How to prepare for a natural disaster, as West Virginia readies for Hurricane Florence

MORGANTOWN — Florence might be hitting the East Coast, but most of West Virginia is expected to feel its brunt.

The hurricane was down-graded Thursday to Category 2 and its outer bands began hitting land, with the bulk of the storm expected to hit early this morning around the NorthCarolina-South Carolina line.

The remnants of Hurricane Florence will hit the Morgantown area sometime on Monday, Dave Dombek, Accuweather senior meteorologist, said.

“Maybe in the morning, maybe lunchtime,” he said.

The rain will continue through Monday night and into Tuesday before drying up on Wednesday.

He said the amount of rain will vary depending on the path the hurricane takes once it starts traveling inland and could be as little as half an inch or as much as five inches. He said neither outcome would shock him, but his best guess Thursday afternoon was the area would get one to three inches.

He said the area shouldn’t have to worry about high winds because the storm should be “spun down considerably” by the time it travels through Appalachia.

It seems it’s appropriate for September to be National Preparedness Month, bringing attention for the need for people across the country to prepare for natural disasters.

Mark Caravasos, fire chief of the Morgantown Fire Department, said if a natural disaster is expected, the department adds staff and vehicles to be prepared.

In the event of a flood, firefighters will check their boats and rescue equipment. Normally, in a hurricane situation, the area can expect a lot of wind and that can often lead to downed trees and power lines.

“We’ll make sure the chainsaws are up and running, make sure we have enough fuel and everything. Make sure the vehicles are fueled up and be prepared for a whole wide range of whatever could happen,” he said.

Caravasos stressed that preparation is key. During an event, the crew will do its best to remain safe and take necessary precautions.

Each week of September has a different theme for National Preparedness Month. This week is aimed at learning lifesaving skills, such as CPR.

Ready.wv.gov is a good resource, Caravasos said, which talks about things someone might not think of when trying to prepare for a disaster. This could include getting together insurance information, checking fuel levels or water well operation.

Caravasos said make sure clean drinking water is available, as well as food sources and other basic needs in case of being stuck in the house.

“It even goes into checking your smoke detectors and making sure they’re operational. Making sure you have carbon dioxide detectors. In big snow storms making sure your vents in your heating equipment are open so they don’t let carbon monoxide up in your house,” he said.

In the event of flooding in the area, Caravasos said it will likely be a lot of flash flooding. It’s important for people to listen to news sources for information.

“If they’re telling you to evacuate the area, evacuate the area. Don’t stick around and try to ride something out,” he said.

Ed Rayburn is a WVU Extension agent with expertise in agriculture and keeping animals and equipment safe.

“I you live in a house that is subject to flooding you might want to think about going to a family’s or friend’s house that’s up on higher ground,” he said.

With the rain continuing into the week, Rayburn said much of the water will run off given the ground is already saturated and that is what often leads to flooding.

He said each family should have a three-day supply of food, water and medicines. A seven-day supply is not unreasonable, he said.

Those using generators should make sure they are in the open, especially those using gas.

“You can’t leave the generator in the garage with the garage door open, that is not good enough,” Rayburn said.

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