Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
Hurricane season is upon us
Update to previous article: Hurricane Preparedness
Most of us are no strangers to hurricanes—especially with Hurricane Matthew is still fresh in many of our minds. Hurricane season began June 1 and lasts through November 30. Most hurricane activity tends to occur from mid-August to late October, but can occur earlier or later. (The earliest tropical cyclone to make landfall on the South Carolina coast was Tropical Storm Anna on May 10, 2015.) Hurricane Matthew pummeled the Carolinas and other states on Columbus Day weekend last October.
Hurricanes begin as tropical storms. Tropical storms typically have sustained wind speeds of 39 to 73 mph, and are considered hurricanes when the storm’s speed exceeds 73 mph. Hurricanes are categorized according to wind speed.
Category 1 hurricane wind speeds range from 74 – 95 mph
Category 2 hurricane wind speeds range from 96 – 110 mph
Category 3 hurricane wind speeds range from 111 – 129 mph
Category 4 hurricane wind speeds range from 130 – 156 mph
Category 5 hurricane wind speeds are more than 157 mph
Tropical storms and hurricanes may only signal the start of a weather emergency. Heavy rains and high winds are characteristic of these storms. Power outages are probable as fallen trees and debris can impact power lines. People living inland and in low-lying areas may also face the threat of significant flooding for days or weeks following a storm, as was the case after Hurricane Matthew. The local National Weather Service issues flash flood and flood watches and warnings. You might receive these notifications on your mobile phone.
"It's easy to get complacent, or to think that there's plenty of time to prepare for a storm,” Charleston VAMC Emergency Manager Charlie Tupper said last year. “Here on the coast, you don't always have the luxury to track a storm for days as it works its way across the Atlantic. Sometimes emergencies appear seemingly out of the blue, so it's vital to be prepared now,"
Tupper stresses the importance of having an emergency plan in place in case the weather takes a turn for the worst. The following tips adapted from Ready.gov are helpful as you make preparations for hurricane season.
- Know where to go. If you are ordered to evacuate, do so early and know the local hurricane evacuation route(s) to take and have a plan for where you can stay. The SC Emergency Management Division provides information about evacuation zones and routes.
- Put together a disaster supply kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash, first aid supplies, and copies of your critical information in case you need to evacuate.
- If you are not in an area that is advised to evacuate and decide to stay in your home, plan for adequate supplies for several days in case you lose power and water and are not able to leave due to flooding or blocked roads.
- Have a family emergency plan. This should include places to meet in the case of an emergency, how to contact one another in case of separation, and where to find supplies if they are needed. And don't forget that pets are your family too; have a plan for how you will manage pets in case of emergency.
- Stay as connected as possible. The National Weather Service provides updates on Facebook and Twitter. The National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center also update their webpages during weather emergencies. You can also sign up for weather alerts through most local news stations and through a number of weather-related apps. Radio stations are also a great source of time information during weather emergencies (see a list of South Carolina and Georgia weather radio stations).
- Additionally, many communities have a text or email alert system for emergency notifications, like the Citizen Alert Notification System for Charleston County. To find out what alerts are available in your area, search the Internet with your town, city, or county name and the word "alerts."
Emergency management and executive leadership at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center carefully evaluate each weather emergency situation and ensure our patients, visitors and employees are protected. During severe weather, you can check the operational status of Charleston VAMC on the Current Operating Status page.
For general employee information, Charleston VA employees should check the Work Status for Employees page. The VAMC's Facebook and Twitter pages are also updated during weather emergencies. Charleston VA employees should contact Charlie Tupper at Charles.Tupper@va.gov to sign up for VA's emergency notification system.