As Houston recovers from Hurricane Harvey and Florida braces itself for Hurricane Irma, Havre de Grace officials, as well as the Harford County Council, are reminding residents that it’s always good to be prepared.
Meanwhile, Curtis Beulah, the Havre de Grace area’s representative on the Harford County Council, has been stuck in Houston where he had gone to visit relatives before Harvey hit the area over the weekend of Aug. 26-27.
Council President Richard Slutzky said Tuesday that Beulah is safe and dry, and he is trying to book a flight out of Houston but they keep getting postponed or canceled.
“I know that in his heart he wishes he was here also, but it’s much more important at this time for Mr. Beulah to be with his family and to be with his grandchildren in Houston,” Slutzky said at the start of Tuesday’s council meeting.
Beulah was scheduled to give the opening prayer, but Slutzky led the prayer in his place.
The council president prayed for the victims of Harvey as well as those affected by wildfires raging in parts of California, Montana and the Pacific Northwest, and he asked the audience for a moment of silence for those victims.
He encouraged the Harford County community to keep those suffering “in our thoughts and prayers” and to donate, if able, to “reputable charities.”
“I know that this County Council and this administration will work to find the best way for Harford County to help those that are in need,” Slutzky said.
Councilman Joe Woods encouraged county residents to prepare themselves for storms.
“Even a small storm, like what’s happening tonight, can be devastating to a county,” he said, indicating the thunderstorm happening during the council meeting.
He said residents should check their gutters and storm drains to ensure they are clear of any clogs and to contact the county if they see clogged public storm drains.
Woods said people should avoid driving through high water, noting “it puts a huge burden on the fire service” to respond to a call for a water rescue, especially if they just find an empty vehicle.
“No matter what, be safe,” Woods said.
Woods also extended thoughts and prayers to the victims of the wildfires. He noted he has friends who were fighting the fires out West and are preparing to go back.
Havre de Grace prepares
Havre de Grace officials are “in step” with those at the county level in monitoring major storms, including Irma, that could affect the city and the rest of the county, Director of Administration Patrick Sypolt told the City Council members at their meeting Tuesday.
Should Irma warrant decisive action, city residents will be notified, he said, likely first by automated phone call and also by social media.
“Our best advice is to have your own plan and make the necessary preparations,” Sypolt said. “I’m not trying to be an alarmist, but we have to look out for our friends and neighbors.”
Mayor Bill Martin asked his colleagues and Havre de Grace residents to keep Harvey victims in their thoughts and prayers, as well as to people in the eastern Caribbean and Florida as they wait for Irma.
“Any feeling person, you can only imagine what it’s like to lose everything you have,” Martin said.
Homes built in places that aren’t supposed to flood during the flooding caused by what isn’t a 100-year storm, but a 1,000-year storm, he said.
The logistics of rebuilding are difficult, because the people called upon to do the building have also suffered devastating damage, Martin said.
He also urged city residents to be ready, because it’s entirely possible for disaster to strike Havre de Grace.
“We’re a tough city and we can handle it, but what happened in Houston can happen here, too,” Martin said. “Be mindful of those in less fortunate situations.”
‘Be prepared,’ county says
Hurricane Harvey is a tragic reminder that catastrophic weather events can happen anywhere, anytime, Harford County government noted in a reminder to residents this week.
“September is National Preparedness Month and now is the time to review your emergency plans, make sure your support networks are in place, and update your home’s disaster supply kit,” the county news release states.
“September and October are usually Harford County’s most active hurricane and tropical storm months,” Edward Hopkins, county director of Emergency Services, said. “A prepared community is a resilient community that will recover faster from the devastating effects of a disaster.”
The Harford County Department of Emergency Services recommends that residents stay informed, make a plan, and build a kit to help your family and pets survive until help arrives.
“Remember, when a disaster strikes, the time to prepare has already passed; have a plan for your family and make sure you are prepared now,” Rick Ayers, deputy director of Emergency Services, said. “Disasters don’t plan ahead. You can.”