Storm systems are wreaking havoc across much of the eastern United States. Over the past couple of weeks, hundreds of tornadoes have torn through communities from New York to Ohio and down through Oklahoma. Warnings were issued Wednesday across North Texas, and much of Arkansas is under water.
It doesn’t matter whether one is a climate change believer or denier, whether it’s a consequence or coincidence. We can’t deny that weather has been more severe and less predictable in recent years.
Residents of the Rio Grande Valley and other coastal areas especially should take note of the increasingly volatile nature of the weather on the eve of hurricane season, which officially begins June 1. South Texas currently doesn’t face imminent danger from the weather, but longtime residents know that it’s best not to wait until a storm is approaching before taking precautions.
Tropical storms can be nasty creatures. Winds can create damage similar to that of a tornado, and torrents of rain can overpower drainage systems and quickly flood entire cities. The biggest risks of damage and injury come from both flying debris and rising water; either can knock out electricity and make roadways impassible. So residents need to plan for the possibility of both. As we have found in recent years, even steady rain can cause flooding in this area, so a major storm isn’t necessary to afflict local residents.
Immediate needs include drinking water and food supplies, and other items can make the effects of a storm more bearable.
People who have been through this process before need only begin by taking inventory of the basic necessities: bottles for water and a supply of canned food that won’t perish if electricity is lost. Check, or get, flashlights or candles to provide illumination, and make sure a fresh supply of batteries is available for the flashlights — don’t trust the existing set, even if they currently work.
Assemble important documents and put them in waterproof bags. Obviously, that includes birth certificates, passports and other vital information, but it also should include insurance policies in case claims need to be filed.
Know what to do and where to go. Discuss possible actions with family members. Know where local shelters are located in case one must leave home. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has placed several shelters across the Valley, and other buildings have been designated as emergency shelters in various communities. Know how to get to them. Also, determine where to go if evacuation from the area is necessary; decide on a destination and plan the best way to get there. If the plan is to seek out friends or family, they should know that if a storm hits the Valley, you’re heading their way. Otherwise, have contact information for several hotels or lodges, in case the first one contacted is full.
A hurricane hasn’t hit the Valley in several years, and we hope our luck continues. But it’s always best to make plans that aren’t needed than to be caught unprepared.