Be Prepared For Disasters Like Harvey

by Ron Bell | Sep 15, 2017 |

Be Prepared For Disasters Like Harvey

Disasters on the scale of Hurricane Harvey or Irma are not commonplace in New Mexico. Still, the state is not immune to disaster.

“Even in New Mexico – disasters happen. Every community in New Mexico is vulnerable. As New Mexicans, we face the threat of a variety of natural disasters and the threat of man-made disasters. Within the last year, New Mexico has dealt with an unprecedented series of emergencies from drought to fire, flooding and severe winter weather, and even tornadoes,” said the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Natural Disasters Can Be Surprising In Strength and Severity

Hurricane Harvey tore into Texas on August 25, 2017, and the full extent of the damage is still being calculated. It won’t be known for a few weeks, after waters start to recede, the death toll and the amount of loss. Fortune magazine reports that it was the “most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in more than 50 years, has killed an estimated 50 people, displaced more than 1 million and has damaged some 200,000 homes in a path of destruction stretching for more than 300 miles.” The Governor of Texas estimates between $150 to $180 Billion in damage.

Florida was blasted by Hurricane Irma, after laying a swath of damage in its wake all through the Caribbean – even leaving islands like Barbuda 95-percent uninhabitable and nearly half of its inhabitants homeless. “Barbuda is totally destroyed,” Roderick Faustin, first secretary for the Embassy of Antigua and Barbuda in Washington told the LA Times.

Both storms provided very little time to prepare.

September 8, 2017, Mexico experienced its worst earthquake in more than a century – an 8.2 magnitude tremor – that killed at least 58 people and leveled entire areas in the south of the country. Neighboring countries Guatemala, Belize and other Central American countries felt effects hundreds of miles away.

New Mexico Isn’t Immune

It can be easy to think that New Mexico can’t be affected like that. Even recent studies say that some of the state is at a “very low risk” rating for the big three natural disasters – earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes. The rest of the state is at medium risk.

“The report doesn’t cover wildfire risk, which is widely considered the main threat — natural or otherwise — to housing in New Mexico,” the Albuquerque Journal noted. “The report did not touch on the half dozen or so tornadoes reported in eastern New Mexico earlier this month.” In a similar story, KRQE News 13, a CBS affiliate, reported on a 2014 study that put New Mexico near the bottom of the list for disaster danger. However, throughout the story they highlighted the upsurge in natural disasters to hit New Mexico including flash floods, windstorms, and wildfires.

In the wake of Harvey, Meteorologist Mark Ronchetti has cited increased flooding and wildfires in the past year, and how New Mexico could one day see larger weather events.”Wildfires are a huge issue here, we talk about all the time. New Mexico’s biggest risk is wildfires during prolonged drought periods,” he said. The worst was in 2000 when 400 families lost their homes when a controlled burn spread to over 48,000 acres in Cerro Grande.

Between 1950 to 2010 “extreme weather events” in New Mexico have caused significant damage. The period saw 6,212 extreme events including 741 floods, 27 wildfires, 347 events of heavy snow and 9 blizzards. Recent tornadoes have killed dozens and cost millions in damage.While the last earthquake to cause significant damage in New Mexico was in 1985, the same could be said for Mexico that has experienced earthquakes but not as bad as the most recent quake.

“While New Mexico hasn’t had a big earthquake in recent history, the Department of Homeland Security says it’s trying to ramp up its quake readiness efforts,” reported KRQE News.

New Mexico Safety Plans

“No one can stop natural disasters from occurring, but we can limit the impact they have on our family,” said New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. “The chances of being killed or injured during a disaster are very low. However, you may not be able to live normally in your home and community until your family and community have transitioned into the recovery stage.” To combat the chances of lasting damage, legislatures in New Mexico have required builders to meet standards to protect against wind, snow loads, fire, earthquakes and other natural hazards like earthquakes. Failure to meet these codes and safety measures puts the contractors and owners at liability risk in the event of a disaster or damage.

 

How to Prepare for Disasters

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had a dedicated page to Emergency Preparedness that lists multiple resources to help people be safe through natural disasters.

“Think of emergency preparedness as a “quality of life” issue,” advises the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. “Proper planning, preparation, and practice will help you and your family be more comfortable when faced with an emergency. The most important factor is communication. Every member of your family needs to be involved in planning so that when disaster strikes; everyone will know what to do.

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