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Officials: Hurricane Irene hit unlikely, but practice safety

Packing sustained winds near 100 miles per hour, Hurricane Irene is expected to spare Georgia the full brunt of her furor.

Weather officials anticipate minimal impacts from the Category 2 hurricane, the ninth named storm of the 2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Forecasts indicate mostly sunny, warm weather with slight rain chances ahead this week for the metro Atlanta region.

“We’re expecting dry air with cool temperatures overnight, and warm day-time temperatures,” said Matthew Sena, meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “There may be a increase in wind Thursday night into Friday, but the forecast track is keeping it offshore into the Carolinas.”

Local emergency management officials say the storm, now churning in the Atlantic, is a chance for them to raise awareness and urge preparedness.

“This is an excellent opportunity for our citizens to practice their plans to ensure they have a kit for their family to provide the resources needed during a disaster,” said Henry County Emergency Management Director Don Ash.

Ash pointed to the Georgia Emergency Management Agency’s campaign, known as Ready Georgia. The campaign, launched in January 2008, seeks to inform residents on how to prepare for, and react to, potential disasters.

The statewide campaign also is supported by the Georgia Department of Community Health: Division of Public Health, The Ad Council, The Home Depot and volunteer organizations. It seeks to coordinate a cohesive statewide program, and a call to action regarding emergency preparedness.

“We’re already preparing as a fire department,” said Clayton County Fire Battalion Chief Jacque Feilke.

Feilke said the department had been notifying, and gathering search and rescue teams in the event that severe weather reached the area, or nearby communities could be negatively impacted by the hurricane.

“We don’t know, right now, exactly where it is going to hit,” said Feilke, who noted that previous unexpected storms had hit the Southeast region.

“We may have a lot of rain,” she continued. “We just don’t really know. The good thing about hurricanes is that you have time to prepare. It’s helpful if you have a NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] weather radio, and a plan to get to safety.”

Feilke advises citizens to prepare well in advance of storms by stowing necessary supplies and making detailed plans. “If you’re on the road, figure out what’s the smartest thing to do, if a storm comes through. And make sure you have people [who] know where you’re at,” she said.

James Bulot, the director of the Georgia Department of Human Services: Division of Aging Services, noted that older adults and people with disabilities may require additional supplies and planning.

Bulot said those individuals especially should create a support network to help in an emergency and develop and communicate an emergency plan with their support network. He said citizens should also keep lists of their prescription medicines (including dosage) and of their allergies, as well as their medical insurance and Medicare cards, among other provisions.

To learn more about being prepared for emergencies, visit the Ready Georgia, or Ready Clayton web sites at www.ready.ga.gov, and www.readyclayton.com, respectively.

Resources to assist older adults and people with disabilities, also are available at the State Department of Human Services web site at www.aging.dhr.georgia.gov.