EMA: Prepare now

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2014



The weather may be sunny and warm as summer gets into full swing, but in South Alabama another time of year is also approaching on Monday, when hurricane season officially begins.

According to information from the National Weather Service, 2014 is expected to be a below-average storm season, but Covington County Emergency Management Agency Assistant Director Alan Syler is warning residents not to be lulled into a false sense of security.

“Regardless of what the predictions are, we still need to be prepared for the worst,” Syler said.

NOAA has predicted eight-to-13 named storms will form in the Atlantic Ocean during this year’s hurricane season, which stretches from June through November. Three-to-six of those storms, NOAA officials say, could be hurricanes, while one-to-two of those storms are predicted to have the potential to reach a category 3 or greater.

“We just need to stress to people to get a plan together and have a hurricane preparedness kit,” Syler said. “People need to provide themselves for the possibility of a minimum of three days without power or water. That’s about the time frame before we can get supplies here or we can get utilities restored.”

Syler said a basic hurricane kit should include non-perishable food items, water, any needed medication, a first aid kit and some means of receiving weather information – preferably a battery-powered NOAA weather radio.

“(NOAA weather radios) aren’t hard to find,” Syler said. “You can get them at Walmart. Most local drug stores have them or you can get them online, and (the EMA) will be glad to help people program them. They generally run about $40.”

Syler said residents also need to be prepared for the possibility of a mandatory evacuation of the area.

“There are designated hurricane evacuation routes that run down Hwy. 55,” he said. “Everyone needs a plan for where they would go, whether it be family or friend’s home or somewhere else.”

Syler said residents in low-lying areas that are prone to flooding, as well as people living in mobile homes, especially need to be prepared, as they may need to leave their property even if an evacuation hasn’t been ordered.

“People in homes that aren’t secured to the ground need to make plans for where they will go,” he said. “You don’t want to have to figure that out at the last minute.”

While Syler cautioned that tropical storms can form in the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico very quickly, he said people should use the calmer part of the season to get a jump on preparedness.

“There is website, ready.gov, that is really helpful,” he said. “It gives you a lot of good information, like what to put in a kit and what kind of plan to have and actions to take. I recommend everyone visit that site.”

Syler said hurricane-tracking charts are also available for download on the site, adding paper charts may be picked up for free at the Covington County EMA office.