Published: 8/23/2012 5:12:15 PM
Hurricane preparedness: Are you ready?
Fort Bragg is located exactly 100 miles from the coastal city of Wilmington, N.C. This is important to note because Wilmington, which is southeast of the Fayetteville-Fort Bragg community, is often the projected path for many late-season hurricanes that develop in the Atlantic Ocean.
Hurricanes, or tropical cyclones as they are sometimes called, are massive storms that usually develop in warmer waters and are strengthened as evaporated ocean water is released and saturated air rises. These storms are capable of causing catastrophic damage as was the case with Hurricane Katrina, which all but destroyed the city of New Orleans in September 2004.
I have experienced several hurricanes, but never realized the true danger associated with these storms until I arrived in New Orleans as part of the humanitarian effort in the days following the storm.
I was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas and my unit, the 4th Infantry Division, Combat Aviation Brigade was one of the first active-duty, Army units called upon to rescue citizens and provide aerial logistical assistance.
We arrived in Baton Rouge, La. on Sept. 7 — a week after the storm had dissipated and what we saw upon flying into New Orleans was devastating.
The first thing I remember about flying into the city was that the top of the Wal-Mart was completely submerged and there was also a Greyhound bus station that was noticeable, only because of the white top of the buses.
When we landed at the New Orleans Mercedes-Benz Superdome, I also noticed a body floating nearby. It was the first of many, tragic deaths that we observed during our two-week mission in the “Big Easy.”
I also had the misfortune of seeing a young lady fall to her death from the rescue lift of a U.S. Navy helicopter, as her body slipped through the restraining harness.
In all, more than 1,800 New Orleans citizens died as a result of the hurricane, which also contributed to more than $108 billion in damages, making it the nation’s most costly hurricane to date.
There were a few key elements that allowed Katrina’s destruction to reach its level of catastrophe — location, engineering flaws and the lack of awareness.
First off, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans as a Category 3 storm, which in all actuality, could have been much worst because it had dissipated from its previous rating of Category 5 on Aug. 28. The fact that the city was located in somewhat of a three-way intersection between nearby Lake Pontchartrain, the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico, and the fact that a large amount of its land is below sea level, still made for a terrible situation for its citizens.
Once the storm hit, local and national officials’ worst fears were realized — the storm surge was too much for the city’s levees to handle. Fifty-three levees were breached, causing massive failure of numerous sections of New Orleans’ floodwall.
Another factor that contributed to the catastrophe was the result of numerous “die-hard” citizens who failed to realize the intensity of the approaching storm and chose instead to remain in the city, despite mandatory evacuation orders from then-mayor Ray Nagin.
Now, back to Fort Bragg. Is there a chance that what happened in New Orleans can happen here in Fayetteville? Don’t think so. Not enough citizens and not enough water mass in the local proximity.
However, hurricanes can spawn tornadoes and based on last year’s tornado outbreak, the destruction can be as devastating. So here are a few tips to help you become more prepared in case of a massive storm.
Develop a plan.
While Fort Bragg has its own installation emergency management plan, which offers advice in being prepared when severe storms roll into the area, it is equally important for Family members to develop their own plans in case of a hurricane.
A general preparedness plan should include an emergency kit, which can sustain the Family for up to 72 hours. Make a plan to identify what will happen during severe weather events, i.e. contact information.
Maintain situational awareness
Families should also maintain situational awareness by listening to the radio or TV and, once the weather event is over, they should ensure that their household is secure and check on the neighbors.
Heed the warnings
The post also has the Giant Voice, exterior mass notification systems, which includes 29 poles and high-powered speakers located throughout the installation. There are also interior building mass notification systems in many new and renovated buildings. Local TV stations also provide valuable information about approaching storms and should provided enough time for proper preparation.
Take responsibility for your well being
Fort Bragg officials have also noted that the basic responsibility for emergency planning and response lies with individuals and heads of households. Everyone should be accountable for himself and his or her Family. Also ensure that you establish a contact within your command as well as a Family member in another city. This will keep others from worrying and let Family members and co-workers know your status throughout the storm.
For more information or to find out the status on post, check out the Fort Bragg Facebook page, the Fort Bragg webpage and Bragg TV.
Remain safe and remain alive.
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