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Andrews prepares for 2007 hurricane season

ANDREWS AFB, Md. -- Andrews members may be able to avoid the disastrous effects of a major storm during the Atlantic hurricane season, which begins today and continues to Nov. 30. 

"Between Andrews' response to Hurricane Isabel in 2003 and our continued vigilance and improvement over the past four years, Andrews is fully prepared to take on whatever nature throws at us," said 1st Lt. Joseph A. Tortella, 316th Civil Engineer Squadron Readiness and Emergency Management Flight chief. 

Lieutenant Tortella said no one can ever be too prepared for a hurricane.
In preparing for any storm, people should determine safe evacuation routes inland, learn the location of official shelters, make emergency plans for pets and check emergency equipment, such as flashlights, generators, battery-operated radios and cellular phones, he said. 

People should also buy food that will keep for a long period of time, store drinking water and clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts, he said. Additionally, they should trim trees and shrubbery, decide where to move their boat in an emergency and review their insurance policy. 

The eye of a hurricane can be very dangerous to people and property as it travels inland, said Lieutenant Tortella. 

"The biggest danger with the eye is that it gives the impression the storm is over," he said. "Though winds will calm down and rain may stop, only half the storm has passed over. After the eye passes, the winds will change direction and quickly return to hurricane force, causing grave danger to anyone who may have come out of safety unknowingly." 

Hurricanes form over areas of warm water in the Atlantic, said Tech. Sgt. Paul C. Torres, 316th Operations Support Squadron presidential weather support NCOIC. The warmer the water, the quicker a storm can develop if the weather conditions are right. 

Sergeant Torres said global warming can play a role in the development of a hurricane. 

"Global warming increases the amount of potential energy available for these storms," he said. 

People should be just as concerned about tornadoes as they are about hurricanes, said Lieutenant Tortella. 

Tornadoes pose a grave risk to public safety, he said. However, they are not typically viewed as a threat in Maryland. 

The most recent tornado struck La Plata, Md., five years ago, said Lieutenant Tortella. The La Plata tornado was classified as an F4, which has winds at 207 to 260 mph, on the Fujita Tornado Damage scale. "By definition, this tornado caused devastating damage by leveling well-constructed homes," said Lieutenant Tortella. "Blowing structures with weak foundations some distance, throwing cars and generating other large missiles." 

Lieutenant Tortella said people should know the difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning. 

A hurricane watch is initiated when weather conditions are possible in the specific area of the watch, usually within 36 hours, he said. It's during this phase when the pace of a people's preparation accelerates. 

A hurricane warning means a hurricane is expected in the specified area of the warning, usually within 24 hours, said the lieutenant. By this time, evacuation is a real possibility.  People don't realize a hurricane can strike any area, even in Maryland, said Lieutenant Tortella. 

"Among those hurricanes that have hit Maryland recently are Agnes in 1972, Floyd in 1999, and Isabel in 2003," he said. "Isabel was so powerful that it produced $2 million in damages, 5,000 tons of debris, 60 damaged or destroyed houses and left 32,000 people without electricity in Prince George's County alone. 

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Camp Springs, Md., estimate 13 to 17 named storms during this year's Atlantic hurricane season, said Navy Vice. Adm. (ret.) Conrad C. Lautenbacter, the Oceans and Atmosphere undersecretary of commerce and NOAA administrator, at a NOAA news conference May 22. 

Seven to 10 of the storms may become hurricanes, of which three to five may become major hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher, said Admiral Lautenbacter.
Category 3 refers to hurricanes with winds 111 to 130 miles per hour, according to NOAA scientists. Hurricane Katrina was a Category 3 when it hit the Gulf Coast in 2005.
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