shows water-driven wind blowing across a road as trees bend in the wind during a hurricane
Strong winds and waters bend trees in Onslow County along its Queen Creek Bridge during 2018's Hurricane Florence. Photo courtesy: NC DOT/ Flickr

TIPS FOR TORNADO WATCHES AND WARNINGS

As hurricanes blow ashore, they brings with it the possibility of tornadoes, especially in the trailing parts of the storm.

The National Weather Service has a website explaining the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning, and what to do to keep safe should a tornado head your way.  https://www.weather.gov/bmx/sps_torsafetyrules

In the event of a tornado:

  • Avoid windows at all cost! In general, get as low as you can. A basement below ground level or the lowest floor of a building offers the greatest safety. Put as many walls between yourself and the outside as possible
  • Tornadoes could be obscured by rainfall or come at nighttime. Do not wait until you see or hear the tornado, it might be too late.
  • Forget about opening or closing windows. Do not waste the time! You only will put yourself and others in greater risk. Use those valuable seconds to find a place of safety.
  • In homes or public buildings: go to the basement or a small interior room, such as a closet, bathroom or interior hallway on the lowest level. Close all doors to the hallway for greater protection. If possible, get under something sturdy like a heavy table. Protect yourself from flying debris with pillows, heavy coats, blankets or quilts. Use bicycle or motorcycle helmets to protect your head.
  • In mobile homes: leave well in advance of the approaching severe weather and go to a strong building. If there is no shelter nearby, get into the nearest ditch, low spot or underground culvert. Lie flat, covering your head with your hands for protection.
  • If you’re outdoors or in a vehicle when you hear about a tornado on the way, stay close to a sturdy shelter or find shelter in a ditch or remain in your vehicle and cover your head for protection.
Kittens housed at the megashelter in Durham in the wake of Hurricane Dorian. Photo credit: Anne Blythe

DON’T LEAVE YOUR PETS OUT OF STORM PLANS

In North Carolina, we can reel off the names of destructive hurricanes and tropical storms  like unruly guests we are not soon to forget — Dorian, Florence, Michael, Matthew, Floyd, Fran, Irma, Hugo, even Hazel.

With that familiarity comes storm preparations that are becoming all too familiar.

We’ve become accustomed to preparing storm kits with bottled water, canned and unperishable food, batteries, flashlights, alternate phone chargers and water-proof containers for important documents and family keepsakes.

Don’t forget to create a disaster plan for your pets, too.

Some tips from the American Red Cross and elsewhere:

  • Make sure that your pet is up to date on vaccinations and that all dogs and cats are wearing collars with securely fastened, up-to-date identification. Many pet shelters require proof of current vaccinations to reduce the spread of disease.
  • Prepare a pet emergency kit with water, food for three days, any medications, proof of ownership and vaccination records.
  • If you plan to shelter at a hotel or motel, know which ones along your evacuation route accept pets in an emergency. Call ahead for reservations if there is time. Most Red Cross shelters cannot accept pets because of health and safety concerns and other considerations, but service animals are allowed in Red Cross shelters.
  • Prepare a list of friends, relatives, boarding facilities, animal shelters and veterinarians who can care for pets in an emergency.

IN AN OPIOID TREATMENT PROGRAM? KNOW SOMEONE WHO IS?

People in opioid treatment programs who are receiving prescription drugs may take home additional doses for treatment or receive guest-dosing at another licensed opioid treatment program, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. The Central Registry offers a map of sites across the state.

IN A FLOODED AREA AND HAVE A PRIVATE WELL?

State health officials have provided guidance on how to better prepare private wells in flood-prone areas before a hurricane.

Prep ahead:

  • Store adequate bottled water for drinking and cooking. You won’t be able to drink, brush teeth or cook with well water until it is tested and found suitable.
  • Fill up the pressure tank as much as possible.
  • Turn off the electricity to the well. If you have an aerobic septic system, turn off the electricity for the system. No special preparations are recommended for conventional septic systems.
  • If your wellhead does not have a watertight seal, clean off the well casing, cover with a heavy-duty trash bag and secure with waterproof tape.
  • If you have the log or well report completed when the well was established, store a copy in a safe place that will be accessible if you evacuate.

After the flood:

It is strongly recommended to call your local health department or licensed well driller to shock chlorinate the well if it has been flooded. A water well driller will have access to more effective products and will have equipment and experience that a typical well owner will not have.

Newport resident Glenn Skinner flushes his well, which was submerged in the floodwaters of Hurricane Florence as the storm pushed ashore. Photo credit: Taylor Knopf

Other tips include:

  • Do not turn on the electricity to your pump until flood waters recede.
  • If extensive flooding has occurred, do not drink the water. Use your water reserves and bottled water until your well water has been tested.
  • If you think your well was damaged, contact a driller. You can find a list of certified well contractors at http://www.ncwelldriller.org/web/eh/find-contractor.
  • If you haven’t already, find a nearby water testing lab to obtain sample collection bottles and instructions for bacterial contamination. You cannot see, taste or smell bacterial contamination in your well. Often, your local health department can test your water.
  • If you live near animal feeding operations, agricultural fields where pesticides are applied or industrial chemical factories, you should contact your local health department for additional testing, especially if you smell fuel or chemicals in your water.
  • If there is bacterial contamination, do not use contaminated water for drinking, cooking, making ice, bathing in any form or washing clothes or dishes. Use bottled water. Follow boil water alerts or get water from an uncontaminated source.

For more information about well water and health, visit https://epi.dph.ncdhhs.gov/oee/programs/wellwater.html.

Facts from previous storms:

After Hurricane Florence in 2018, nearly 45 percent of wells tested by the State Public Health Lab were found to have bacterial contamination. More than 13 percent of these wells had detectable E. coli.

Keep up with flooding information in your area in real time by checking out the North Carolina Flood Information Mapping and Alert Network.

As Isaias came closer to North Carolina on the afternoon of August 3, flood gages were starting to show increased water levels in river beds and in some locations along the coast. Screenshot courtesy NC Flood Inundation Mapping and Alert Network.

Interactive maps show localized flooding, as reported by local stream and river gauges from around the state. There are 382 of them. Zoom in on the map to find the gauges in your area.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security provides directions on what to do and how to keep safe during a flash flood. Go to: https://www.ready.gov/floods

When a flash flood strikes, the Department of Homeland Security recommends:

  • Get to a place that you have previously identified as safe if there is time.
  • If told to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Never drive around barricades. Local responders use them to safely direct traffic out of flooded areas.
  • Listen to the Emergency Alert System, NOAA Weather Radio, or local alerting systems for current emergency information and instructions.
  • Do not walk, swim or drive through flood waters. Turn Around. Don’t Drown!
  • Stay off bridges over fast-moving water. Swift water can wash bridges away without warning.
  • Staying inside a vehicle trapped in rapidly moving water unless water is rising inside it. Then seek refuse on the roof.
  • Seek refuge at the highest level of a building, but DO NOT climb into a closed attic. You could get trapped there by rising flood water. Go on the roof only if necessary. Once there, signal for help.

More tips from  AAA Carolinas:

  • Avoid driving through flooded areas, even if you are familiar with the roads. The flooded area may contain dangers such as debris, tree branches or power lines that are not visible. The best thing you can do is turn around and find an alternate route.
  • To verify road conditions after a hurricane call: 511 in North Carolina and 888-877-9151 in South Carolina.

PROTECT YOURSELF FROM CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING

State health officials caution people not to use gasoline-powered generators, outdoor grills and camp stoves in enclosed spaces.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas produced whenever fuel is burned. In an enclosed space, such as a home, garage, car or camper, carbon monoxide can build up to deadly levels quickly. Even low levels of carbon monoxide can cause dizziness, fatigue, nausea, headaches, confusion or fainting. If you are experiencing these symptoms, get to fresh air immediately and seek medical attention.

High levels of carbon monoxide can be deadly within minutes. Anyone testing or using a generator or other fuel-burning device should take proper safety precautions:

  • Do not use gasoline-powered tools or engines in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces. Use them outdoors, at least 20 feet from doors, windows and air vents.
  • Do not use charcoal grills or propane stoves indoors, even in a fireplace.
  • Never use the stove or other gas appliances to heat your home.
  • Do not idle your car, truck or other vehicle in the garage, even if the garage door to the outside is open. Fumes can build up quickly in the garage and living area of your home.
  • Keep rooms well ventilated.
  • Read and follow all instructions that accompany fuel-burning devices. Use the proper fuel and make sure there is enough air for ventilation and fuel burning.
  • Install and maintain a carbon monoxide alarm in your home.
  • If you experience symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, including dizziness, nausea, headaches, confusion or fainting, get to fresh air immediately and seek medical care.

For more information about carbon monoxide poisoning prevention visit http://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/oee/a_z/co.html.

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