2011-09-01 / Front Page

Hurricane Irene Spares County

Residents urged to be informed, prepared and involved in advance of hurricane
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz
STAFF WRITER

Still a buzz with talk of last Tuesday’s earthquake that rattled many homes and businesses across the county, local residents and authorities were much relieved that the possible effects or outcome of Hurricane Irene fell short here in county.

Limited to only several bouts of hard rainfall throughout Saturday evening and Sunday morning, Fulton County was just on the fringe of this weekend’s hurricane that eventually became a tropical storm as it made its way up the East Coast. As storm damage continues to be tallied this week and flood waters recede, it is believed the hurricane caused at least $7 billion in damage.

Currently aiding in recovery efforts are Pam Karczewski, Shelby Knepper, Scott Vinson and Brian Barton, representing the Hustontown Area Volunteer Fire Co., who deployed from the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg Sunday to New Jersey as the Southern Alleghenies EMS Strike Team. The local team of 26 EMS personnel along with six ambulances, a regional support vehicle and trailer were scheduled to be on scene for a minimum of 24 hours.

Always prepared for a worst possible scenario, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) began urging residents as early as last Thursday to begin taking action in anticipation of Hurricane Irene’s arrival, which was expected to bring heavy rain coupled with high winds. Even though the storm was expected to primarily impact southeastern Pennsylvania, all residents were instructed to remain alert as well as prepared.

From checking flashlights and having extra batteries on hand to setting aside emergency food, water and first aid kits, PEMA asked residents to begin gathering disaster preparedness supplies.

“Personal preparedness is an essential responsibility,” said PEMA Director Glenn Cannon. “Individuals and families should be ready to take protective actions at any time, whether the forecast gives us several days notice of a storm or with an unexpected event liked Tuesday’s earthquake.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett followed up on PEMA’s announcement by declaring a statewide state of emergency on Friday, just ahead of the hurricane’s arrival. Corbett’s proclamation authorized state agencies to use all available resources and personnel to cope with the emergency situation.

Even though Fulton County was not considered to be “in the line of fire,” Fulton County EMA Director Ruth Strait was busy throughout the week with e-mail weather briefings and conference calls with the National Weather Service and PEMA. According to Strait, as part of her talks with PEMA, she would routinely provide updates in return on the situation in the county. Fortunately, she was happy to tell PEMA she was continuing to closely monitor the situation and the county’s emergency operations center would be manned if needed.

By Friday, Strait had prepared a procedural list for the county had it come under the “line of fire” of Hurricane Irene. The list included frequent updates with the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, talks with local contacts of the American Red Cross, lining up possible emergency shelters, contacting municipal officials, staffing the Emergency Operations Center and alerting backup dispatchers.

The National Guard would also be deployed, she noted, if needed. In addition, PEMA would send an individual to the operations center to serve as a liaison to the state for any unmet needs.

With only blue skies greeting local residents both Sunday and Monday, Strait reported rainfall recorded by officials at the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in Mc- Connellsburg over the weekend was at 1.37 inches. Other areas of the county recorded rainfall any where from 1 inch to just shy of 2 inches. Furthermore, no flooding and power outages are known to have occurred.

Information pertinent to emergency preparedness can be obtained in the future by visiting the state’s preparedness Web site at www.ReadyPA.org or by calling 1-888-9-READY-PA. Road conditions and closures are found by calling 511 or visiting www.511PA.com.

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