hurricanes

Before the Storm Hits

When I was growing up in Puerto Rico, I remember the stories my great grandmother and great aunt used to tell me about hurricanes past– San Ciriaco, San Ciprián, San Felipe–are just some of the names I remember. I wondered why hurricanes in Spanish always had the names of saints. I found out that hurricanes used to acquire their names according to the day they hit in accordance to the Catholic calendar. Each day commemorates the birth day of one or more saints according to the calendar. Not a very scientific system, I must add. As of 1960, the naming process in the US was standardized. In times past, these storms were so newsworthy that many other events, such as births, were described as “having happened before or after a given hurricane”. For example, I was born on the year of the Santa Clara hurricane (AKA Betsy on the US Mainland), which was a relatively mild hurricane by Puerto Rican standards at the time.

When the National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning, I recall that the entire preparation process usually revolved around buying batteries, flashlights, collecting water, and cooking plenty of food and perhaps boarding windows. That was it. Since we were pretty luck from 1960 to about 1989, the hurricane preparations basically were associated with party time. These were opportunities for great family gatherings with a lot of food where everyone sat around the TV or radio depending upon whether you had electricity or not—not well thought out emergency preparedness techniques.

It’s wise to prepare a kit of supplies in preparation for potential disasters. Hurricane season is a good time to start. It’s best to stock up on food that is not easily perishable or that does not require refrigeration in the event you are without electricity for extended periods of time. Stock up on water and drinking water. Keep a three day supply of drinking water for the family if possible. Stocking up on your prescription medications is also a good idea. In terms of your property, you should also check around your home to minimize debris as much as possible. It’s also a good idea to clear rain gutters and down spouts in advance. Keep a full tank of gas in your car in the event that you might be ordered to evacuate.

For additional tips, before and after the storm, visit our web pages for information in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese.

And if the whole naming process caught your interest, visit the National Hurricane Center for the lists of hurricanes names planned years in advance for both Atlantic and Pacific storms.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Antes de que la tormenta azote

Durante mi niñez en Puerto Rico, me acuerdo de las historias de mi bisabuela y tía abuela sobre los huracanes de antaño—San Ciriaco, San Ciprián, San Felipe—eran algunos nombres que recuerdo. Siempre me preguntaba el por qué los huracanes tenían nombres de santos. Encontré que bautizaban los huracanes con los nombres conforme al día del santo cuando tocaba tierra. No es una metodología muy científica que digamos. Desde el 1960, el proceso de nombrar los huracanes se formalizó. Cabe señalar que en el pasado muchas de estas tormentas eran acontecimientos de tal envergadura que otros eventos como nacimientos se describían por haber sucedido antes o después de tal huracán. Por ejemplo, yo nací el año del huracán Santa Clara (también conocido como Betsy en el continente EE.UU.), que fue un huracán de poco impacto en comparación con otros huracanes que pasaron por la Isla en aquella época.

Cuando el Centro Nacional de Huracanes emitía un aviso de tormenta, me acuerdo que los preparativos normalmente giraban alrededor de la compra de baterías, linternas, la colección de agua, el cocinar grandes cantidades de comida y clavar planchas de madera sobre las ventanas. Eso era todo. Como tuvimos bastante suerte entre los años 1960 al 1989, los preparativos de huracanes casi estaban asociados con un espíritu festivo. Eran oportunidades para grandes reuniones familiares donde había mucha comida y la gente se arremolinaba alrededor del televisor o la radio dependiendo si había electricidad o no. Estas no eran necesariamente técnicas de preparación para emergencias bien planificadas.

Es prudente preparar un conjunto de provisiones en preparación para posibles desastres naturales. La temporada de huracanes es un buen momento para empezar. Es buena idea almacenar alimentos que no se deterioren con facilidad o que no requieran refrigeración en el evento de que se quede sin electricidad por largos periodos de tiempo. También hay que almacenar agua para el aseo personal y agua potable. El mantener un suministro de tres días de agua potable para toda la familia, si es posible, es ventajoso. También mantenga los medicamentos con receta necesarios a mano. En términos de su propiedad, trate de minimizar en la manera posible todo lo que se podría convertir en escombros tras una tormenta. También es buena idea verificar que los desagües de la casa no estén tapados con anticipación al paso del huracán. También llene el tanque de gasolina de su auto para estar listo en caso de que venga una orden de evacuar el lugar.

Para consejos adicionales sobre las medidas a tomar antes y después de la tormenta, visite nuestras páginas Web para información en inglés, español, chino, y vietnamita.

Y si está interesado en conocer cuáles son los nombres que el Centro Nacional de Huracanes ha designado para las tormentas en el Atlántico y el Pacífico, puede consultar la lista de huracanes.

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Recovery From Gustav Continues

About the author: Mary Kemp is currently the Homeland Security Coordinator in the Dallas, TX regional office. Mary started at EPA in 1985 and has worked in the asbestos, Superfund, and air programs. She’s keeping us updated on how her office is responding to Hurricane Gustav.

Because of the limited damage from Hurricane Gustav, I have been doing less and less associated with the storm over the last couple of days. EPA has staff deployed to Louisiana to assist in public information, drinking water and wastewater assessments, and technical assistance. This work is on-going as well as reconnaissance work. So far, minimal support has been needed from EPA.

Gustav is fading . . . The next storms (Hanna, Ike, and Josephine) are coming. Hanna looks to hit the east coast sometime this weekend. We’re not sure where Ike will go. As long as we are needed, we will continue to help the states recover.

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Update: Assessments Continue with Gustav

About the author: Mary Kemp is currently the Homeland Security Coordinator in the Dallas, TX regional office. Mary started at EPA in 1985 and has worked in the asbestos, Superfund, and air programs. She’s keeping us updated on how her office is responding to Hurricane Gustav.

Our first reconnaissance flights from yesterday showed no emergencies at facilities and limited damage. Our water experts will be assisting the state with assessments of drinking water and waste water infrastructure in the hurricane impacted area. They are also sharing and distributing information along the way. Our Public Information Officer is located at the Joint Field Office in Baton Rouge. He is coordinating information sharing and distribution of information too. We are continuing to work with the state. I’m on hold waiting to see if there will be an activation of the general Response Support Corps.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Getting Ready for Gustav and Hanna!

About the author: Mary Kemp is currently the Homeland Security Coordinator in the Dallas, TX regional office. Mary started at EPA in 1985 and has worked in the asbestos, Superfund, and air programs.

There’s a flurry of activity today at EPA Region 6 . . . it’s Hurricane Season! This time it’s Gustav and as usual, it’s always on Labor Day Weekend! We are getting ready for what we think will be a pretty sizable hurricane. As discussed previously in Dan Heister’s blog on Incident Command, we have designated an Incident Commander, an Operations Section Chief, a Planning Section Chief and a Logistics Section Chief. We are checking on staff availability for next week, particularly in our Response Support Corp. Since Gustav is expected to make landfall somewhere in Texas or Louisiana on late Monday or Tuesday, we expect to be in full mode next week.

Within EPA, we manage major incidences through something called the Regional Incident Coordination Team (RICT). The RICT has been meeting to discuss plans for activation. EPA is coordinating with both Louisiana and Texas through conference calls. In fact, we have added a section to our website on hurricane preparedness. This page is also available in Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese.

Even though Gustav making landfall is still days away, it is always best to “lean forward” in preparation for the worst. In Region 6 that is what we are doing . . . preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best.

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¡Preparándose para Gustav y Hanna!

La autora: Mary Kemp labora actualmente como Coordinadora de Seguridad del Territorio Nacional en la Oficina Regional de Dallas, TX. Mary comenzó en 1985 y ha trabajado en los programas de asbesto, Superfund y aire.

Hoy a un revuelo de actividad en la Región 6 de EPA…es la temporada de huracanes! Esta vez se trata de Gustav y, como siempre, coincide con el fin de semana feriado del Día del Trabajo! Estamos preparándonos para lo que creemos será un huracán de gran envergadura. Como se discutió previamente en el blog de Dan Heister sobre el Comando de Incidentes, hemos designado un comandante de incidentes, un jefe de sección de operaciones, un jefe de sección de planificación y un jefe de sección para logística. También estamos verificando la disponibilidad del personal para la siguiente semana, en particular nuestra corporación de apoyo para respuesta a emergencias. Como esperamos que Gustav toque tierra en algún lugar entre Texas y Luisiana tarde el lunes o martes, esperamos estar trabajando a todo vapor la semana próxima.

Dentro de EPA, manejamos eventos importantes mediante lo que llamamos el Equipo Regional para la Coordinación de Incidentes (RICT, por sus siglas en inglés). El RICT se ha estado reuniéndose para discutir los planes de activación. EPA está coordinando tanto con Luisiana como Texas por medio de llamadas de conferencia telefónicas. De hecho, también hemos añadido una sección a nuestro sitio Web para preparativos de huracanes en inglés, en español, chino, y vietnamita.

A pesar de que Gustav todavía está a días de distancia de arribar, siempre es mejor estar “en avanzada” en preparación para lo peor. En la Región 6 eso es lo que estamos haciendo…preparándonos para lo peor, pero esperando que suceda lo mejor.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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It’s Hurricane Season!

About the author: Mary Kemp is currently the Homeland Security Coordinator in the Dallas, TX regional office. Mary started at EPA in 1985 and has worked in the asbestos, Superfund, and air programs.

Recently, Dan Heister mentioned the Incident Command System. The Incident Command System is part of how we respond to emergencies under the National Response Framework (NRF). We are responsible for Emergency Support Function (ESF) #10, Oil and Hazardous Materials Response under the NRF. An example of ESF #10 activities was after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita we collected and properly disposed of thousands of paint cans, propane tanks from gas grills, and other hazardous household items that were tossed around.

View of a hurricane from space
Seeing the destruction that Hurricane Rita left on a community that was located along the Gulf in Cameron Parish was absolutely unbelievable. Every house in this community was swept away! The only thing left of the community was a few pilings, the concrete of the carport bays, and a couple of child’s toys. When I first saw it, I asked the group I was with, “You mean there was really a community here?” We were later told that the debris field from the community ended up about 9 miles north in the Marsh.

The Storm Surge from a major hurricane can be incredible. In Cameron Parish, the only structure left standing was the Courthouse. We were told later that the Storm Surge from Hurricane Rita was up to 20 feet. In fact, we were also told that the entire Parish was under water after Hurricane Rita came ashore. Because of the destruction from Hurricane Rita, we set three hazardous waste collection points within Cameron Parish. All of these activities were under ESF #10.

We have been involved with several major disasters including the World Trade Center, Space Shuttle, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, etc. We have learned the need for better preparedness and the need to utilize other EPA employees that are field trained. We tested this concept called the Response Support Corp during the Space Shuttle Columbia recovery. We have also learned that we need to set a goal of being able to manage more incidences at once. To improve our preparedness, we have goals within the Current Strategic Plan.

In closing, we are moving into the peak of Hurricane Season, typically August and September. If a hurricane is heading your way, please secure paint cans, propane tanks, etc. in a place where they won’t be swept away. We don’t want to find your paint cans or propane tanks in a marsh or along the side of the road.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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