The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

May 22, 2013

Disasters


— This week, disaster hit Oklahoma.

And again, the issue of disaster preparedness hit home here in West Virginia.

Last summer, our region was dealt a major blow with a derecho that ripped through, affecting seven states and 4.2 million customers that lost power - many for several weeks.

West Virginia was among the hardest hit. In W.Va. alone, over 680,000 customers lost power, representing well over half the state, with 53 of 55 counties suffering damages and losses.

Appalachian Power estimated the cost of the storm at $56 million in W.Va. alone.

Last fall, it was a superstorm called Hurricane Sandy that affected 24 states in the U.S., including West Virginia which experienced unusual blizzard conditions in October. It dumped 1-3 feet of snow across W.Va., including 28 inches at Flat Top and 36 inches in Richwood. Beckley had about 24 inches. Over 260,000 customers in W.Va. lost power during the storm.

The Associated Press reported that seven deaths in W.Va. were associated with Hurricane Sandy.

As we have seen, although tornadoes don’t normally threaten our state, we are not immune to our own disasters.

And we must be prepared.

Recent articles in The Register-Herald have focused on the readiness of several agencies. It seems that we are more ready than ever.

Greenbrier County has been recognized by the National Weather Service for its storm readiness.

The director of the Fayette County Office of Emergency Services said that improving communication is a strong focus there. An alert system has been set up for the public to receive warnings by text messaging, e-mail and the Internet.

Monthly meetings continue to address issues of preparedness.

Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) have been formed in the past several months, aimed at enabling our area’s citizens.

CERT programs educate people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations.

“In general, I’d say we are prepared,” Kevin Taylor, director of Emergency Services for the City of Beckley, said recently.

Our neighborhoods need to be prepared.

As we’ve witnessed, sometimes it can be several days before relief can get to you and your family.

So you are encouraged to prepare an emergency kit with enough supplies for at least 72 hours. For information on what to include, go to www.ready.gov/basic-disaster-supplies-kit.

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When disaster strikes in America, areas not affected have always jumped in and came to the aid of those in need.

The same is true this week.

The Norman Transcript, a CNHI-owned newspaper in Oklahoma, published the following ways to help the victims of this week’s disaster:

n The Oklahoma Red Cross can accept donations by texting REDCROSS to 90999 which will make a $10 donation. Red Cross officials said they will use the money to purchase supplies to assist storm victims and first responders.

n The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma is asking for monetary donations to help relief efforts. Text FOOD to 32333 to make a $10 donation or go to www.regionalfoodbank.org.

n Oklahoma Baptist relief teams are assisting with relief and recovery efforts. Donations can be made by visiting www.bgco.org/donate.