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Hurricane Season: City, County Preparing For Next Big Storm

By Tori Brock Staff Reporter

HUNTSVILLE — Hurricane season is bearing down on the Gulf Coast like, well, a hurricane.

In response, the Huntsville Public Library is hosting a free presentation for emergency preparedness Tuesday from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Walker County Storm Shelter. This week also marks National Hurricane Week, an event recognized by proclamations from the city and county.

The Centers for Disease Control got people's attention last week in a humorous way by launching a campaign to warn people to be prepared for a possible zombie apocalypse. It's no coincidence that the steps to prepare for a zombie invasion are the same steps you are urged to take in the event of any emergency.

The CDC recommends emergency kits include one gallon of water per person per day, non-perishable food items, prescription and non-prescription medications, tools and supplies such as utility knives, duct tape and a battery powered radio, sanitation and hygiene products, clothing and bedding, important documents and first aid supplies. The CDC warns though, that a zombie bite will render you a 'goner.'

“Once you’ve made your emergency kit, you should sit down with your family and come up with an emergency plan. This includes where you would go and who you would call if zombies started appearing outside your door step. You can also implement this plan if there is a flood, earthquake, or other emergency.”

On Tuesday, emergency management officials will be focusing more on hurricanes and wildfires and less on zombie attacks. Speakers include John Hobbs, assistant fire chief of the Huntsville Fire Department; John Waldo, the city's emergency management coordinator and Butch Davis, the county's emergency management coordinator.

Mayor J. Turner told City Council members last week that he was proud of the emergency management officials and the preparation they do in advance of bad weather.

“Emergency management doesn't just happen,” he said. “This is something you train for – you prepare. You hope that you never have to use these skills. These people respond marvelously.

Turner said that after Hurricane Katrina sent evacuees into Huntsville in droves, he met one at church one Sunday.

“They told me how wonderfully we had responded,” he said. “That makes you proud. It makes you proud that when the roof's falling in – everybody is in a panic – that somebody has trained for this.”

Davis and other emergency management personnel have been ready for this hurricane season since the last one ended. As he put it at the last Walker County Commissioner's Court meeting, “My time of year is coming up quick. Let' get on with it.”

Hurricanes and wildfires will be top priorities at Tuesday's meeting, but Davis said general emergency preparedness will be covered.

“We'll definitely talk about what people need to get put together to have ready to go in case they have to evacuate,” he said. “Don't take for granted that (a hurricane) is not going to hit us. We've already proved since 2005 – we've had evacuees since Katrina. We were affected by Rita. We were affected by Gustav. During Ike we were an affected jurisdiction plus being a sheltering jurisdiction.”

In addition to the supplies listed by the CDC, Davis recommends keeping plenty of cash on hand because ATM machines may not work and keeping gas tanks full.

“Have supplies for your pets. You want to have plenty of pet food plus enough water for your pets,” he said. “If you take care of an elderly person, you need to have the necessary stuff on hand.”

Walker County is not an evacuating jurisdiction, but Davis said sometimes people are asked to voluntary evacuate homes deemed unsafe by county officials.

“If somebody locally needs to evacuate, we will assign them to a shelter,” he said. “Some of them might stay in the storm shelter. We have 10 different shelters we open here in Walker County.”

This is all good news because the National Weather Service has said this year's hurricane season is set to be on par with the 2005 season which saw the emergency of both Katrina and Rita.

“There were 28 named storms that year,” Davis said. “Historically, we could have a chance for a pretty active season.

For more information on hurricane preparedness, call the emergency management line at (936) 435-2400. For more information on Tuesday's program at the Walker County Storm Shelter, call Denise Tilson with the Huntsville Public Library at (936) 291-5471.

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