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Home > From the Director: August -- Pay Attention

From the Director: August -- Pay Attention

 

August 4, 2010

 

Maine’s last Hurricane, Bob, came ashore on August 19, 1991. This year, tornadoes have struck in Aroostook, Cumberland and Oxford Counties. Every year, some part of Maine experiences a vicious summer storm that brings down trees and power lines or causes flash flooding.

We love the summer, but all too often are surprised by its dangers.

According to the National Weather Service, Maine has the 8th highest lightning casualty rate in the country. And we have the 7th highest lightning fatality rate. We should not be proud of our presence on these “Top Ten Lists.”

Why are we on those lists? We’re a state that treasures and promotes our summer outdoor recreational opportunities. With that, however, comes a responsibility to understand the risks that come with summer weather.

Individuals and Families:

Pay attention to the weather. It’s as simple as that. The storm you are expecting is an inconvenience – maybe you have to postpone a trip to the beach. The storm you didn’t expect can become an emergency. The risk you did not take seriously can bring tragedy. The Weather Service tells us of a couple who were killed by lightning in 2008 when they went outside to retrieve a pair of eye glasses during a thunderstorm.

The specific location of thunderstorms usually can’t be forecast very far in advance. But usually, on your favorite morning news program, you’ll learn if storms are likely that day. Then pay attention throughout the day – as thunderstorms form, warnings for specific locations are issued. A NOAA Weather Radio is a great thing to have, especially if you are a family that spends a lot of time outdoors.

Learn the real facts about lightning dangers and lightning safety . And live by them.

Businesses:

Summer storms, including hurricanes, are a fact of life and a fact of business. If Maine is spared, a southern state from which you get your supplies – or your customers – may not be. Your business emergency plan should include thinking about how hurricanes, major storms or tornadoes could affect you even if they don’t happen here.

If your business serves the thousands of people who come to “play outdoors” in Maine, you need to be vigilant on behalf of your customers. Stay aware of storm threats, and have a plan to deal with storm-related emergencies.

This year MEMA created a guide for emergency preparedness for summer camps. Perhaps the simple steps we recommend can be adapted for your recreational business. The Quick Guide and Risk Assessment Guide are available at Maine Prepares – check them out.

Public Officials:

If your town has a recreation department, or it’s “Heritage Days”, make sure your staff and volunteers have access to a NOAA Weather Radio. It’s the most efficient portable warning device you can invest in. Have a plan, and guidelines for your recreational area for your staff to follow when severe weather moves in.

School officials, your school likely was the recipient of a weather radio from a state or federal program in the last few years. Where is it? We hope it is plugged in or the batteries are charged, and it’s being used by someone who knows what to do when a warning is issued.

For any outdoor activity in hot weather, the National Weather Service recommends designating someone to monitor the weather for lightning. The 'lightning monitor' should not be the coach, umpire, or referee, as they are not able to devote the attention needed to adequately monitor conditions. The 'lightning monitor' should have the power to stop the game or event and move everyone to safety if severe weather threatens.

A Last Word …

… about that rare but powerful summer hazard, Hurricanes. It’s been almost 20 years since Hurricane Bob paid Maine a visit in August of 1991. We watch hurricanes happening in other places without really thinking about what they could do here. Then, when one threatens us as Hurricane Kyle did a few years ago, it somehow seems exciting instead of dangerous. A hurricane in New England will bring potentially life-threatening conditions: wind, storm surge and inland flooding. We can’t stop that from happening. But we can take the threat seriously, and control how we prepare and respond to it.

Review our hurricane and summer storm preparedness and safety fact sheets at Maine Prepares. Keep track of those Atlantic storms, especially as they move north and decide to take a left-hand turn.

Enjoy the summer. But pay attention.

As always, I enjoy hearing from you

Sincerely,

Rob McAleer, Director, Maine Emergency Management Agency