Derecho isn’t too common New Kent County sees thunderstorms of varying levels all year long. These storms often bring strong winds, heavy rain, and can cause flash flooding. Tornadoes are caused by rotating winds in the sky and can accompany any thunderstorm. A Derecho is a straight line wind storm that brings heavy rain, lightning, and wind speeds that can reach the levels of a category 1 hurricane. Derechos are rare but in the last few years New Kent County has seen two; one in 2016 and one in 2012.
Flash Flooding is a concern with any storm and should be stayed away from. Do not drive or attempt to pass through a flash flood of any depth, speed, or appearance. Flash Floods are often the result of heavy rain or over filled water basins. These waters may or may not have a current however it is often impossible to judge from the surface. The dangers of flash flooding and vehicles can range from cars floating, to passengers being swept away, to simple things such as contaminated water entering a wound and causing infection. Dirt often cannot stand up to a flash flood and asphalt and other roads can be washed away below the surface of the water with very little (or no) indication on the surface. “Don’t drown, turn around”.
Storm Preparedness Starts with You! Discuss with your family the different types of storms and make plans for how to handle emergency situations. You can buy a Disaster Supply Kit however making your own is just as easy. Tools such as generators, chainsaws, and gasoline should be properly stored and maintained in accessible locations.
A basic disaster supply kit should contain the following items at a minimum:
- Bottled Water – One gallon per person for at least 3 days. This is for hydrating and sanitation.
- Food – at least three days of non-perishable food supply per person. Don’t forget a can opener!
- Radio – A battery powered or hand cranked radio with NOAA Weather Radio will be very important.
- Batteries – Extra batteries needed for your supplies, radio, and items such as cell phones.
- Flashlight – At least two so you have one for backup. Don’t forget extra batteries!
- First Aid Kit – Bandaids, Gauze, Neosporin, medical tape, 4×4 pads, tourniquet, and other basic supplies.
- Whistle – a tool used to call for help in case of recovery from a collapsed structure.
- Dust Masks – one for each person to filter contaminated air. Duct Tape to seal edges.
- Sanitation Supplies – Moist Towelettes, Garbage Bags, Plastic ties, etc.
- Local Maps – in case of need to travel across devastated areas.
- Cell Phone – modern day communication. Have a way to charge it like a personal solar charger.
- Medications – if you have prescription medications have some available.
Additional equipment you should have in your home could be:
- Generator – one powerful enough to power basic amenities plus an extension cable.
- Chainsaw – a tool to remove fallen trees or branches.
- Fire Extinguisher – a tool to extinguish fire (you should have one in your kitchen!)
Did you know? – A generator is a combustion engine that produces power for your home. It is very similar to the engine of your vehicle. When a generator runs one of the products it vents is carbon monoxide which is hazardous to human health and can invade your home. Your generator (when in operation) according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) should be at least 20-25 feet away from any structure. CO2 is known as the “silent killer” and is a preventable emergency. Please read our article on CO2 poisoning and CO2 detectors in your home.