By John Disque
On Friday morning president Obama urged Americans to take Hurricane Irene seriously. Obama also declared North Carolina a federal disaster ahead of its projected arrival (set for some time Saturday morning).
Obama has also cut his vacation short and is planning to be back at the Capitol to further stress the potential outcome of the storm.
Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York (8 states) have declared states of emergency.
Most of the Northeast states are continuing with major preparations and heeding the warnings but some are still waiting for the last minute, which could be too late.
Potentially 70 million+ people could be affected.
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency Thursday morning as a precautionary measure, and the state is most concerned with flooding and major damage in the Hampton Roads region.
Governor Martin O'Malley declared Maryland a state of emergency on Thursday afternoon and has called for mandatory evacuations in the state's low-lying areas.
On Thursday evening governor Jack Markell declared Delaware a state of emergency and began mandatory evacuations in Delaware's coastal areas. Markell also stated that there would be more evacuations coming soon.
North Carolina is continuing mandatory evacuations in 9 areas. Everyone along their coastal islands and tourist areas have until 8pm tonight (8/26/11) to leave. The mandatory evacuation zones include the media, residents and tourists and police are entitled to use legal force for anyone refusing to leave.
In other inland areas in NC there are voluntary evacuations that include very strong warnings. Federal Emergency Teams are staged in and around NC's coast and many are helping with the evacuations.
In Pennsylvania no mandatory evacuations have been issued but many areas in the state are being warning of potentially devastating floods. Residents are being urged to prepare for lengthy power outages. The Philadelphia area shelters have expanded to accommodate 6,000 people and all parks and recreation areas have been closed.
New York's Manhattan area is very vulnerable to extreme flooding. New York City will be shutting down all public transportation at 12 noon Saturday morning. New York City's Mayor Bloomberg was the first the acknowledge the homeless situation, and they have relocated and expanded a gigantic shelter system in Brooklyn.
Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, South Carolina and New Hampshire have updated their emergency plans, increased all emergency supplies and are attempting to keep their residents updated through websites and local TV Broadcasts.
New Jersey was declared a state of emergency by Governor Chris Christie Thursday afternoon. He is currently urging people along the coast to leave the area and has ordered the opening of some floodgates and suspended tolls on the Garden State Parkway.
Most schools in the Northeast were closed today and will remain closed for an undetermined amount of time.
Thousands of special events, including a new MLKing Memorial Dedication in DC, have been postponed until further notice.
Everyone in the Northeast is urged to have an emergency plan and checklist in place.
At this point the storm is almost guaranteed to hit on the North Carolina coast. NC is now experiencing the outer edge of the storm with the eye of the Hurricane headed straight at their coastal area.
It is estimated that only 40% of the people in the northeast are prepared. It has been my personal experience to see that many people, even those in the northeast, are still taking this lightly. It's the wrong attitude. As tough as you think you might be you're not tougher than Mother Nature. If you or your family insist on staying in the northeast the very least you should do is: prepare yourself and your family.
Below is a very rough outline and list of the things you should consider. I'm sure it will help you come up with your own ideas.
• Bottled Water
• Phone, charger and extra charged batteries. (During Katrina most phone service was out but many people could still text.)
• Cash on hand – (ATMs are always one of the first things to go out.)
• Fill Up your gas tank(s) Depending on the magnitude – most, if not all gas stations could be closed down.
• Gather your most important papers into one box or carry-case.
• Hotel & Motel Reservations (They fill up very quickly.)
• Study maps to plan your route. Stick to the emergency exit routes (Often the back roads and shortcuts are congested.)
• Keep your GPS on.
• Make arrangements with/for friends, family and pets.
• Offer stranded and elderly people a ride to safety.
• If you're employed with an out-of-state company make sure they know exactly what's going on and what your plans are.
• Shut off all electric appliances.
• Leave natural gas on. (Unless local officials advise otherwise, leave natural gas on because you will need it for heating and cooking when you return home. If you turn gas off, a licensed professional is required to turn it back on, and it may take weeks for a professional to respond.)
• If you intend to leave or you're being evacuated don't wait for the last minute. Leave early enough to avoid being trapped by severe weather, flooding or stuck in extreme traffic.
• Be alert for washed-out roads and bridges. Do not drive into flooded areas.
• Flashlight with plenty of extra batteries
• Battery-powered radio with extra batteries
• First aid kit
• Prescription medications in their original bottle and copies of the prescriptions
• Eyeglasses (with a copy of the prescription)
• Foods that do not require refrigeration or cooking
• Items that infants and elderly household members may require
• Medical equipment and devices, such as dentures, crutches, prostheses, etc.
• Change of clothes for each household member
• Sleeping bag or bedroll and pillow for each household member
• Checkbook, and credit cards
• Map of destination area
Important papers to take with you:
• Driver's license or personal identification
• Social Security card
• Proof of residence (deed or lease)
• Insurance policies
• Birth and marriage certificates
• Stocks, bonds, and other negotiable certificates
• Wills, deeds, and copies of recent tax returns