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Before and after a storm

By Al Cooke, Extension Agent
Posted Wednesday, October 1, 2008

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Pittsboro, NC - I'm not in the business of weather predicting, so I have no idea what the hurricanes and tropical storms in the north Atlantic will do. For those of you who weren't here in 1996, hurricanes have been known to have serious impacts in Chatham County. During the winter you can still see scores, hundreds of trees on the ground, all lined out in the direction that the winds of Hurricane Fran threw them. Central Electric had no customers with power after the storm, and much of Chatham was without it for a week or more. Some residents had major challenges, trapped at home, just dealing with large numbers of downed trees before they could get out of their driveways.

The lesson is that it's not a bad idea to make some preparations in advance. Think about things that can move in wind or moving water - trash cans, lawn furniture, for instance. Secure them or move them inside. Think about things that require electricity that you may not have access to for a few days. Water, gas, cash from automatic tellers. Anticipate critters in unpredictable places after a storm. Plan for using generators, food safety, structural damage, etc.

I can't remember everything, and there is little point in my rehashing things that are available elsewhere. So I'm grateful for all those lists available on the internet. You might want to check out a few of those. Here's a good one to start with:

Most news outlets also have suggested preparation lists on their websites; check your favorite. Just remember that you may not be able to refer back to websites after a storm - computers require electricity as well as infrastructure that may be interrupted. Even if your computer is working websites may not be. Printing some of those things in advance may be helpful.

By some accounts most storm related injuries occur after the storm when people start to clean up. Even if you don't cut your leg with a chain saw, a branch under pressure when it's cut can slap you in the face or take out an eye. Storm damage is about the most hazardous way to learn to use a chain saw. Many, many saws are hauled out of stores after storms. Store employees report that very few purchasers thought to also purchase bar oil, much less personal protective equipment such as chaps or face shields. If you don't have experience using a chain saw, storm damage is not a good place to start. It may be a good time to consider professional help.

There are some good guidelines on cleaning up after a storm available from the University of Florida at

Storm Recovery Guide for Homeowners, from LSU at 18402/ pub2668AFNaturalHazardSeries.pdf

Clemson University has a number of Hurricane Recovery Leaflets at psapublishing/disaster/Hurricane/Index.htm These leaflets are mostly quick reads. Many are bulleted lists of things to remember about cleanup, insurance claims, cooking outdoors, water safety, food safety. Just reviewing these bulleted lists now may pay dividends later.

I encourage you to be thinking about alternatives and resources. Make sure to pick up or secure items outdoors that may blow around. Take pictures of before and after in the event of insurance claims. Put important documents (and pictures) in a safe place. Make sure you have a supply of things you need for each member of your family. Include pets in your plans. We may not be able to plan for every possibility; but we need to do the best we can.

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