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Disaster Preparedness Guide

2018 Tropical Storm Names Alberto Beryl Chris Debby Ernesto Florence Gordon Helene Isaac Joyce Kirk

Leslie Michael Nadine Oscar Patty Rafael Sara Tony Valerie William

City prepared for hurricane season BY KELLIE ADAMSON STAFF WRITER

The city of Suffolk is prepared in the event of natural disaster as hurricane season is approaching. Hurricane season officially starts June 1 and doesn’t wrap up until Nov. 30. The city utilizes its Emergency Operations Plan for hurricanes as well as other natural and manmade disasters. “This document takes an all-hazards approach to dealing with both

natural disasters and manmade disasters,” said Deputy Fire Chief and Emergency Manager Brian Spicer. “We like to promote an all-hazards approach to preparedness, planning, response and recovery.” Within that document is a special section dedicated to specific hazards and incidents like hurricanes and tropical storms, terrorism and pandemic influenza. Other departments of the city government supplement this document See PREPARED, 3B

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Hurricane Matthew flooded the city BY ALEX PERRY STAFF WRITER

Suffolk residents don’t need to go too far back for reasons to prepare for hurricane season, which kicks off June 1. Many only have to think back to October 2016, when Hurricane Matthew flooded the city. Deputy Fire Chief and Suffolk Fire and Rescue Emergency Management Coordinator Brian Spicer recalled conferences with the Department of Emergency Management and the National Weather Service in the days before Matthew’s impending arrival. Forecasts varied throughout the week, with predictions ranging from Virginia taking a direct hit earlier to turning away and into the Atlantic just days later. “I’m in no way impugning their abilities,” Spicer said about NWS in a phone interview. “They’re great partners, and we really appreciate them working with us. This storm simply didn’t perform as anyone expected as it would.” On the afternoon of Oct. 8, a band of rain was expected to bring at most 5 or 6 inches to Southeastern Hampton Roads, including Suffolk, Spicer said. But an upper-level trough interacted with the hurricane. Ultimately, about 11 and a half inches of rain fell in just 12 hours from the evening of Oct. 8 and into Oct. 9, Spicer said. It was sleepless night for emergency staff filled with calls of high water and downed trees. Spicer counted 29 Suffolk roads closed from flooding and 25 different water-type rescues — and that was just at the 6 a.m. conference call Sunday morning. They still had at least another four hours of rain still to go. “It was what we called a ‘500-year’ rain event,” he said. The sky cracked open in a ceaseless downpour and caught drivers behind the wheel off-guard. One of those drivers was Tiffany Smallwood. According to a Suffolk News-Herald report, Smallwood was driving with her friend near John F. Kennedy Middle School when the gray car in front of them stalled and floated to the side. The current picked up with incredible speed, and the two escaped their car with “water swirling around their feet.” “It was so strong,” she told the Suffolk News-

Herald as she stood on East Washington Street that Sunday, looking at her car that was still surrounded by water. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” Matthew was the first Category 5 Atlantic hurricane since Hurricane Felix in 2007, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and it intensified from a Category 1 to Category 5 in just 24 hours. There were fatalities on the mainland of both North and South America as well as Haiti, where more than 1,000 people died and thousands of homes and buildings were destroyed. Suffolk’s Derek Cason, 53, was one of Virginia’s storm-related deaths. Cason was walking to work at the McDonald’s on North Main Street and Constance Road the morning of Oct. 9. He was dropped off on the opposite side of the Kimberly Bridge, and his family reported him missing that evening when they learned that the restaurant was actually closed that day and they hadn’t heard from him. The Nansemond River was 5 feet above flood stage and covered the bridge, according to a Suffolk News-Herald report. Investigators believed that Cason was swept away by the heavy tidal flooding. The Suffolk Police Department’s Marine Patrol discovered his body in an inlet behind the 800 block of Normandy Drive on Oct. 12. “He was trying to get to work on time,” his sister, Delicia Barber, told the Suffolk News-Herald. “He’s so dedicated, he would go through sleet and hail.” Residents spent Oct. 9 and 10 cleaning up their properties after water accumulated across the city. A storm system had already saturated ground areas shortly before Matthew arrived and set the stage for widespread flooding. “The water simply had nowhere else to go,” Spicer said. “It just inundated properties and roadways.” In the immediate aftermath, about 8,000 Dominion Virginia Power customers were in the dark. Somewhere between 67 and 70 properties were significantly impacted, Spicer said. Water had done significant damage to floors, furnishings and office in City Hall, where


water came up through floor drains in bathrooms and mechanical rooms, according to a Suffolk News-Herald report. “The floor was significantly wet,” City Manager Patrick Roberts told the Suffolk News-Herald. “Some staff came in overnight and did a pretty heroic job of pushing a lot of water out the back.” More than 23 houses were badly damaged, Spicer said, and the total property damage was estimated to be a little over $1 million. Houses were nearly submerged in waters that didn’t fully

Nansemond River, Major Signs had about 14 inches of water in the main shop and more than three feet in the back building. Lots of materials and tools were lost to the flood. “It took us about a week or so to clean up,” owner Charlie Dick said in a phone interview. There was no structural damage because he had renovated the building to be flood resistant after prior storms. Carts Unlimited next door benefited from being elevated from the ground and had relatively minor damage, according to


recede for days. “We had some pretty high water up near the Kimberly Bridge there that impacted a number of those businesses,” Spicer said. The walk-in cooler and freezer at the Chick-fil-A on North Main Street were out of commission. That Good BBQ on West Washington Street lost thousands of dollars in meat and other food, per a Suffolk News-Herald report. “It was painful,” owner Barry Day told the Suffolk News-Herald. Closer to the


owner Mack Lester, who had another unfortunate job to do. The dumpster that the two businesses shared had floated into the river, so Lester and one of Dick’s employees hopped into a canoe and roped it back to dry land — relatively drier land, anyway. “There was water everywhere,” Lester said in a phone interview. “That was about all you could see.”


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Know the storm: Be prepared for hurricanes Hurricanes are no laughing matter. Hurricanes are strong storms that can wreak havoc. Strong hurricane winds and rain can cause substantial damage, as can tidal surges that cause flooding to coastal areas. Hurricanes are sometimes referred to as typhoons and tropical cyclones. But no matter the name, these storms pack the same powerful punch. Storms earn the hurricane designation when they include winds that reach 74 miles per hour. Hurricane season typically runs from June through November. Hurricanes form over warm ocean waters near the equator. This warm, moist air from the ocean rises and then causes air from surrounding airs to be sucked into a continuous storm formation. Clouds begin to rotate with the Earth’s rotation. If there is enough warm water to feed the storm, then the hurricane forms. Surviving a hurricane can come down to understanding the risks of the storm. Understanding hurricane terminology also can help. The following are some hurricane facts and preparedness tips. 4The strongest part of a hurricane is called the

wall. It is the most dangerous part of the hurricane with the strongest winds, heaviest rains and thickest clouds. The wall immediately surrounds the center eye of the storm. 4The circular “eye” of the hurricane is generally calm with no clouds. Hurricanes rotate in a counter-clockwise direction around the eye. 4Hurricanes are generally classified into five categories, depending on their severity. The higher the number, the more potent the storm. 4 The National Hurricane Center started giving official names to storms in 1953. If a hurricane has been especially destructive, its name may be retired. Examples of retired names include Andrew, Katrina, Mitch and Sandy. 4Hurricanes will lose strength over land because they require moist ocean water for fuel. 4Data from the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory found the three states with the most hurricane landfalls are Florida, Texas and Louisiana. 4Hurricanes do not affect Canadian cities and towns as much as places in the United States, but the Canadian Hurricane Centre was created as an


expert source of information for Canadian residents. Atlantic Canada, namely Novia Scotia, is an area in Canada that is most likely to be impacted by hurricanes. 4People who live in areas where hurricanes frequently make landfall are advised to put together hurricane preparedness kits, which should include drinking water, nonperishable foods, extra clothing, flashlights and batteries, candles and other supplies that are helpful if the power goes out. 4Although many like to batten down the hatches and ride out storms, if a hurricane evacuation

Prepared: City prepares for storms Continued from page 1B

with their own policies and procedures. The plan guides the city for disasters, and the document is updated regularly in a five-year planning cycle. Suffolk’s City Council adopts the updated document every five years. Financially, hurricanes can take a toll on communities, and Suffolk is not immune to the destruction. Suffolk faced large amounts of damage during Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Hurricanes aren’t specifically budgeted for in the city’s budget, but the city is capable of handling some amount of financial stress that could happen during a hurricane. “It’s hard to budget for hurricanes on a recurring basis, but we have our reserves. That is one of the purposes,” said Finance Director Tealen Hansen. “On an ongoing annual basis, we don’t budget for emergencies.” When Hurricane Matthew struck Suffolk, there was a great deal of damage, and the city had to pull money from the operating budget to handle expenditures. The city received reimbursement for

a portion of the expenses from the state and FEMA, but Suffolk had to pay for a portion as well. Suffolk filed paperwork for a total of $755,000, which included money reimbursed from the state and FEMA as well as the portion they paid for. “Every disaster and circumstance are different,” Hansen said. The city plans for the worst but prepares for the best, Spicer said. City Manager Patrick Roberts holds meetings with city department heads, the city’s emergency management coordinator, Hampton Roads localities, state agencies and the National Weather Service. “We are prepared. We have an excellent staff and plan,” Spicer said. “We train annually and have responded very well to a number of significant events including hurricanes, snow events and a tornado.” Spicer recommends residents in Suffolk plan for a hurricane now. Part of that plan should be communication with immediate and extended family. It’s important to know your evacuation zone and the route, according to Spicer.

is advised, people should leave their homes. It may take days for power to be restored, and emergency personnel may not be able to reach injured or stranded residents in the interim. —Metro Creative

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Charity expenses versus funding the cause People who decide to donate to various charitable groups want to ensure as much of their donations as possible are going to people who need help. Ensuring that a charitable group will disperse donations properly involves research and follow-up. No one wants to think that a charity is not working in the best interests of its proposed benefactors. Unfortunately, each year organizations masquerading as nonprofits defraud donors and rob the needy of help they desperately need, while other seemingly reputable organizations devote far too much of their budgets on fundraising and executive compensation. It’s a fine line with regard to which expenses are necessary to foster the work of the charity and which may be deemed excessive. To make an impact with giving,

consider these pointers. 4Read up on the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance Standards for Charity Accountability. The BBB developed these standards to help donors make sound giving decisions. The standards measure effectiveness, fundraising, governance and production of informational materials. 4Do not use overhead costs alone when determining if a charity is legitimate. Instead, donors should consider the entire picture of the charity’s impact rather than what it spends on operational costs. 4Don’t necessarily believe the hype. In August 2017, social media attacks called into question the efficacy of the American Red Cross concerning disaster relief efforts following Hurricane

Harvey, which hit areas of Texas and Louisiana. While there may be some validity to complaints found online, people should not base their assessment of charities only on hearsay. Rather, they should do their own investigations. 4There is no magic ratio that identifies how much should be spent on fundraising and other operational needs versus what percentage is actually spent on programs, grants, cash awards and research. It is up to each individual to weigh the benefits of a charity against their own criteria for giving. One nonprofit that spends more actually may have a better impact than another that spends less. Charitable giving is a personal choice, and prospective donors should exercise due diligence before donating to charity. —Metro Creative

Preparing for large-scale emergencies It is impossible to predict what the future will bring, but a growing number of people are focused on safeguarding their futures by preparing for catastrophic emergencies. Perhaps in reaction to terror-related attacks across the globe, the rise in devastating storms, and domestic and international social unrest, survivalism has gained a foothold in many households. Survivalism is a movement of individuals or groups who are actively readying themselves for self-reliance in the event of an emergency that may stifle social or political order — or bring about other negative factors. Members of this movement have been called survivalists or “preppers.” The American Preppers Network defines a prepper as a person who takes personal responsibility for an impending disaster or emergency, typically by stockpiling food, water and other supplies. Although the extent to which preppers prepare for the possibilities of survival during difficult times varies from mild to the extreme, for many it has become a part of their daily lives. There are countless reasons why people prep. These may include having resources should a grocery store or another retailer run out of sup-

plies if a disaster occurs. Individuals need only take a look at the recent hurricanes that took place, in Houston, Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico to see how quickly food, water and other resources can be diminished. Prepping enables individuals to ride out such storms in the event that disaster aid or other assistance does not arrive fast enough. Preppers practice certain strategies for dealing with pandemic illnesses, weather emergencies such as earthquakes or hurricanes, or nefarious undertakings, such as attacks by hackers on power grids or communications networks. Various groups and resources list their top picks for supplies to stockpile. The following are guidelines culled from The Prepper Journal, Happy Preppers and The Survivalist Blog. 4Water filtration devices, including portable filters, bleach or purification tabs, keep water safe to drink. Be sure to have 5-gallon water jugs to store the water and transport it. 4Rice, beans, honey, canned vegetables, canned fruits and canned meats have long shelf lives. Retailers offer prepared, freeze-dried foods that can be a good form of sustenance. 4Lighters and fire

starters are handy. Should a power outage occur, an old-fashioned fire may be the best way to stay warm. Keeping seasoned wood and tinder also is helpful. 4Medications, such as fever reducers, antihista-

mines and more, can be lifesavers. A fully stocked first-aid kit also is essential. 4Flashlights and extra batteries provide illumination in the event of a long-term power outage. —Metro Creative

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Suffolk News-Herald

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2018 Disaster Preparedness Guide  
2018 Disaster Preparedness Guide