FORT POLK, La. — Hurricanes.
They can be one of the most powerful forces on Earth, while at the same time one of the most unpredictable.
Take Hurricane Katrina. This massive storm seemed to have New Orleans squarely in its cross hairs as it move toward the central Gulf Coast in late August 2005. NOLA residents braced for a direct hit of winds exceeding 150 mph and torrential rainfall, but just before landfall, the killer storm dodged a bit to the east.
Headlines proclaimed, “New Orleans dodges bullet” in bold type. But before the ink could dry on the newsprint, the Crescent Center was completely inundated by storm surge and failed levees.
Yes, New Orleans had avoided a direct hit from a powerful hurricane, but it did not dodge a bullet. Thirteen years later the city is still working to rebuild businesses and homes, and repair levee systems before another storm strikes.
Nearly 3,000 people died as a result of Hurricane Katrina — most of them due to drowning in floodwaters. That’s the threat from the current hurricane moving toward the North and South Carolina coasts — Florence, a powerful category 2 storm with winds in excess of 110 mph.
As Florence made its way toward the Mid Atlantic coast, military installations along the projected path began making plans to protect lives and property. Apache helicopters stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, were repositioned out of harm’s way to posts more toward the nation’s mid-section. Ships moored at naval bases in Virginia set out to sea until calmer waters returned.
Governors from North and South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia took no chances, asking the president to declare states of emergency. Evacuations, mandatory or recommended, were in progress with meteorologists in the field from The Weather Channel remarking the coasts were nearly completely empty as early as the evening of Sept. 12.
Those same governors have already mobilized their state National Guards, and Soldiers, sailors and Marines are ready to step in and help if needed. Even the Cajun Navy from South Louisiana has deployed its assets to the East Coast.
It is hoped that organizations like the Federal Emergency Management Agency have learned lessons from hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Harvey and Maria, and are prepared to deal with whatever Florence decides to throw their way. While most people interviewed have asked what is being done before the storm arrives, FEMA administrator Brock Long said the focus should be elsewhere.
“We can’t know exactly where the storm is going to hit,” he said in one of the multitude of interviews he’s given in the past four days. “But we can preposition supplies so that we’re ready to take action once the storm has passed.”
More than 1 million people along the coasts will be affected by Florence — either by winds, storm surge or flooding rains. While FEMA and other government agencies will provide help, odds are, as it was with the above-mentioned hurricanes, it won’t be enough. As of Sept. 12, 17 states had sent emergency help to preposition along the expected path of the hurricane.
Florence is a great opportunity for those of us assigned to Fort Polk to make preparations in the event a storm tracks toward the Louisiana coast. There are a couple of “areas of interest” in the Gulf of Mexico or Caribbean Sea that could affect us. Recent storms Rita and Ike caused disruptions to Fort Polk in recent memory. It would be wise to use the information on hurricane preparation on pages 12 and 13 in today’s Guardian to make a storm plan for your Family. Hopefully, storms will spare Fort Polk, but if not, at least you’ll be ready.
DISCLAIMER: This article was originally published at the Defense Video Imagery Distribution System Hub (www.didvshub.net). The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.
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