September is disaster preparedness month in Wisconsin. Record rainfall and flooding from Hurricane Harvey along the Gulf Coast is a reminder that planning for disasters is a necessity.
Climatologically speaking, a bulk of the summer severe weather has passed, but don't let your guard down quite yet. Todd Shea, the Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the La Crosse National Weather Service talks about typical September weather. He adds, "September for our area can be typically pretty quiet weather wise, but there are certainly exceptions. You only have to go back to last year. 2016 we had massive flooding, flash flooding around the area as well as last August, so it just kind of reminds us that you should have preparedness ideas for all the hazards we see in the Coulee Region.
You should be taking advantage of the relatively quiet weather to sit down with your family and make an emergency plan. Doing so pays off in the long run as Keith Butler, the La Crosse County Emergency Management Coordinator, explains. "When you're making that family plan; when you're sitting down and assessing what are your risks, what are your challenges? That's one of the things to consider...if we can't get home after work, if your children can't get home after school. Where are you going to go? Where is that designated place and make sure people are aware of that and they know how to get there and know what to do when they get there. So you call each other and let each other know you've made it to the safe place."
Making phone calls during a disaster can be problematic because phone service may be overwhelmed or unavailable. Sending a text message may be a better option because it requires less bandwidth to send.
Water, snacks, flashlights, and copies of important documents are all things to consider when putting together a plan and survival kit. Don't get caught making life or death decisions during the event. Keith advises all residents to listen to state and county officials during times of disaster. Butler adds, "...you need to leave your home quickly. You need to listen and follow that advice. You don't have much time to prepare once an emergency is happening in your community. And the roads leading you to safety are going to be clogged with other people trying to flee and get to safety. So the smart thing is: leave ahead of time. If there's a risk, if there's a warning that those circumstances are headed your way, that's the time to take action. Don't wait until it's visible out your front door."
Category 5 Hurricane Irma continues to churn in the Atlantic and even with the landfall to the United States still a few days away preparations are well underway; staying ahead of the game is something we should all keep in mind.