Visionary Science, Ethics, Law and Action in the Public Interest

State of Emergency: A Disaster Planning & Preparedness Live Journal, Part I



The following States, including Washington, D.C., are all under State of Emergency declarations in preparation for Hurricane Florence: Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.


At this moment, Hurricane Florence is holding at 140 miles per hour and is steadily working its way inland towards the Carolinas. Currently, this is a category 4 hurricane, but it is predicted that it will reach category 5 (though briefly) at some point today. Category 4 and 5 hurricanes are extremely dangerous, especially when we reach the point of its landfall, which is expected to happen by Thursday evening, affecting the coasts of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia.


North Carolina is expected to receive anywhere from 20-46 inches of rain in the next few days, though you can bank on those totals being closer to the high end of that scale as, according to the most recent models, the storm is expected to stall in North Carolina (near Wilmington) for about 2 days.


To put this in perspective, FEMA has reported that one million people have been issued mandatory evacuation orders in preparation for this storm. This does not include all of those who have been asked to voluntarily evacuate for their own safety. My older sister’s mother lives in North Carolina—she evacuated yesterday.


I live in Maryland where our governor declared a state of emergency yesterday to free-up local resources such as the National Guard and assistance from other states should we need them. The storm’s trajectory, so far, looks like it will stall for 2 days in North Carolina, meaning the storm will not make landfall here and we will not be directly hit/immediately impacted by the storm. So why the state of emergency? Mostly because of storm surges.


The last time a storm this large came for Maryland was Isabel in 2003. While this storm hit us directly and Florence probably will not, the possibilities of life-threatening and costly flooding due to storm surges are still highly likely, especially because areas of Maryland have already received flash flood rains throughout the entirety of the summer and we have seen rain for the past 3-4 days already. This means that the water levels are already high, and the ground is already completely saturated (i.e. trees are not being rooted down as firmly as they ought to be). These are perfect conditions for heavy impacts from heavy rainfall and wind.


Again, Hurricane Florence is not expected to directly hit Maryland, but we still need to implement our disaster preparedness plans as a state, as communities, and as households because the effects of this storm are still predicted to be dangerous even to us.


As a team member of SEHN, I wrote the second Activist Tip booklet which was released in August. This booklet is all about disaster planning and preparedness on an individual and a community level. As I am currently preparing myself and my household for the impacts of this storm, we thought it might be a good idea for me to write about the experience as I go and share with you all. We are all in this together, step by step.

To access the Tips for Activists: Planning and Disaster Preparedness booklet, please click this link. 

Stay tuned.