By CHARLES OWENS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Now that spring is in full bloom, and summer is knocking at the door, it’s not too early to start thinking about the dangers of flooding, severe thunderstorms and even the rare derecho threat.
In fact, disaster preparedness has been in the news as of late, including a continuing series right here in the pages of the Daily Telegraph. As a region that has endured more than our fair share of natural disasters, including three horrific floods, a paralyzing blizzard and even a destructive derecho wind storm, it is only logical to prepare for the next natural calamity that could befall the coalfields of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia.
And all families should have both a disaster preparedness kit and an emergency plan on how to evacuate their home or community in the event of a flood, tornado or other violent storm. No, we haven’t had a tornado in our region. Yes, we’ve had quite a few tornado watches issued in recent years. Anything is possible I suppose as the weather becomes increasingly violent and unstable in our region. Blame it on climate change if you will — as many politicians in Washington are certainly doing.
Am I prepared personally? Somewhat, but not really. But I do have an ample amount of disaster supplies on hand, as well as canned goods and bottled water in the event that I ever have to pick up and leave the house in a hurry. It just makes sense to have a few supplies readily available. I also have a wind-up radio that actually works by cranking or winding the knob repeatedly. No batteries required. I also have a portable television, computer and other supplies that will carry an electrical charge — at least for a while — in the event of a prolonged power outage. I was stranded in McDowell County for a period of time following the destructive flood in 2001. And the situation was even worse during the Great Blizzard of 1993 where I found myself stranded at my sister’s old house. And my sister was woefully unprepared for the blizzard with very little food and water. We of course lost electricity and water during the storm.
The sad reality of the situation is most folks probably do not have a disaster preparedness kit or family emergency plan on hand. However, being prepared for a disaster is something we all should take seriously. Everyone and every family should have a disaster kit and a family disaster plan on hand. And the entire family, including children, should be aware of the plan.
The plan should address everything from where a family will meet if they get separated to what they should do if a road leading to and from their home washes out. A disaster kit should include items such as a flashlight and batteries, canned food, portable water, a radio and other emergency items.
Floods are a common occurrence in our region. So are powerful snow storms and violent thunderstorms. While southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia is normally immune to the threat of hurricanes, it doesn’t mean the region won’t see the remnants of a tropical storm. It’s happened before, and it can certainly happen again. For example, the remnants of Hurricane Hugo struck Southwest Virginia and neighboring southern West Virginia in 1989. I still remember the day fairly well. Trying to walk through tropical storm force winds is quite an experience.
However, flash flooding is certainly more common here in the mountains than getting hit with a tropical storm. And the region has seen its share of significant flash flooding in recent years, including the devastating floods of 2001, 2002 and 2003.
Having an emergency plan, and a disaster preparedness kit on hand, is something every family in the region should consider. We know a disaster can happen. It’s happened before. And it will probably happen again. The floods of July 8, 2001, May 2, 2002 and Nov. 19, 2003. The terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and April 15, 2013. The great blizzard of 1993. The derecho storm of June 29, 2012. Having survived six recent disasters — five of which were local — in just the last 22 years, we all should know the importance of having a disaster plan and an emergency preparedness kit on hand.
Now is a good time to think about disaster planning. We haven’t had a major spring flooding event to occur so far this year, but if history is any indication, we can expect flooding problems as we head into summer. Power outages also are a frequent occurrence in our region during the summer months — normally following powerful thunderstorms.
So there is certainly no harm in taking a few steps today to prepare for the next power outage, flood or severe thunderstorm.
Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s assistant managing editor. Contact him at email@example.com