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What’s waiting out there and preparing for it

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Scientists dubbed it "The Beast" — an asteroid three football fields wide and large enough to replace an entire city with an impact crater. It passed over our rooftops just last month.

According to NASA’s Near Earth Object Program, there are 30-plus such objects predicted to take a pass at Earth this month alone. Although most are more than 500,000 miles away, relatively speaking, they are considered close approaches and make up for an estimated 95 percent of such known objects. Others are uncharted, however, and could surprise us by inching closer to our world. Asteroid 2014 DX110, for example, announced its presence just 217,000 miles from earth – closer than the moon – and clocked a speed of 33,000 mph.

They are just one form of threat that underscores the frailty of civilization’s infrastructure. And they aren’t even on our planet.

History has shown us how helpless humanity is in the prevention of natural calamity. We have no control over how fast our warm waters will heat the air, causing it to spiral upward until a monster storm is formed; no clout in how tectonic politics will shift and cause tremors, earthquakes and aftershocks, and no sway over the direction a resulting tsunami will take.

All we have is the past to guide us.

SOME IMPORTANT NUMBERS TO KNOW

Emergency: Police, Fire, Ambulance 911
State Civil Defense 733-4300
Department of Emergency Management (Oahu) 723-8960
Hawaii (Big Island) Civil Defense 935-0031
Maui Civil Defense 270-7285
Kauai Civil Defense 241-1800
American Red Cross 734-2101

The last big storm to hit Hawaii occurred on Sept. 13, 1992, just two weeks after Hurricane Andrew made headlines for its Florida landfall. Hurricane Iniki was a beast in itself, with winds reaching 175 mph.

The island of Kauai took the biggest hit. The storm reduced homes to stripped down skeletons in one afternoon, leaving a sodden landscape of shanty towns. In its aftermath, life was a market of bare essentials — rations, water and candles. Power wasn’t restored for three months in some areas.

The VHS video, Hurricane Iniki: Through the Eyes of Kauai’s People, was released several months later. It was a compilation video shot by a handful of locals across the island. And for those who had experienced the storm with eyes wide shut, bunkered in as the storm pounded on walls and shattered windows, this video provided the sights to those horrifying sounds.

Iniki tore the rooftops off houses in broad daylight — sending shingles cascading skyward like playing cards, filling the air with debris. It stripped the walls off of homes as if they were wet cardboard boxes and sent them sailing into other homes.

For a lot of people, the storm arrived suddenly. Because Iniki was expected to remain south of the Islands, many were simply not ready for its unexpected turn to the north.

The list of cataclysms and threats looms large with an infinitude of factors that could summon a nightmare at any moment.

From the earthquakes and tsunamis that shook Japan and Indonesia, to Hurricanes Iwa and Iniki that flattened Hawaii, to even threats from beyond like the Chelyabinsk meteor that exploded in Russia, one thing is certain: Past events predict future ones, and all we can do is prepare.

This guide is one such way you can begin preparing yourself and your loved ones. Brought to you by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the guide covers easy and practical tips to developing an emergency plan for you, your family and your pets.

There’s never a better time to begin preparations than today. After all, it’s never a question of if, but rather when the next big disaster will strike.

ONLINE RESOURCES

American Red Cross, Hawaii State chapter. Lots and lots of great information about survival kits, planning for an emergency, and how to register for Red Cross classes and training on disaster-related topics. You might even become a Red Cross instructor! www.hawaiiredcross.org

American Veterinary Medical Association Disaster Preparedness
www.avma.org/disaster/default.asp

State Civil Defense
www.scd.hawaii.gov

Hawaii County Civil Defense
www.hawaii-county.com/directory/dir_defense.htm

Kauai County Civil Defense
www.kauai.gov

Maui County Civil Defense
www.co.maui.hi.us/departments/CivilDefense/

City and County of Honolulu Department of Emergency Management
www.oahuDEM.org

Emergency Preparedness
www.heco.com

Emergency Preparedness Resources for Maui County Residents
www.mauiready.org

Federal Emergency Management Agency
www.fema.gov

National Flood Insurance Program
www.floodsmart.gov

National Weather Service, Honolulu Forecast Office
www.weather.gov/hawaii

Pacific Disaster Center
www.pdc.org

Ready America
www.ready.gov

From HECO’s "Handbook for Emergency Preparedness."

Hurricane/tropical storm checklist

The key to successfully weathering a hurricane or tropical storm is being prepared. Here is what you should do:

» Know the warning signals and where shelters are located. See list of public emergency shelters at www.scd.hawaii.gov.

» Always have a home survival kit ready.

» Tie down or store all loose objects. Bring all potted plants into the house.

» Remove and store lanai furniture.

» Throw deck furniture into the pool.

» Unplug electric appliances you may not need or use.

» Cover all windows and door openings with boards, shutters or other shielding materials. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8-inch marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install. Other alternatives include replacing existing glass with impact-resistant glass, and covering existing glass with a protective film. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.

» Wedge sliding glass doors at the top. Wedge a dowel or a piece of broom handle into the track of sliding glass doors to prevent them from coming loose when the wind blows.

» Properly secure propane tanks. Remember that propane tanks should never be stored indoors. Fuel containers, including propane tanks, should never be stored near appliances, gas water heaters, and source of fire. Make sure storage areas are cool, dry and well-ventilated to allow any gas leaks to safely dissipate.

» Assemble insurance documents and place in waterproof containers.

» Secure elevators on the top floor of your condominium.

» Fill up the gas tank of your car.

» Care for pets.

Source: HECO’s "Information Handbook for Emergency Preparedness." Visit www.heco.com for more information.

What Is A Hurricane?

A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone, the generic term for a low-pressure system that generally forms in the tropics. A typical cyclone is accompanied by thunderstorms with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher. The hurricane season lasts from June to November, with the peak season from mid-August to late October.

Hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland. Winds can exceed 155 mph. Hurricanes and tropical storms can also spawn tornadoes and microbursts, create storm surges along the coast, and cause extensive damage from heavy rainfall.

How Are Hurricane Categories Determined?

Hurricanes are classified into five categories based on their wind speed, central pressure and damage potential (see chart to the right). Category 3 and higher hurricanes are considered major hurricanes, though Categories 1 and 2 are still extremely dangerous and warrant your full attention.

Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale

Scale Number (Category) Sustained Winds (mph) Damage
1 74-95 Minimal: Unanchored mobile homes, vegetation and signs.
2 96-110 Moderate: All mobile homes, roofs, small crafts, flooding.
3 111-129 Extensive: Small buildings, low-lying roads cut off.
4 130-156 Extreme: Roofs destroyed, trees down, roads cut off, mobile homes destroyed. Beach homes flooded.
5 More than 157 Catastrophic: Most buildings destroyed. Vegetation destroyed. Major roads cut off. Homes flooded.

Source: Information gathered from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website.

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