Monday, August 31, 2009

Batten Down the Baja for Jimena

Unless something incredible happens and Jimena loses a lot of steam very quickly, Mexico's Baja Peninsula is going to be slammed in the next few hours by a Category Four storm. With maximum sustained winds of 155mph as I write this, if Jimena gains even a little strength, it will become a Cat 5. This storm is going to be catastrophic. I have to admit, my focus has been on the Atlantic, because it's more likely to affect my area. In the meantime, this massive storm has formed in the Pacific and made a beeline for land.

Because the peninsula is just a narrow strip of land, and because the storm is going to be so strong, I think I would evacuate if I lived there. Of course, I don't know the terrain. Maybe there's some higher ground that will be safe from storm surge, if the structure is sturdy enough to withstand a constant battering from extremely high winds over several hours.

Structures built on high land also may be at risk of mudslides washing out the foundation. I've seen that happen in hilly areas of Mexico and the Caribbean Islands when they're hit by a hurricane.

Bottom line, if you're reading this and you're in Baja California, please be safe. Make informed decisions based on official sources, such as the National Hurricane Center and your local government. Consider what the intense winds, storm surge, and heavy rains could do to your home and your neighborhood, and be safe.

Please take pets with you.

If you are staying, be sure you have enough food and water for your family and pets for at least three days. Barricade the windows with wood or metal sheets to keep flying debris and pounding winds from breaking the glass. Check supplies of flashlights, batteries, portable radios. Be sure you have enough prescription medication, if you take any. If there's any chance of flooding, have sandbags ready to keep water out of your home.

Put valuables in plastic storage tubs or plastic bags. That way if water does get in, over the doorjam or through a damaged roof or windows, maybe some of your things will be spared. Know where your insurance paperwork is.

If your home sustains damage, remember, you can and should make temporary repairs as you are able -- please be careful -- and document what you did. Your insurance company will want to know that you tried to minimize the damage as much as possible.

God be with you.

Folks on the Atlantic and Gulf Coast should still be keeping an eye on the big red blob now in the Atlantic. The computer models are all over the place, meaning there's no telling where this thing will end up. It's taking a long time to develop into anything, which is good. Maybe it will never get very strong. However, the fact that it is a red blob (as opposed to orange or yellow) means there's a very good chance this system will become a named storm.

The American Red Cross has just debuted a new website with fun ways to learn about and think about preparedness. It's part of a campaign called Do More Than Cross Your Fingers. Visit the site, play the games, and think about your own emergency plan. Are you ready?

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