Local emergency official warns we should be prepared for an even stronger storm than Isabel

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 16, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Last September, Hurricane Isabel caused 36 deaths and approximately $1.9 billion in damages to homes, businesses and public facilities in 100 Virginia jurisdictions. With her destruction still evident in many communities, residents are using lessons learned from Isabel to prepare for the 2004 hurricane season.

&uot;The question is, are you ready for the 2004 hurricane season,&uot; asked Captain James T. Judkins, Suffolk’s Emergency Management coordinator. &uot;Hurricane Isabel was one of the state’s most expensive disasters in recent history and it caused devastation in the lives of thousands of residents in Virginia and Northeastern North Carolina, yet it was only a Category 1. This year, we should all be prepared for the possibility that an even stronger hurricane could strike our area.&uot;

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Judkins said hurricane season begins June 1 and continues through Nov. 30; however, Virginia Governor Mark R. Warner, set aside this week, May 16-22, as Hurricane and Flooding Preparedness Day in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

As noted by the governor, Virginia’s coastline puts the Commonwealth at risk of absorbing the effects of both offshore and inland hurricanes.

&uot;The governor also stated that with Virginia’s history of powerful hurricanes, including Camille in 1969, Agnes in 1972, Juan in 1985, and both Floyd and Dennis in 1999, we’ve experienced some of the states worst recorded flooding disasters,&uot; said Judkins. &uot;Those hurricanes injured or killed hundreds of people and resulted in millions of collars worth of property damage.&uot;

Judkins added that one of the most important lessons taught by Hurricane Isabel is that the current Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is not adequate for a city the size of Suffolk.

&uot;That includes incoming telephone lines,&uot; said Judkins. &uot;The number of calls coming in, the call volume, made it often impossible for citizens to get critical information in a timely fashion. Currently, work is moving forward on EOC phone upgrades, and a new EOC is proposed for 2006-2007 Capital Improvement Budget.&uot;

Judkins also recalled the massive power outages in Suffolk and surrounding areas, and also the high winds and disastrous flooding. The captain added that no matter where you live in Suffolk, you should plan for the loss of power, telephone, water or other utilities for at least a week.

&uot;Stock up now on foods that do not require refrigeration or cooking – such as canned goods,&uot; said Judkins. &uot;Also, do not forget to stock plenty of bottled water. Remember last year when we all had to wait for water to be brought in to most of us? Be sure to stock flashlights with extra batteries, a first-aid kit and battery-powered radio.&uot;

Judkins added that now is the time to take steps to insure that your family is as comfortable as possible after the hurricane strikes.

&uot;We must all take steps now, before the hurricane season arrives, to greatly reduce flood related losses, injuries and deaths,&uot; said Judkins. &uot;The Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the National Weather Service stand ready to offer hurricane safety information and preparedness techniques to citizens throughout Virginia during Hurricane and Flooding Preparedness Week. My office, at the White Marsh Road Fire Station, is also prepared to provide information on hurricane preparedness.&uot;