R.I. Adopts Hurricane Plan

May 31, 2006

Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri has approved the state’s first hurricane plan in time for the June 1 start of the hurricane season.

Under the plan, the state and other agencies will start emergency preparations 72 hours before a hurricane is predicted to hit Rhode Island. The details are outlined in 24-hour blocks.

For example, from 72 hours to 48 hours before a hurricane strikes, the state will set up communications with federal emergency officials and neighboring states. From 48 to 24 hours before the storm, the governor declares a state of emergency. The National Guard could be activated and highways and bridges could be closed. Outlaying communities will be evacuated first and mass-care facilities opened.

From 24 hours before the hurricane to its end, evacuations will stop. Search and rescue missions and medical response will be on alert for areas expected to be hardest hit.

In the storm’s aftermath, communities will determine if roads are safe to be reopened and if more evacuations are needed because of river flooding.

Carcieri told the Providence Journal that the state is better prepared now than ever. However, Rhode Islanders may not be, he said.

“It’s been a long time since we had a major hurricane,” Carcieri said. “We’ve gotten complacent.”

In addition, the state still does not know how congested evacuation routes will be. The state Department of Transportation won’t be able to finish a report studying the traffic conditions of the routes in time for this hurricane season.

The state plans to launch a public awareness campaign on hurricane preparedness in mid-June and Carcieri wants maps of evacuations routes and preparedness tips to be mailed to households in the flood zones.

Forecasters are predicting an unusually high number of hurricanes this year. They also said Southern New England has a very high risk of being struck by a hurricane this season.

The last time a major hurricane hit Rhode Island was in 1991 when Hurricane Bob caused hundreds of millions of dollars in property damages throughout the Northeast.

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