Thousands prepare for hurricanes

BY SUSAN KIM | Edenton, NC | August 4, 2000

Tropical Storm Alberto, with sustained winds on Friday of about 40 mph, is expected to strengthen.

Forecasters say it could become a hurricane in the next two days. Meanwhile on Thursday, Gray

predicted the hurricane season may not be as bad as originally expected. In his June forecast, Gray

predicted 12 named storms, eight hurricanes, and four major hurricanes. Now he is forecasting 11

named storms, seven hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.

Many residents in states vulnerable to hurricanes are preparing for the onset of the season.

The Rev. Jane Love, pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Edenton, NC, has helped organize an

interfaith committee that is designed to be in place before a hurricane hits. After Hurricane Floyd hit last

season, Love's church and other Edenton churches coordinated relief and recovery efforts for their

hard-hit neighboring town of Windsor. "Many people had family or friends living there, so the churches

here organized to send them food, cleaning supplies, water, and other supplies. We've done that in

Edenton a number of times," said Love.

But this year, Love and other clergy, after talking with Chowan county emergency management

officials and city managers, decided to structure these efforts into the Chowan Interfaith Disaster Effort.

"We've located a warehouse, and we've got an office," said Love. "We're doing this before disaster

strikes because, right after a disaster hits, it's hard to form an interfaith group because you run into

problems like locating office space, finding a warehouse, finding a computer, and coordinating


"So we decided to make a pre-emptive effort here," she added. The group has been holding

organizational meetings and plans to host focus groups to attract volunteers who are interested in

warehouse management, counseling and casework, and other post-disaster activities.

"After a disaster, communication is difficult, so we'd like to have people in place and not have to

scramble to get them."

Love said that, in non-disaster times, the group will likely gather twice a year but is meeting more often

for the current organizational stage. The effort is funded through denominational monies, faith-based

disaster response groups, and in-kind contributions from the county and town.

"This is generally inclusive endeavor," Love said.

Edenton town manager Ann Marie Knighton said she applauded the effort. "I feel blessed for their

leadership," she said. "We'll be in a much better position if it happens in our community.

Disaster response officials are also concerned about the mental health issues left over from last

hurricane season as a new season approaches. Marilyn Juengst, a mental health administrator who

works with disaster survivors in Florida through Project Hope, said that talking through issues with

disaster survivors can help them mentally cope with the next disaster. "Speaking to residents who were

evacuated, for example, can help them prepare next time around."

Bob Gaddis, director of the Kinston Area Recovery Effort in North Carolina, said that his group has

been distributing letters and flyers to churches to raise awareness about hurricane preparation. But

Gaddis said that, already, many residents have forgotten about last year's severe flooding.

"When I go to the grocery store, and people see my name badge, they ask what I'm doing, and I tell

them I'm helping people recover from Hurricane Floyd. They say: 'Oh, I thought that was over a long

time ago.' "

Gaddis and other recovery group leaders report that thousands of homes still need to be rebuilt in

North Carolina, and some estimate that recovery from Hurricane Floyd could take 10 years.

But in the future, people could have safer homes, thanks to a new program on hurricane-proof

construction offered by Louisiana State University (LSU). With a $500,000 grant from the National

Science Foundation, LSU is launching the world's first curriculum in hurricane engineering.

The new program is designed to teach design concepts behind buildings and infrastructure in

hurricane-prone areas.

Other universities and groups are also considering coastal erosion prevention as a way of making

communities less vulnerable to hurricanes. "Erosion is a big issue - it's what we've done to ourselves,"

said Jody Hill, executive director of Florida Interfaith Networking in Disaster. "We cut in jetties to make

inland waterways, then the sand builds up on the north side of the jetty. We're ending up having to

continually re-nourish our beaches with sand," she said.

NASA scientists predict that coastal erosion around the world could worsen as Greenland's ice sheet

continues to thin. It is thinning in some places by more than 3 feet a year, according to NASA research

in the journal Science. The scientists said they considered Greenland a harbinger of things to come in

Antarctica, which has the potential for even more dramatic increases in sea level. Greenland's melting

ice sheet impacts the world because the global ice cover acts as the planet's thermostat, regulating

temperature by reflecting sunlight back into space. The ice cover holds much of Earth's fresh water,

which if melted would swamp coastal lowlands around the world.

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