December 12, 2017
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As hurricane threats grow, Maine can learn from past storms

By Ed Pierce, Journal Tribune
Updated:
HANDOUT | REUTERS | BDN
HANDOUT | REUTERS | BDN
Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Jose (R) and Hurricane Katia (L) are pictured in the Atlantic Ocean in this September 7, 2017 NOAA satellite handout photo. NOAA/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.

As Florida prepares for one of most destructive storms ever observed in modern times, it’s important to note that Maine is not immune to damage inflicted by powerful hurricanes.

The last time a significant hurricane made landfall here was in August 2011; Hurricane Irene was a tropical storm. It swept through Maine and a major disaster was declared in four Maine counties and Irene also served as a reminder that hurricanes can impact the entire state, not just coastal areas.

In August 1991, Hurricane Bob lashed the state with catastrophic winds and torrential rain and many state towns and cities experienced long-duration power outages. In late August 1954, Hurricane Carol’s path through Maine caused devastating flooding and just 11 days later in September 1954, Hurricane Edna destroyed much of the state’s apple crops and resulted in damages of millions of dollars. In September 1960, Hurricane Donna struck Maine with a fury, uprooting trees and sinking numerous pleasure craft vessels along the coast.

In most cases, hurricanes do weaken before reaching the colder waters of the Atlantic and Maine’s coastline, but devoted weather watchers are keenly aware that a hurricane or tropical storm impacts the state about every eight years or so. So it’s really the infrequency of these storms that leaves Maine residents unprepared or ill-equipped for significant storms.

Bearing that in mind, the Maine Emergency Management Agency has been monitoring the track of Hurricane Irma and is charged with alerting state residents about the dangers associated with approaching hurricanes.

“It is too early at this point to know if we should be concerned about Hurricane Irma reaching Maine,” said Susan Faloon, special projects coordinator/public information officer for MEMA. “Often, we are on the tail end of these storms, and they are downgraded to a tropical storm, but they can still cause a significant amount of damage as a tropical storm.”

Faloon said concerned residents can take steps now to be fully prepared in the event Hurricane Irma, or the newest Atlantic storm, Hurricane Jose, does reach Maine.

She said some of those steps include signing up for emergency alerts (citizen alerts are available at Maine.gov or by installing the FEMA app on a smart phone for severe weather alerts including flash flood warnings, evacuation orders, etc.) and by removing yard debris, lawn furniture, umbrellas, trash cans and anything that could take flight when the wind picks up speed, and to check tree limbs and trim those that might come down in severe winds.

Faloon said that residents should familiarize themselves with evacuation routes, know shelter locations and build an emergency kit with enough food, water, medication and essential supplies for at least three days. A full list for an emergency kit can be found at Maineprepares.com.

“Create an emergency plan and discuss it with your family,” Faloon said. “This should include contact info, back-up communications in case phone or cell service is down, meeting locations outside the home, in your town and outside your town.”

Homeowners also should check their insurance coverage to make sure they are adequately covered.

“Although flood insurance takes 30 days to go into effect, it is still worth looking into for the next storm,” Faloon said.

MEMA is monitoring the storms and if needed will activate its Emergency Operations Center, she said.

“We have received requests through EMAC (The Emergency Management Assistance Compact), which all 50 states are part of, to help in Florida, but we are waiting to see the track of the storms,” Faloon said. “The National Hurricane Center would be the best source of information to monitor these hurricanes, and we are using this as well.”

The link for the National Hurricane Center is http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/

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