SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – Every year when hurricanes or tropical storms approach, the first images you see are of wind and surf along the coast.
But impacts from these storms aren’t limited to the coast. It’s these inland impacts that we need to pay close attention to right here at home.
Michael Brennan is chief of the NOAA Hurricane Specialist Unit. He has some advice for those who are watching these storms as they approach.
“Don’t focus on the details of the storm like what the peak winds are or the exact track. Remember that the hazards of the storm, especially inland rainfall and flooding, can extend hundreds of miles from the center of the storm and hundreds of miles inland from where the storm makes landfall,” Brennan said.
We saw this in the Carolinas just last year as flooding from Hurricane Florence lasted for weeks.
Longer ago, but closer to home, Tropical Storm Jerry brought well over a foot of rain to a large portion of the Upstate in 1995.
That’s important, as the No. 1 cause of hurricane fatalities away from the coast is this inland flooding.
Many of these occur as people try to drive through high water.
According to Dan Brown, of the National Hurricane Center, this has become an increasing problem.
“One thing we’ve seen the last few years is, unfortunately, a very high number of people that have died in vehicles, in floods, over the past three hurricane seasons. It’s really unacceptable…we need to really stop when we see flooded roadways…turn around…don’t risk your life to get to an event,” Brown said.
Flooding is just one of the inland hazards we face.
Tornadoes and strong, straight-line wind can also occur, even well after landfall.
Last year, we received several questions as the paths of Florence and Michael crossed South Carolina about evacuations.
Evacuations are based on storm surge — not wind — so are typically only done along the coast. Pre-storm evacuations are not done inland, although inland flooding may cause individual areas to be evacuated as water rises.
If you live in an area that typically floods or sees mudslides, you may want to stay with a friend or family until the threat passes. Likewise, if we’re seeing a threat from high wind or isolated tornadoes, mobile home residents may also want to stay in a more substantial structure.
You should also have an emergency kit on hand in case of power loss, or if you get cutoff by flooding or wind damage.
Things such as batteries and solar chargers for your phones are good. Also, have a week’s worth of non-perishable food, water and medicine for each person in your house, including your pets.
No matter where you live in the Southeast, a good planning reference for safety tips, emergency plans/kits and what to do after the storm can be found here.
The National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said this does make a difference.
“People need to realize you have to prepare for what could happen. If you look at history — Hugo — you look at other events with Michael and Florence, it absolutely can happen inland. So prepare for what could happen. That’s how you save your life,” Graham said.