Local officials work through scenarios in hurricane exercise

by Sherry Hamilton - Posted on Jun 19, 2013 - 02:02 PM

Photo: Among the more than two dozen participants in an emergency preparedness roundtable held at the Mathews Volunteer Rescue Squad on Monday were, seated from left, Ron Peaks of the Virginia Department of Transportation, Matthew McGuire of the U.S. Coast Guard, Mathews Sheriff Mark Barrick, National Weather Service Warning Coordination Meteorologist Bill Sammler, and, standing, Mathews County Emergency Services Coordinator Dave Burns. Photo by Sherry Hamilton

Among the more than two dozen participants in an emergency preparedness roundtable held at the Mathews Volunteer Rescue Squad on Monday were, seated from left, Ron Peaks of the Virginia Department of Transportation, Matthew McGuire of the U.S. Coast Guard, Mathews Sheriff Mark Barrick, National Weather Service Warning Coordination Meteorologist Bill Sammler, and, standing, Mathews County Emergency Services Coordinator Dave Burns. Photo by Sherry Hamilton

Hurricane season is upon us, and Mathews County wants to be prepared.

With that in mind, county officials and others, including representatives from Virginia Department of Transportation, Dominion Virginia Power, U.S. Coast Guard, Virginia Department of Emergency Management, Virginia State Police, Department of Social Services, and Gloucester and Middlesex counties, gathered at the Mathews Volunteer Rescue Squad building on Monday to have a roundtable discussion on handling emergency operations before and after a storm hits.

Mathews County Board of Supervisors’ chair Edwina Casey welcomed those present, and Mathews County Emergency Services coordinator Dave Burns introduced the keynote speaker, Bill Sammler, warning coordination meteorologist with NOAA’s National Weather Service at Wakefield.

Sammler gave a brief talk about tracking hurricane and tropical storm movement using the HURREVAC website so that local managers can make informed decisions regarding setting up shelters and evacuating low-lying areas. The 20-year-old hurricane tracking resource is used by the National Hurricane Program to predict possible threats to specific localities, he said.

Using HURREVAC, a manager can determine approximately when a storm is expected to make landfall at a specific location and what its wind speed might be, said Sammler. The utility is most accurate predicting wind speed at landfall along the coast, he said, but as the storm moves inland, estimates of its wind and travel speed are much less reliable. A distance of just five miles can make a significant difference in the severity of a storm, he said.