Eye of Hurricane
Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology

Are You Hurricane Ready?

Tips from an environmental engineer

Hurricane season officially kicked off June 1, and those living along the eastern U.S. coast are already prepping for the months-long season ahead.

The NOAA predicts this to be normal hurricane season, with anywhere from nine to 15 named storms, but it advises that it can only take one event to devastate a community.

Whether you live along the Atlantic coast bracing for hurricanes or in America’s heartland anticipating tornadoes, being prepared for the inevitable aftermath is what will keep you and your loved ones safe, says storm emergency expert, M.A. Karim.

Luckily, environmental engineers stay ahead of the curve by preparing days – and sometimes weeks – ahead of a storm’s arrival, says Karim, associate professor of civil engineering in Kennesaw State’s Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology. Before joining the University, he spent nearly a decade in Virginia issuing environmental permits in the event of emergencies.

One of Karim’s priorities in the immediate aftermath of a hurricane was to help municipalities establish where to store storm debris, such as fallen tree limbs. Often, temporary debris storage sites are identified before a hurricane makes landfall and advertised in local newspapers so you’ll know where to take storm debris.

As a storm approaches, he advises checking local media outlets and confirming the location of your nearest storage facility.

Storm Debris

“The main idea for identifying these types of locations ahead of time is to ensure that roadways remain clear and the debris is in no danger of harming anyone,” he says. “Engineers are responsible for inspecting these sites ahead of time to determine if they are feasible to store material and won’t contaminate the ground water or cause other nuisances.”

Storm debris – whether from a hurricane or tornado – must be put in a specific holding facility so it does not create nuisance or contaminate other areas, he explains. Emergency permits are usually issued for 90 days. After 90 days, the debris can then be moved to a more permanent site, such as a landfill, but the deadline can be extended for another 90 days if more time is needed.

Karim suggests keeping nonperishables and bottled water stocked in the event of severe weather because access to food and safe drinking water are major issues in a storm’s aftermath.

“I always advise others to keep at least seven days’ worth of dry food and bottled water in the event you experience a hurricane or any other kind of severe weather, even if you’re in an area that isn’t required to evacuate,” says Karim, who was saved by his own stash of supplies when Hurricane Isabel left him without power or supply water for three days in 2003.

“I always advise others to keep at least seven days’ worth of dry food and bottled water in the event you experience a hurricane or any other kind of severe weather.”

M.A. Karim, associate professor of civil engineering at Kennesaw State University

Supply water could mostly be affected by suspended material, or high turbidity, or broken supply systems in the aftermath of a hurricane, making it unsafe or unpleasant to drink, he explains. Bottled water will ensure a sufficient reserve until the supply water becomes available and safe to drink again.

Are you prepared?

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