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Linda Sturgis shows a photo of the Old Orchard Lighthouse, which was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, during the fourth annual North Carolina Emergency Management/East Carolina Hurricane Workshop held at the Murphy Center on Wednesday..   (Aileen Devlin/ The Daily  Reflector)

Linda Sturgis shows a photo of the Old Orchard Lighthouse, which was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, during the fourth annual North Carolina Emergency Management/East Carolina Hurricane Workshop held at the Murphy Center on Wednesday.. (Aileen Devlin/ The Daily Reflector)

By Kristin Zachary

Thursday, May 23, 2013

As hurricane season approaches, emergency management officials said Wednesday they hope the Eastern Seaboard will not see a repeat of deadly and destructive Hurricane Sandy, but it is critical to plan for the worst.

Sandy crippled New York in late October. Streets, tunnels and subway lines were flooded; power outages were widespread; and fuel supply to the Northeast was disrupted, causing mass hysteria and panic.

The superstorm also affected nearly two dozen additional states, including North Carolina, as the storm surge dumped sand and water on N.C. 12 on the Outer Banks, buckling the islands’ only highway.

Coast Guard Commander Linda Sturgis, who oversees emergency prevention at the Port of New York, cautioned North Carolina officials during an annual hurricane workshop held on Wednesday at East Carolina University to “dust off” severe weather plans.

More than 200 people attended the daylong event, which took a look back at the “sobering storm” that killed more than 100 people and caused an estimated $71 billion in damages nationwide.

North Carolinians love their lighthouses, Sturgis said, and “it’s the same thing in New York,” where Old Orchard Lighthouse on Staten Island was leveled.

“To this day, we don’t know where that lighthouse went,” she said, showing before-and-after photos, “and I’m not joking. … We can’t find that lighthouse.”

Staten Island was hit hard by Sandy, and one neighborhood saw 10 deaths, according to the National Weather Service’s Gary Szatkowski, who said the storm was “a shock to the system.”

“I don’t know that there’s a good way to die,” he said, “but the scenario here — you’re cold, you’re wet, you’re scared, the water is rising, you’re probably crying out for help, and no one can hear, and no one is around to help you. That is a terrible way to die.”

The workshop hosted by ECU and the N.C. Division of Emergency Management focused on preparation for the June 1 start of the Atlantic hurricane season. The hope is to link agencies for the best result and prevent, as much as possible, the death and destruction the storms sometimes bring.

“When you talk about what you can do to prepare, you do the best you can,” Sturgis said, “but sometimes it’s just like, ‘Wow.’ So I think what the key is here is you need to have that relationship to address whatever you think never, ever would ever happen.”

The United States has been lucky the past seven hurricane seasons, Szatkowski said, as no Category 3 or higher storms have made landfall.

“It never hurts to be lucky, but it shouldn’t be part of the critical planning process,” he said.

Luck may have kept stronger storms at bay, but even small hurricanes can have a devastating effect, said Mike Sprayberry, director of the state’s division of emergency management, further emphasizing the importance of preparation.

“We have a little saying up at the state (Emergency Operations Center),” Sprayberry said. “It’s called, ‘Hope is not a course of action.’”

Contact Kristin Zachary at kzachary@reflector.com and 252-329-9566. Follow her on Twitter @kzacharygdr.

via The Daily Reflector.

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