The Cop Column

June, 2006

Sgt. Rick Hord, Public Information Officer

Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office

Six Things Not to do This Hurricane Season

Are you ready for hurricane season? That's no longer an academic question. Until recent years, only a few of us took hurricane preparedness seriously. For obvious reasons, many gulf coast residents are now avid amateur hurricane trackers.

In the past, this annual hurricane preparedness column has been a "to-do" list. This year, let's look at a few things NOT to do:

1-Do not make plans based on hurricane season forecasts. The year-to-year and longer term forecasts are fascinating, andthis year, I'll be watching to see if more of the storms head up the Atlantic coast, as many experts have predicted. But I'll also keep in mind the advice of an Emergency Management Director several years ago: "There could be 50 storms, but if none hit us, we'll say it was a slow year. If there's only one storm, but it comes in on top of us, it's a busy year."

2-Do not assume the next storm will be like the last. As Katrina approached last year, eight dolphins and 14 sea lions at the Marine Life Oceanarium in Gulfport , Mississippi seemed safe in a facility that had survived 50 hurricane seasons. Katrina destroyed the Oceanarium, and her immense storm surge swept completely over the 30-foot tall main tank. (The rescue of many of the dolphins and sea lions is an incredible story, featuring several local Emerald Coast individuals.) How could Katrina, a Category-3 at landfall, be responsible for such astonishing damage, well beyond that of Category-5 Camille in the same area in 1969? Many variables other than the intensity of the storm come into play: its forward speed, the angle at which it approaches the coast, the stage of the tide at the moment of landfall, the depth and shape of the sea bottom, and the geography of the coast at the point of landfall can all contribute to making a Category-3 more destructive than an earlier Category-5.

3-Do not evacuate if you don't need to. If you're not in an area that may go underwater, get into a sturdy building and prepare to ride out the storm. The old conventional wisdom of evacuating as far inland as possible is not necessarily appropriate. When Opal hit the Emerald Coast in 1995, there was one hurricane-related in Florida , and about half a dozen in the Atlanta area.

4-Do not get lost after the storm. If you do leave the area, take a road map. Even if you stay home, you may need a local road map to help find alternate routes if familiar roads are not available.

5-Do not flag down power company trucks. The same report comes to us from Gulf Power, Chelco, and other utilities companies after every storm: well-intentioned residents reporting power outages and asking questions are interfering with the work of crews in the field.

6-Don't run out of underwear. After the storm, you may not be able to do the laundry for several days. Get caught up on all routine chores before a hurricane hits.