Hurricane Irene is packing a punch for New England. The question is: Are Mainers ready to block and counterpunch?
The Maine Emergency Management Agency has been preparing for Irene since the jet stream indicated a potential path for the storm to reach the state. The biggest concern is that citizens are informed and prepared.
Sylvia Yeaton, special project coordinator for the Franklin County Emergency Management Agency, said one of the biggest factors in damages and injuries is complacency.
"People just don't think things will get that bad, but even without full-strength winds, there's still a good chance of trees coming down and power outages," Yeaton said.
Based on the current flow of the jet stream, Maine is east of the projected path of Hurricane Irene. Tom Hawley, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, said the state is more likely to see higher winds and less rain if the storm stays to the east. The weather service is predicting Maine will receive sustained winds of 35 to 4o mph with gusts up to 60 mph and 2 to 5 inches of rain.
"It's those large gusts that cause downed trees and power outages, and with 5 inches of rain, flooding can occur in small streams and brooks," Hawley said.
The coast is expected to see more rain and perhaps, coastal flooding. Maine is seeing the highest tides of the summer, which factor into the possibility of flooding.
Some of the things Maine residents forget to consider during summer storms is food safety, lawn ornaments and furniture, summer gardens and even checking up on home insurance policies.
Yeaton said one of the items her family forgot about during Hurricane Bob in 1991 was their boat, which was still on a lake. "It sunk" she said.
Hurricane Bob, which developed off the Bahamas on Aug. 16, 1991, caused a total of $212 million in damages in Maine. It took the lives of three Mainers and caused a 2.8-foot storm surge in Portland.
Besides the basic necessities to stock up on, such as bottled water, batteries, food, and a battery-operated radio, people should consider other emergency-preparedness plans.
Jay Bernard, a Maine Forest Service ranger, warned residents to make sure their yards are picked up and lawn ornaments and furniture are either secured to the ground or taken inside.
"Those items can become projectile missiles in high winds," he said.
Another item that residents may want to consider, with summer harvest in full swing, is the vegetable garden. Mark Hutton, vegetable specialist with the University of Maine and associate professor of vegetable crops at Highmoor Farm in Monmouth, said to harvest everything that's ready or can ripen off the plant, such as tomatoes. He also suggested staking pepper plants and securing greenhouses.
During extended power outages, cooking food safely is also a concern. Jason Bolton, food safety expert with the University of Maine Orono, said to consider cooking outside on a grill once the weather is clear and if power is still out.
"Keeping things simple, like canned foods and items that have a low food-safety risk, is best" he said.
Yeaton also wanted to remind residents to check on neighbors, when it is safe to do so. During emergencies, people often rely on each other to get by.
For more information on emergency preparedness, go to the MEMA website at www.maine.gov/mema or call your local Emergency Management office.