Looking For..?
Department Banner

 

 

 

Public Health Column for the Times-News

The deadly power of water

Published: Wednesday, September 6, 2017

By KIM HORTON
Times-News Columnist

Last year on Oct. 8, Hurricane Matthew made landfall southeast of McClellanville, South Carolina, as a Category 1 hurricane, leading to massive coastal and inland flooding, particularly in North Carolina and South Carolina. A CDC report stated that 43 hurricaneassociated deaths were reported in four states: Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Drowning was the most common cause of death for 23 people (54 percent). Despite public health warnings to avoid flood waters, 78 percent of the deaths occurred in motor vehicles.

This year we have witnessed the frightening scenes of unfathomable destruction as Hurricane Harvey pummeled southeastern Texas. The wind and rain and storm surge from the hurricane have been tremendous, but the cataclysmic flooding after Harvey remains overwhelming.

Even though we’re not a coastal community, we can still be impacted as a hurricane moves onto land reaching into Western North Carolina with extended heavy rain and floods, strong winds, tornadoes, thunderstorms and landslides. Power outages, trees falling and property damage are also part of the package. According to ReadyNC.gov, all areas of our state - from coastal and sound counties to the mountains — have been impacted by hurricanes in the past 20 years.

We are deep into hurricane season through Nov. 30, so it pays to be alert for those storm warnings and the consequences of widespread wind and water. Torrential rains in excess of six inches may result in deadly and destructive floods. In fact, flooding is the major threat for people living inland, according to the National Hurricane Center. Flash flooding, defined as a rapid rise in water levels, can occur quickly due to intense rainfall. Longer term flooding on rivers and streams can persist for several days after the storm.

You may have heard the phrase, “Turn Around Don’t Drown.” It’s save-your-life advice when approaching water on a roadway. Don’t underestimate the force of water. According to the National Weather Service, a mere six inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. Twelve inches of rushing water can carry away a small car, while two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles. It is never safe to walk or drive through flood waters.

In recognition of National Preparedness Month, we want to encourage you to take steps to prepare for any emergency event:

Get a kit and stock up

The time to put an emergency kit together is before a disaster. An emergency kit is a container of items your family may need in or after an emergency. It’s critical to have enough water, nonperishable food and prescription medications for three to seven days for each person and pet. Also include batteries, baby supplies, phone chargers and a first-aid kit as well as key papers - insurance policies, medical records and banking information. Put them in one place, and be sure every family member knows where the kit is kept. While you are gathering supplies, make sure that you also place an emergency kit in your car.


Make a plan with your family

Identify ahead of time where you and your family will go if you have to evacuate. Include the names and phone numbers of people you will call during an emergency and know how you will get in touch with one another. If local officials order a mandatory evacuation in your area, you should follow this request and make plans for you and your family to leave. Sit down with your family now and decide whether you will evacuate to an out-of-town friend or relative’s house, or if you will stay at a hotel in a safe place.

If you must evacuate, fill your car’s gas tank. Prepare an emergency kit for your car with food, water, flares, booster cables, maps, tools, a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, sleeping bags, phone charger, etc. If no vehicle is available, make arrangements with friends or family for transportation.

And when making your evacuation plan, don’t forget about your pets. Plan for alternate housing arrangements for your pets in advance, since pet-friendly shelters may not be available during the emergency period.


Tune in and stay informed

You may be on your own for hours or even days after a disaster. Fire fighters and police cannot always reach everyone quickly. Basic services like water, gas, power, sewage treatment and phones may be not work for many days or more. Situations can and often do change from one minute to the next.

A NOAA weather radio can keep you informed. Using the VHF radio band, it broadcasts the latest weather watches and warnings for your local area from the National Weather Service, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It also broadcasts warning and post-event information for all types of hazards - including natural (such as earthquakes or avalanches), environmental (such as chemical releases or oil spills) and public safety (such as AMBER alerts or 911 Telephone outages).

While preparedness is a top priority and responsibility for our local emergency management and public health agencies, it’s also each individual’s responsibility to ensure that they take the necessary steps to be prepared. Being ready for an emergency helps you and your family to survive. It also allows police, fire fighters and emergency medical workers to help those who need it most.

This month, take the first step to prepare by visiting hendersoncountync.org/ health and clicking on the Preparedness link. Here you will find many resources to build your emergency preparedness plan. Know what your risks are and prepare now to protect yourself and your family.

 


Kim Horton is the communications manager at the Henderson County Department of Public Health. She can be reached at khorton@hendersoncountync.org.

Copyright © 2017 BlueRidgeNow.com — All rights reserved. Restricted use only.



Department of Public Health • 1200 Spartanburg Highway, Suite 100 • Hendersonville, NC 28792 • (828) 692-4223