Evacuation is a Choice That Modern Technology Provides
Do you know where to find up to date information about hurricane preparation, watches, warnings, evacuations, survival and relief? This hub will list some reliable websites, mobile apps, Facebook and Twitter sites. It will also contain some of my personal experience related to my evacuation from Southern Delaware during Hurricane Irene.
How Technology is Being Used Before, During & After Hurricanes
Advanced technology is used by the National Hurricane Center, the National Weather Service and other organizations to understand hurricanes and their impacts and there are websites and apps that can provide much valuable information before, during and after Hurricanes. Keep in mind, however, that hurricanes can disable technology by cutting off electricity, or by adding millions of users who overwhelm our phone systems and websites, so if the information you look up is something like a checklist print a hard copy in advance. Also, receiving information in text format puts less demand on the phone systems.
During Hurricane Irene, governments along the East Coast issued warnings and implemented preparation, evacuation and recovery plans. Information was being sent via a wide variety of channels, including new mobile web sources.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers a checklist titled, "Are You Ready?" The checklist offers emergency planning including information for those with disabilities and other functional needs such as impaired hearing, sight and mobility problems.
In addition to the above, FEMA has a new mobile web app http://m.fema.gov/that contains information on what to do before, during and after hurricanes. They built the application to work even when there is no mobile service so people can access the information they need anytime on their device. The site should work on most android phones, smart-phones and feature phones and it also provides direct links to FEMA's Twitter account and Facebook page.
During Hurricane Irene, Fox News Business also offered apps and websites to help brace for the storm and they listed organizations to add to your Twitter feed, including FEMA (listed above), NOAA http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/ and the Red Cross http://www.redcross.org/.
For those who like to use Facebook, the Global Disaster Relief page of Facebook http://www.facebook.com/DisasterReliefhas updates from FEMA, NOAA and other 4-letter-acronymed organizations.
Why I Chose to Evacuate During Hurricane Irene
The effects of Hurricane Irene are still being felt by many communities, some of which have been devastated by her wrath, yet even before she struck the eastern seaboard in N. Carolina, dire predictions heralded her arrival. My husband and I live in southern Delaware, about 4 miles from the Delaware Bay and 20 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. Irene was expected to make land fall as a Category I or tropical storm. The potential for severe flooding, wind damage and "spin-off" tornadoes was high enough for our Governor, Jack Markell, to start ordering mandatory evacuations for all tourists in our beach towns and all residents living within 3/4 of a mile of the ocean, bay or rivers.
Technically, I was not in a flood zone, but instinct, logic and previous experience told me to leave. Having lived through several floods, some of which were hurricane induced in our previous home in New York State, I wanted no part of being caught in a raging storm zone. My Delaware town has a river running through it and though that river was a few miles from my house I knew it could jam traffic and block the way out of town.
Hubby's instincts said everything would be okay and he was inclined to stay, but out of respect for my wishes he agreed to take what we chose to call, "a road trip", a spur of the moment "mini-vacation" that would also ensure our safety. We are blessed in that we had the means to leave- a vehicle, enough cash for a few days in a motel room and for traveling expenses, and since we are both retired neither of us had work responsibilities keeping us at home (something that was not the case when we still lived in NY).
Almost Heaven, West VA, Blue Ridge Mtns.....
Choosing Our Evacuation Route
I logged onto the NOAA website and quickly researched the projected path of Hurricane Irene, then made the decision to evacuate to Hagerstown, Maryland, which was just outside of Irene's projected path. I checked the current driving conditions across the Bay Bridge before we left and made a print-out of hotels in Hagerstown. While en-route, I used our cell phone to make reservations at Hagerstown Microtel. We hit some heavy traffic toward the end of our trip but amused ourselves by singing along to the tunes on a John Denver CD. As luck would have it, we were at the top of a mountain ridge in stopped traffic just as the sun was setting and had a breathtaking view of the blue ridge mountains that John Denver was singing about in "Country Roads". For the first time since leaving home, I could feel a wonderful calm spread through my body. We were safe and I felt so grateful that modern technology had given us advance warning and also the means to create an effective evacuation plan.
Hagerstown, Maryland, Augustoberfest
German Style Music
Hagerstown Visitors Center
Choosing to Have Fun During Our Evacuation
For the next two days I used our laptop to plan activities and also to remain updated on Hurricane Irene's effects on Delaware and the Chesapeake Bay area of Maryland.
We explored the historic section of Hagerstown, MD and attended a German festival called, Augustoberfest. The authentic German bands were lively and encouraged sing-a-longs and there were also many other "evacuees" in town who had come over from Ocean City, MD in buses.
We also toured the Hagerstown City Park which had a beautiful lake-side walking path and is also home to the Western MD 202 Locomotive Display & Museum and the Historic Hager House and Museum. The day passed quickly and my mind, for the most part, was focused on enjoying the festival and city park.
Later that night I heard reports that Irene was ripping through southern DE as a category I and tornadoes had struck Lewes, DE and my hometown of Milford was under tornado warnings. It was sobering, but I was so grateful that we had evacuated to a place of safety. I would have been a nervous wreck riding out the storm. By the following day, Irene had moved further up the coast to NJ and NY. Winds were still heavy and the Bay Bridge was closed so we had to wait another day before we could return home. We explored the small town of Boonsboro, MD where author Nora Roberts has a bookstore and found a park to picnic and read in.
Rehoboth Beach After Irene: Open for Business
Returning Home to Southern Delaware
Although parts of Milford that were along the Mispillion River had flooded, my development did not have any damage from Irene. My husband could easily have said, "See, I told you there was no need to evacuate," but he didn't. We were lucky that for the most part, the Delaware Beaches and southern Delaware were spared severe damage from Irene. A drive to the area where the tornadoes struck in Lewes was sobering, but the historic section of Lewes and Lewes Beach did not have any visible damage.
We also drove to Rehoboth Beach to reassure ourselves that the boardwalk was intact and all the shops were open. To my knowledge, all Delaware Beaches are open and ready for the upcoming Labor Day weekend, though I suspect many who originally planned to come but are still suffering from the effects of Irene will be unable to visit.
Summary: Evacuation is a Choice
In summary, evacuation is a choice and modern technology can help determine the best path for evacuation, can aid in finding lodging and in finding activities to do while waiting to return home after a storm. It can also provide detailed information on securing your property before a hurricane hits and as to when it is safe to return home.
Those who are familiar with my other hubs will not be surprised by my frequent use of the word "choice." When we make a conscious choice to do something we feel empowered versus helpless and we find that even under difficult circumstances we can choose what our response will be to an impending crisis.
Facing the possibility of a deadly hurricane is frightening and can leave one feeling helpless at a time when action is needed. If you are faced with hurricane watches, warnings and possible evacuations choose to educate yourself and your family about your options, about the projected forecasts and how to keep your property and those you love protected as much as possible. Not everyone can or should evacuate, but if you have the means and ability to do so it can be an effective option. Those living in mandatory evacuation zones can also take advantage of shelters and public plans to transport them to safety. Don't be embarrassed or shy about reaching out for assistance.
Also, those who are leaving can check on elderly neighbors and offer to bring them with them as hubber b.Malin did when she evacuated her home at the New Jersey shore. You can read about her experience in "Hurricane Irene...b Malin" http://b-malin.hubpages.com/hub/HURRICANE-IRENEb-Malin.