Monday, October 29, 2012

Too Late To Run

There comes a time when it's too late to run.

You decided not to evacuate, and now you're up to your eyeballs in alligators, trying to figure out how to survive.

That's the case for literally millions of Americans along the eastern seaboard and inland all the way to the Great Lakes, as the monster storm named Sandy has made landfall and is working her way into the interior.

How do you evacuate 60 million people from an area a quarter the size of the United States? It's impossible. Some few will have made it out of harm's way, but the vast majority is caught in a weather trap and struggling to stay alive.

So, what do you do now?

There is no simple answer, because conditions vary by location. Along the seacoast, storm surge is the major problem, as seawater rushes ashore like a wind-blown tsunami, flooding everything for miles inland. Major cities are without public transportation, as subways and rapid transit systems have been shut down, stranding millions of residents right where they stand.

But 100 miles inland the problem will be flooding of another nature, as incessant rainfall swells rivers to overflowing. The sodden ground will no longer support root systems, and trees will blow over onto houses and cars and roadways, tearing down powerlines and leaving millions with no electricity.

Farther west and north, the cold front mixing with the warm, moisture-laden air of the tropical storm will dump feet of snow, strangling transportation corridors, tearing branches out of trees, destroying powerlines.

It's almost too late for preparation. The first three letters of that word (pre) mean that steps should be taken in advance. By the time the storm arrives, the time for preparation is over.

Now it's hunker-down time. All you can do now is try to keep up with the immediate demands of the situation — filling sandbags and piling them around the perimeter of your home; moving valuables upstairs or into the attic; trying to prepare food with no electricity; tarping over the broken windows; comforting each other and vowing to prepare better next time … if you manage to come out of this one alive.

But there are steps you can take during a hurricane or major storm to give you the best possible chance. Here are some suggestions:
  • Monitor radio and TV news reports about the storm and developing situations 
  • Keep the doors and windows shut and shuttered (or covered with plywood panels). It's a myth that you should open windows to equalize interior and outside air pressure. 
  • Stay inside the house and away from windows and glass doors that might shatter and injure you with shrapnel. Keep curtains and blinds closed, as they can slow the shower of glass if a window is broken. 
  • Move to an interior room, close and block the door. Entire homes can be blown apart by hurricane-force winds, and an interior room is the safest place as outside walls and the roof collapse. 
  • If you're in a high-rise, avoid elevators. If the power goes off, you can become stranded inside an elevator car between floors. 
  • Stay warm and dry, to avoid hypothermia. 
  • If instructed to do so, turn off the electricity and propane or natural gas supply to your house. 
  • If the power goes off, keep refrigerator and freezer doors shut as much as possible, to maintain the cold and preserve the food as long as possible. 
  • Collect as much freshwater as you can in tubs, pots, bottles, etc. Conserve your potable water supply, not using it for flushing the toilet. During a flood, there's a lot of water around, but it will quickly become contaminated with sewage, fuel, pesticides, and biological hazards, rending it unsafe. 
  • As the storm abates, do not go outside or think that the storm is over. The backside of a hurricane is just as violent as the frontside, and it will come after a brief lull as the eye of the storm passes through. 
  • Wait for the "all clear" from the weather radio or news station.

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