The following is the 5 day wind speed probabilities forecast for Hurricane Dorian, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. While Hurricane Dorian may be a week away from Southeastern Connecticut, it is highly likely the storm will impact Southeastern Connecticut in some manner with severe weather.
Tropical Storms and Hurricanes are something we cannot prevent, but there are ways to prepare for them. Some storms pass through quickly with nothing more than a few trees being blown over and others rip through the area causing devastation, because Mother Nature does what she wants, when she wants.
While the members of Waterford’s Five Fire Companies are here for you when the worst occurs, no matter what, it is always best to be prepared and understand that when Tropical Storms and Hurricanes impact The Town and Region, response times may be delayed for reasons well beyond our control.
So, without further ado …
- Be Informed About Pending and Current Weather -
With so much inaccurate information found online, in various Facebook forums, and websites that are designed to be clickbait rather than real news sources, it is important to know where your information regarding severe weather or a pending storm is coming from. Rather than looking at your friend’s Instagram feed, or scrolling through Facebook, be sure to use the de facto sources for weather, including the following
• The National Weather Service
• The National Hurricane Center
• Connecticut Department of Emergency Management & Homeland Security Weather
Not everyone checks websites during severe weather, which is understandable. You’re busy, you’re working, chasing kids, getting your house prepared for the storm, you want the information sent proactively sent to you, or quickly accessible from your phone. To have the information sent to you, as you need it, check these handy Text/E-Mail alerts and mobile apps.
• State of Connecticut’s Emergency Alerting and Notification System
• Connecticut Department of Emergency Management & Homeland Security Weather, Apple iOS
• Connecticut Department of Emergency Management & Homeland Security Weather, Android
• FEMA Wireless Emergency Alerts
Social Media is an important aspect of alerting for severe weather, but not from your co-workers' Snapchat posts, or your daughter’s boyfriend’s cousin's comedy weather page (unless they are a meteorological stand up comedian, in which case send us a link!), but in times of severe weather, turn to official social media channels for emergency management and weather. For the region the most active social media channels are:
• National Weather Service, Upton, NY
• National Weather Service, Boston
• Waterford Police Department
• Waterford Cohanzie Fire Company
•Old Lyme Emergency Management, Facebook and Twitter
Above all, the most up to date and failsafe way to keep abreast of severe weather is NOAA Weather Radio. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration‘s Weather Radio first launched in the 1950s, and has been operating continually, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year since 1960. Presently NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts official National Weather Service warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information from regional stations. For New London County, and Southeastern Connecticut, we are served by a 750-watt transmitter in Uncasville that can heard on VHF frequency 162.550.
Typically NOAA Weather Radios can be purchased very inexpensively, and some can be set to be left on at all times and only become active when they received a 1050 Hz alerting tone sent by the National Weather Service. They can be plugged in, run on batteries, some run on a hand crank should other power sources fail … take a look HERE at some NOAA radios presently available.
Look HERE for a NOAA Radio you can take with you or leave in your vehicle that will automatically alert when the National Weather Service has triggered an alert
Now that we have addressed how to stay abreast of approaching severe weather, on to the important topics …
- What Should You Do Before A Hurricane or Tropical Storm -
As a storm approaches you should take some basic preparedness precautions. Storms along the Connecticut Shoreline are a time of uncertainty. You’ll never know if power goes out, and if it does for how long it will be out. Roads may be closed or roadways flooded. Your basic preparedness should include the following two important factors
• A Storm Kit: You must be prepare yourself and your family to be fully self sufficient for at least three days. This Storm Kit should include foods that do not require any refrigeration or require an external heat source to prepare. Stock up on bottled water, canned foods, dry snacks, and pet food if you need it. For hot meals consider self-warming Meals Ready To Eat that have a heating source activated by water. You’ll need flashlights, batteries, USB power banks for your mobile phones, and a full tank of gas. Consider a power inverter for your vehicle to have access to standard electrical outlets. These supplies should be stocked long before a storm approaches so you are not caught in the mass hordes ravaging the supermarket shelves 24 hours before the storm.
• A Storm Plan: This plan should include evacuation plans. A place to go should you be unable to return home. Out of state or out of region emergency contact information, and a rally point to be reunited should you and your family gets split up. Know where your local shelter is, it may not be in your town.
• Your Kit and Plan should include a battery operated radio. This radio is vital to ensuring you can stay current on conditions and alerts if all power goes out. You cannot plan further without vital information.
Many areas within Waterford, and the surrounding towns are located in a High Risk Area, Low Laying area, coastal areas, the shoreline, mobile homes, are all extremely vulnerable to the strong winds produced by a tropical storm or a hurricane. If you live in these areas, consider evacuating before a Shelter-in-Place warning is issued, as you may become trapped and unable to evacuate later.
- Preparing Your Home -
Following the devastation experienced throughout Florida following Hurricane Andrew, in 1992, experts determined four areas that must be secured during a storm, as these four areas had to the structural failure of homes during the storm. These four areas that are vulnerable to strong winds are Doors, Windows, The Roof and Garage Doors.
• Doors: If you have double entry doors, and one door is in actively in use and the other door is not used, check to see how the unused door is secured both at the top and bottom. The bolts that secure these inactive double doors are often not strong enough to withstand hurricane force winds. As well, keep in mind that doors with windows need addition protection to secure them from flying debris.
• Windows: Installing storm shutters over all of the exposed windows has proven to be the easiest and most effective way to protect a home from a Tropical Storm or Hurricane. Should storm shutters not be an option, temporary homemade plywood shutters, if installed and secured properly, offer a high level of protection for all windows, while offering a protection that can effectively be installed on all types of homes.
• The Roof: The roof of a home is the most vulnerable to damage from the winds proceed by a Tropical Storm or Hurricane. Proper roof construction is absolutely vital, and can save a home thousands and thousands of dollars in repairs due to damage.
The connection between a roof and the walls must be strong enough to resist the effect of “uplift winds” produced by a devastating storm. Roof trusses or rafters should be properly tied to the exterior walls with metal hurricane connectors. These connectors are specifically designed to attach the roof to wall places, which are already connected to wall studs.
For homes with a Gable End Roof, these are the most susceptible to the effects of high winds, rather a flat or hip roof.
• Garage Doors: Garages designed with a doublewide, or two car, door pose a unique problem during Tropical Storms and Hurricanes. Due to the large exterior surfaces of the doors they often wobble in the high winds and collapse or pull off their tracks due to the pressure exerted on them. Retrofit kits are available for many of these doors to strengthen them.
• Mobile Homes and Manufactured Homes present a unique challenge when facing the high winds of a Tropical Storm or Hurricane. Should you have a Mobile or Manufactured Home consider the following:
- Anchor your home with over the top, or frame, ties
- Residents of Mobile or Manufactured Homes are most likely to be ordered to evacuate in advance of other area residents, due to the dangers presented by these homes in high winds. Be ready to evacuate before the order comes, when you know there is an impending Tropical Storm or Hurricane approaching.
- Before you evacuate install hurricane shutters or plywood over your windows
- Remove and secure awnings, folding furniture, trashcans and loose outdoor objects
- Shut off your utilities and disconnect your sewer and water lines.
- Secure exterior propane tanks and leave them outside
- Pack breakage items in boxes and store them on the floor
- Remove mirrors after you tape them, wrap lamps and mirrors in blankets and place them in the tub.
- What To Do When A Tropical Storm or Hurricane Is Approaching -
We live in New England, and New Englanders tend to be a little blasé about severe weather. You hear blizzard and you think “Hey, we survived that nasty storm back in March 1888 and again in January 2005.” When many New Englanders hear a Hurricane is coming they think “Well my house is still here after Irene and Sandy” and go about there day … after buying every can of canned corn and roll of toilet paper from the supermarket … but the reality is YOU NEED TO PAY CLOSE ATTENTION.
If a Tropical Storm or Hurricane is possible you must stay tuned to the local news for weather updates, along with your local Weather and Emergency Management sources. Your State and Local public safety officials closely monitor the National Hurricane Center for forecasts, and it allows them to make decisions quickly in regard to providing updates and instructions, as well as when to issue evacuation orders.
You must listen for official instructions. Instructions are immediately sent to The Day, local TV news and radio stations and published on social media channels such as the Waterford Police Department's Facebook, as well as the Cohanzie Fire Company’s Facebook page.
As you await the official instructions with an approaching s storm consider the following:
• Ready your Storm Kit
• Review your Storm Plan
• Shelter In Place
• Continually monitor local media, and keep your essential devices plugged in and charged
• Stay away from windows
• Keep your flashlights handy
• If the power goes out, turn off all major appliances in case of a power surge when the electricity comes back on
• Be prepared to evacuate … this means have the pets ready to go also!
- What To Do After Tropical Storm or Hurricane Has Passed -
When a Tropical Storm or Hurricane has passed, listen to NOAA Weather and check online National Weather Service maps to see if the storm has really passed. Often time people think a storm is over when in reality they are only in the midst of the eye of the storm. The eye of the storm is a false lull before the devastating effects of the weather return again.
Once a storm and its danger have departed, and if you have evacuated, only return home following authorities advising that it is truly safe to return home. Continue to monitor local media, and trusted social media sources, such as that of the Town, Police, Fire Department and Emergency Management for updates that ill be vital to your safety and well being.
As you begin to make your way around town you must be vigilant about the following:
• Downed power lines are common. Following a storm it is likely some will be submerged and many will not yet be secured or taped off by the Fire Department, Police or Eversource. You should report these downed power lines immediately to 911 and not approach them.
• Be aware of flooded roads, especially at night or in low visibility. It is easy to find yourself stuck in your vehicle trapped in high water. Washed out roads, or worse washed out bridges, can be deadly.
• Be cautious as you reenter your home. Very cautious
- Open windows to ventilate your home and dry it out
- Do not use candles or open flames, as there is a risk of a gas leak following the storm. Instead use flashlights
- Beware of snakes, animals and insects that may have taken shelter in your home during the storm
- Check your refrigerator for spoiled or rotten food, even if you do not believe you lost power.
• Inspect your home’s utilities. If you are unsure, contact Eversource or the Fire Department … and then BE PATIENT … thousands of other people are in the same situation you’re in.
- Look for signs of damage to your electrical system. Do you see sparks or frayed wires? Do you smell the aroma of burning rubber or burning insulation? Immediately turn off power to the home. If you have to step in water to reach the electrical panel, lead your home and call 911.
- Check your home for gas leaks. If you smell gas, or hear the hissing sound of blowing gas, open your windows, turn off the gas at the valve outside the home, then call 911.
- Take detailed photographs of all damage in daylight for your insurance claims. Photograph every side of the house, all around the house and each room from multiple angles.
• Be in contact with your family. Let them know where you are and if you have returned home, or if you cannot stay in your home.
• Listen to the radio and local news to determine if you may be eligible to apply for state or federal assistance.
This is by no means a complete list or detailing of how to prepare for an impending or Tropical Storm or Hurricane, but is intended to be a basic reference point as Waterford and the Connecticut Shoreline are prone to severe weather given our location on the shoreline, proximity to the Long Island Sound and Atlantic Ocean, and of course the many waterways within the Town and Region.
The Waterford Fire Department serves those within Waterford, as do all the Fire Departments for those within their respective towns, but be you must be aware that during a time of such an emergency, we get quite busy. Response times are delayed due to multiple calls, closed roads, blocked routes and having to prioritize calls, so the most you can do to prepare yourself and keep yourself safe, the better off we all are.
Hopefully Hurricane Dorian will pass by the Connecticut Shoreline uneventfully and quickly.
Enjoy the summer everyone!