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Irene Coming Sunday, City Battens Down the Hatches

From the hardware store to the shore, people are coming to terms with the fact Hurricane Irene is probably coming and there's a lot to do to get ready.

Paul Durfee was hunched over a computer today, taking care of last minute orders as he and other True Value hardware stores across the eastern seaboard scramble to secure the last flashlights, rain ponchos and batteries in stock.

A True Value delivery truck will pull in front of the store on Saturday.

“That never happens,” Durfee, owner of in Rolfe Square, said Thursday morning. “Usually if I put an order in now, it would come on Monday. But we’re all trying to get as much as we can before the storm.”

That storm, Hurricane Irene, is on track to give Rhode Island its biggest wallop in years as it churns up the Atlantic. Amazingly, Durfee said, three or four of his customers didn’t even realize the storm was coming yet.

But that’s going to change in the next 24 hours. And there’s been plenty of people stopping by the store to grab what they can to prepare for what could be a major hurricane event.

“Everything that came in today is already pretty much gone,” Durfee said.

Things like shop-vacs, pumps, sump pumps, hoses, “all sorts of little stuff you don’t think of.”

The store’s windows will have to be taped up soon, too.

Over at Edgewood Yacht Club, the mission today has been to tie down and put away.  A number of boat owners have pulled their vessels from the water already, a club official said as he ushered workers around the property.

The Cranston Fire Department Headquarters on Pontiac Avenue is a hive of activity. Fire Chief William McKenna said the department continues to closely watch the storm and is in the midst of storm planning and preparedness.

The city’s website will be updated soon with information for residents about evacuation routes, emergency shelter locations and more.

Sandbags will be available to residents, but on a limited basis, McKenna said. They’re intended for people to stop water when it poses a direct threat and will be subject to “limited availability,” McKenna said. What the city doesn’t want to see is people building walls around their homes before the storm.

“Four of the five models that National Weather Service uses are showing impact in Rhode Island, today they’ve shifted west a bit, it could be anywhere from eastern New York to Cape Cod, and because of the size of this we will be impacted,” said Lieutenant Colonel Denis Riel of the Rhode Island National Guard, who also serves as a media contact for the Rhode Island EMA.

Riel confirmed on Thursday morning that FEMA officials are in place in Rhode Island, and are advising state officials as the storm approaches.  Currently Hurricane Irene is a dangerous category 3 Hurricane with maximum sustained winds at 115 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service.  Irene’s track suggests that it may strike the New England area with plenty of force, possibly as a tropical storm or as powerful as a category 2 hurricane.

Area stores are seeing lots of customers stocking up on bottled water and other staples.

The Federal Government’s emergency preparedness internet resource ready.gov outlines a 3-step process for hurricane preparedness: Build a kit, Make a plan, Be informed. They even have aresource to help children prepare

  1. Build a kit.  Having a portable kit ready to go, or for to use inside the home could prove an invaluable asset in an emergency. Does it sound like too much? Consider this: if you ever need it, it’s too late. Ready.gov recommends your kit have the following items.
    1. Water. A minimum of one gallon of water per person per day, for at least three days. More water is NEVER a bad idea. Also consider including a water filtration kit, such as one used for camping, or those specifically designed for emergencies. Pay attention to what a filter actually filters. The best filter bacterial AND viral pathogens, as well as sediments and heavy metals. Keep in mind you’ll want to use at least a little water to clean, too.
    2. Food. You’ll need enough non-perishables for a balanced meal to last each member of your household for at least three days.
    3. NOAA Weather and AM/FM Radios (or one combo), batteries included. You’ll want the NOAA radio for government weather and emergency updates, and the AM/FM too.
    4. Flashlights with extra batteries. Candles are never a bad idea too.
    5. First Aid Kit. Sorry to say, the simple band-aids and peroxide won’t work here. Beef it up, and consider items like a splint, abdominal pads, large gauze pads, etc.
    6. Whistle to signal for help.
    7. Dust masks. The link provides details on air filtration, but the main point is different situation, different filter. Go for one rated to filter particles, such as an N95.
    8. Moist towelettes and garbage bags.
    9. Wrench/pliers. In case you need to turn off utilities, or gas.
    10. Can opener.
    11. Maps
    12. Cellphone with a charger. Consider spare batteries.

This link also lists additional items to consider putting in a kit, such as important documents, prescription medicine, matches, spare cash, etc.

The Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency’s website is a little bit more thorough than ready.gov, and makes locally tailored suggestions. It also lists additional items you might want to consider putting in your kit, such as specific items for a first aid kit and types of food to pack.

2. Make a Plan. Identify an out of town contact to call and pass information through, and make sure everybody knows the number and has a way to call it. If infrastructure is destroyed, it might be difficult to place a local phone call, and easier to call longer distance. In case of an emergency, make a plan to stay or to go, depending on the situation.

3. Be informed. Know what type of disaster can affect you, and know what specific hazards exist in your neighborhood. If you’re in a low-lying coastal area, storm surge, flooding, and high waves could be a hazard. In an emergency, make an effort to stay informed. Know evacuation routes, emergency plans, the locations of shelters, and details of the storm and its progression.

RIEMA has published a guidebook entitled “Get Ready Rhode Island”to help citizens of our state prepare for a hurricane. It includes information on different types of alerts, how to prepare your home, various resources, and examples of what to do in different scenarios. NOAA also has a guideon its webpage. 

Keep in mind that there’s always a rush for supplies right before a storm hits. Don’t wait to get your supplies until then. Store some cash to have on hand in case banks and ATMs are unavailable. Store some extra food somewhere. Designate two rendezvous points for family to rally at if you get separated, one in the neighborhood, and one out of state. Have pre-cut plywood at your house ready to go, buy bottled water and food ahead of time, have any hazardous trees pruned, and know the strong areas of your house. It seems like a lot to take it, but better to take it in now and prepared than stare possibility in the face as it cyclones northward.

Sheila Hogg August 26, 2011 at 12:11 AM
When will shelter and or evacuation be announced? Anxious in Patuxet Village
Mark Schieldrop (Editor) August 26, 2011 at 02:47 PM
Sheila, we'll try to get the latest info out as soon as we get it on the site as well as Facebook and Twitter. We just posted a story about the city's storm hotline and sandbag availability.

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