By Claire Walla
Southampton Town has just released this year’s hurricane survival guide.
“Get ready,” the brochure reads. “Survival is everyone’s responsibility.”
It’s primarily this message that councilwoman Nancy Graboski wants to relay to those in the community. Graboski, who largely headed the effort to put this year’s hurricane survival guide together, announced its release as a Southampton Town work session last Friday, July 29.
“As you know, we in the Town of Southampton take hurricane preparedness very seriously,” Graboski stated. “While we don’t have power over the hurricane itself, we have the power to prepare.”
The survival guide is broken up into four sections: before the storm, landfall, after the storm and then general information (a section that includes information on past hurricanes in the area and a glossary of relevant terms). “One of the things we did differently [this year was] to try to expand our reach,” Grabsoki added. Though the town didn’t have enough funding this year to translate the entire guide into Spanish, “if you look toward the back [of the booklet], there are references in Spanish,” she said.
In addition, a post card providing a check-list of essentials residents are urged to keep on-hand in case of an emergency is available in English and Spanish.
To further delve into crucial weather-related details, the Southampton Town council invited David Wally, a tropical weather representative from the National Weather Service (NWS), to explain how storms occur and provided more insights into how the town should prepare in the event of such inclement weather.
“In a couple of weeks, we’ll be in the start of the season,” Wally explained, and added that this 2011 hurricane season is expected to be “above-normal,” as it was in 2010. Based on this year’s May forecast, Wally said there are 12 to 18 storms predicted this year (11 is normal) and of those there are three to six intense hurricanes predicted (two is normal).
These predictions are based on activity in the Atlantic basin off the coast of Africa. Wally said storms that hit the East End typically develop to the far-east and swing low into the Caribbean before sweeping up the east coast of the U.S. While storm activity is fairly easy to predict, Wally said landfall can change a hurricane’s direction and intensity fairly quickly, which means storm warnings can come with very little advanced notice. Citing examples from years past, Wally said hurricanes have been known to travel from the Carolinas to the greater New York area in just 24 hours.
Last season, Wally said there were 19 named storms, 12 of them hurricanes and five of those designated “major.” But there were no landfalls.
“I’m not trying to desensitize people,” Wally cautioned. “Be prepared. It only takes one. We can have five storms this year, and it could be that fifth one that can cause a catastrophe.”
Wally also explained that even if a hurricane does not make landfall on the East End, the effects can still be devastating.
“The wind field can be several hundred miles in diameter,” he said, adding that the area of impact predicted by the national weather service does not denote the potential impact of peripheral rain bands and the scope of the storm surge.
While the town’s survival guide cautions residents to be prepared with emergency equipment, foods and medicines for at least five to seven days, local arborist Mike Gaines, of CW Arborists, points out the importance of preparing one’s yard for inclement weather.
Noting that high winds and heavy rainfall can cause trees to tumble (which could lead injuries or even fatalities), Gaines emphasized the importance of homeowners contacting local arborists to have their trees inspected. For example, he said there was a tree last year in Springs that fell and “caused a lot of damage. A good portion of that could have been avoided with proper pruning techniques,” he explained.
While some trees certainly warrant removal, he said many seemingly damaged trunks are more worthy of preservation than many people might assume.
(Gaines will be discussing the finer details of tree preservation at a talk next Thursday, August 11 at Old Whalers Church in Sag Harbor.)
When it comes down to it, for Gaines and for Southampton Town council members: the name of the game is preparation.
“Please take these warnings seriously,” said Southampton Town Police Lt. Bob Iberger, who is in charge of the department’s emergency management team. “Coordinate with your friends and family to figure out where you need to go [in case of an emergency]. Prepare your home so that you can make your residence more able to survive [a storm]. Once these conditions turn to a certain stage, we’re not coming to get you.”
Hurricane survival guides are available at town hall, community centers and libraries throughout Southampton Town in paper form, and are also available in digital form online though the town’s website.