Officials: Now is the time to prepare for hurricane season

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The harm Sandy caused to the Jersey Shore will allow future storms to create even greater damage, according to Vince Jones, Atlantic County emergency management coordinator. The harm Sandy caused to the Jersey Shore will allow future storms to create even greater damage, according to Vince Jones, Atlantic County emergency management coordinator. EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – Images of how Superstorm Sandy’s devastating fury washed a roller coaster into the surf, split an island in half and destroyed countless lives remain fresh in Vince Jones’ mind.

“We will never fully recover from Sandy,” Jones said during the annual Atlantic City Electric Hurricane Preparedness Seminar held Thursday, May 29 at the Tony Canale Training Center.

That’s because the harm that Sandy caused to the JerseyShore will allow future storms to create even greater damage, said Jones, the AtlanticCounty emergency management coordinator.

“If we get another storm, (Sandy’s damage) will make that storm just that much worse,” he said.

Jones joined Atlantic City Electric, the American Red Cross and Atlantic County government representatives during an hour-long presentation.

Together they repeated a common message brought home by a trio of great storms that severely damaged South Jersey in the past few years.

“Now is the time to prepare,” Jones said. “Don’t wait for the storm to be out in the Atlantic and just three or four days away.”

Jones and Vincent Maione, Atlantic City Electric regional president, talked about the lessons they learned from those storms.

In June 2011, an unexpected derecho toppled trees into homes and cars. Its 80- to 90-mph winds ripped down enough power lines to leave thousands without electrical service for more than a week.

Forecasters were able to provide only a few hours notice before the derecho struck, leaving emergency planners and Atlantic City Electric officials little time to prepare.

Two months later, Hurricane Irene weakened into a tropical storm in the hours before it climbed along the coast of New Jersey. Although her damage was far less than forecasted, Irene provided a rehearsal for how to respond if a worse-case scenario occurred.

Sandy, which landed in New Jersey on Oct. 29, 2012, was a worse-case scenario.

“We have to look at a storm on a regional level,” Jones said. “For example, we need to know what roads people will use to evacuate, how long it will take them to leave and how long those roads will remain open.”

That is why the call to evacuate coastal communities went out several days before Sandy struck, he said.

“People were looking toward a sunny sky and wondering why they were told to leave,” he said.

Jones says his staff develops emergency preparedness plans on a daily basis throughout the year.

“We can’t wait for the season to begin,” he said.

The Atlantic Hurricane Season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30. However, hurricanes have formed in every month except April and February. Tropical storms have formed in every month.

“NOAA officials say they have a 70 percent certainty that the 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season will produce eight to 13 named storms with winds greater than 39 mph,” Maione said.

Three to six of those storms will develop into hurricanes with sustained winds greater than 74 mph. One or two of those are expected to develop into major hurricanes with winds greater than 100 mph, he said.

National Hurricane Center forecasters expect a below-average season in 2014 thanks to a strong El Niño condition in the Pacific Ocean.

El Niño – a warming of the Pacific Ocean waters off the coast of South America – can produce conditions in the western Atlantic Ocean that limit hurricane development, forecasters say.

But all it takes is one land-falling hurricane to turn a quiet season into a devastating one, Jones said.

In 2012, only two hurricanes – Issac and Sandy – made landfall in the United States.

Suddenly, however, a quiet hurricane season became deadly when Sandy landed in South Jersey.

“Then it came and it came with a vengeance,” he said.

Advance hurricane forecasting allows Atlantic City Electric several days to prepare for an impending storm.

“We hold regular storm preparation meetings,” Maione, he said.

In the event of a hurricane forecast, employees get new tasks to help the provider restore services more quickly.

“We bring hundreds of employees together and we make sure they all know what their roles are,” he said.

Atlantic City Electric will call in workers from unaffected areas to provide assistance when a hurricane-force storm is forecast, he said.

“We want to restore power as quickly and as safely as possible,” he said.

It is very important that everyone reports a power outage either online or by calling 800-833-7476, Maione said.

“We need to know where every outage is,” he said.

Maione said utility’s repair order of priority is: substations, health care facilities and emergency service providers, bulk areas and finally the restoration of smaller one-to-five customer clusters.

Need to know more?

The Atlantic County Office of Emergency Preparedness Office provides hurricane preparedness tips at www.readyatlantic.org

 

 


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