To help local residents prepare for this year’s hurricane season, which began Saturday, the Liberty County Emergency Management Agency observed Hurricane Preparedness Week from May 25-June 1.
"A storm doesn’t even have to make landfall to affect our community," LCEMA Director Mike Hodges said. "All it takes is one storm to damage your property or harm your family. However, by taking a few simple steps now, you can mitigate the effects of a hurricane or tropical storm."
Larry Logan, LCEMA assistant director, said one of the first steps local residents should take in planning for a major storm is to find out where open shelters are. He suggested looking at the Georgia Emergency Management Agency’s website for a list of shelters. Those with pets should look for a pet-friendly shelter, he added.
People also should prepare a ready kit, Logan said. The kit includes emergency supplies and important documents, which should be stored in a waterproof container. A list of these supplies also can be found on the GEMA website.
In case a major hurricane is imminent, Logan said windows should be boarded, and loose items should be stored away.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Atlantic Hurricane season outlook, during the six-month hurricane season, there’s a 70 percent chance of 13-20 named storms (with winds 39 mph or higher).
Seven to 10 of these storms could become hurricanes (with winds 74 mph or higher), including three to six major hurricanes (winds 111 mph or higher).
The NOAA forecast said these ranges are well above the seasonal average of 12 named storms with six hurricanes.
Logan said it’s difficult to get Coastal Georgia residents to seriously prepare for a major storm because it has been so long since the Peach State has been hit by one.
He said many people believe Georgia’s curved coastline makes it harder to receive a direct hit from a major hurricane. However, three major hurricanes hit near Savannah in the late 19th century, and four Category 2 hurricanes hit Coastal Georgia during the last century, he said, adding that storms that hit Georgia in 1881, 1893 and 1898 killed nearly 3,000 people total.
Logan said residents living along Islands Highway east of I-95 in Midway are in what they call Zone 1 for possible storm surge. A recent study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined a major storm hitting Coastal Georgia would produce a 12-foot storm surge. A map from that study showed salt-water surge reaching from Midway inland on Highway 84 all the way to the intersection of Oglethorpe Highway and Gen. Stewart Way.
"Depending on the size of the storm, we advise Zone 1 residents to evacuate first," Logan said. "Those of us who live inland are still not out of danger due to the high winds and risk of flooding."
He said it’s important for people to understand the difference between a watch and a warning,
"A hurricane watch is issued when conditions for a hurricane are possible within 48 hours," Logan said. "A hurricane warning is issued when conditions for a hurricane are expected within 36 hours."
Logan said residents should leave immediately if the LCEMA or other local authorities advise evacuation. He also suggests residents monitor the weather on the TV or Internet and keep a NOAA weather radio in case the power goes out.
During LCEMA’s observance of National Hurricane Preparedness Week, Logan said the National Weather Service prepared videos for each day to help residents prepare, plan and stay informed about hurricanes. The videos, which are available at the NWS website, include information on hurricane basics, storm surge, wind, inland flooding, forecast process, and planning for before and after a storm.
For more information, contact the LCEMA at 368-2201.