Members of the Sussex County League of Women Voters learned about what the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center does during natural disasters, and how they can prepare themselves for extreme weather in advance during a forum hosted by the League at the Beebe Medical Arts Building in Rehoboth Beach.
Members of the EOC's Citizens Emergency Response Team (CERT) explained what they do to help during emergencies. Dr. Wendy Carey from the Delaware Sea Grant Program told members that they should start preparing for climate change as well as sea level rise. She described how all of Delaware is vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather that she says are likely to only get worse due to climate change. She showed pictures in a PowerPoint presentation of beach erosion, flooding and other forms of damage from hurricanes, tropical storms and nor'easters dating all the way back to the historic Storm of '62, the storm by which all other storms in Delaware are measured by. Carey also helped write the Delaware Homeowner's Handbook to Prepare For Natural Hazards. The book describes how to prepare for all of the weather hazards Delaware faces, from extreme summer heat to hurricanes, tornadoes, nor'easters and sudden summer thunderstorms.
South Bethany Town Councilman George Junkin discussed the flooding that was seen along the canals and the Little Assawoman Bay in South Bethany during Hurricane Sandy. He showed a chart from the town's tidal gauge that showed the storm surge from Sandy was at least two feet higher than any previously measured storm surge, even from Hurricane Irene in 2011. In June, the town formed a Sea Level Rise and Storm Surge Committee, which Junkin chairs, to study the effects of sea level rise and especially storm surge. The committee will be making recommendations to the full Town Council within the next two to three months. Junkin says the recommendations will include changes to the town code to require "freeboarding" for new houses, or elevating them above the FEMA floodplain by using either stilts or concrete slabs. Junkin explained that the higher residents and municipalities can elevate buildings and infrastructure, the more they can save on flood insurance.
Lewes-based architect John Mateyko talked about how people can build their homes and engage in practices that are more environmentally friendly to reduce their carbon footprints. He said small steps can be taken, such as not keeping valuables, toxic chemicals or utility switches in the basement. He said that's how a lot of people died in the New York Tri-State area during Sandy when they went into flooded basements. He also recommended running electrical wiring from the ceilings down, and not through crawl spaces.
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