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August 26, 2011
Hurricane Irene is expected to bring a major storm event to Massachusetts this weekend. See links at right for NOAA Advisories, local news, and more. The information on hurricane preparedness below was prepared by MIT Sea Grant's coastal ecologist, Juliet Simpson.
Hurricanes are large, intense storms that produce high winds, heavy rainfall, and dramatic storm surges. They frequently cause extensive property damage and life-threatening situations. Flooding is often widespread, especially in low-lying areas. Other common impacts of hurricanes include power outages, interruption of water delivery and sewer function, and severe shoreline erosion.
Although hurricanes are typically generated in tropical zones, they regularly travel up the east coast of North America and can cause severe damage and loss of life in the northeast. During the 20th century at least 10 serious hurricanes struck New England (1938, 1944, Dog, Carol, Edna, Diane, Donna, Gloria, Bob, and Floyd), causing hundreds of deaths and billions of dollars in damage. Many climate experts predict that hurricanes are likely to become more frequent and more severe in the future.
Police, fire departments, and other emergency responders are often overwhelmed by such major storms, and may be unable to respond to all households requiring assistance. For New England residents, the risks of injury, illness, and death associated with hurricanes can be greatly reduced by knowing the dangers and being prepared.
Do not walk or drive into flooded areas, especially if the water is still moving. Flash floods can rise much faster than a person can escape from them on foot, and a car can be swept away in as little as two feet of water. Most hurricane-associated deaths occur by drowning, and many of these happen in cars. Stay safe – don’t go near the water on foot or in a car.
Electrocution is another major hazard associated with floodwaters. Do not walk into flooded homes or basements unless you have first turned off the electricity. If you see downed power lines or electrical wires, report them to the utility company if possible, and do not go near them.
It’s a good idea to keep an emergency kit on hand with basic supplies you might need to weather both the storm and its aftermath. Power outages and flooding of roadways and rail lines can interrupt public transportation (trains, buses) and make car travel impossible. You should plan to be self-sufficient for several days, as you may be cut off from help and local stores will be quickly depleted of their inventory. Most emergency kit items are readily available in your local grocery and drug store or anywhere camping supplies are sold.
Food and water – enough for 3-5 days:
Tools and supplies: