Area braces for Irene

The impending arrival of a category one hurricane has local government is preparing for the worst

By P.J. D’Annunzio & Mike McGann, Staff Writers,

Hurricane Irene could bring flooding, heavy rains and high winds this weekend to southern Chester County.

First, an earthquake. Now Hurricane Irene. It might be hard to blame folks if they start worrying about a plague of locusts.

Hurricane Irene, which has been bearing down on the East Coast, is expected to reach the general area late Saturday to early Sunday, according to the National Weather Service with heavy rain and winds estimated to reach 85 mph — and he storm is expected to be the first such storm to seriously impact the region since Hurricane Floyd struck and caused wide-scale flooding in September, 1999.

Local residents flocked to shopping centers to load up on food and supplies — and batteries, especially D and C cells, were rapidly becoming short in supply. Portable radios were virtually non-existent, with (as irony would have it) none to be found at Radio Shack, Wal-Mart and other local retailers, as shoppers prepared for the worst and assume Irene would bring power outages. The Giant supermarket in Birmingham Township was packed Friday morning, as shoppers stocked up, watched and waited.

Local officials looked to get their townships — and residents – prepared for whatever Irene brings.

“The police and fire companies are our eyes and ears,” Kennett Township Board of Supervisors Chairman Allan Falcoff said of the groups whose response efforts will play the most critical roll in emergency management, “We’re really dependent on them to order and evacuation or declare an emergency,”

As for damage control and prevention Falcoff said that, “The road crews are the ones that will barricade a road or handle downed trees, unless there are downed power lines. PECO has to come and disable the power lines before we can even come near them.”

Meanwhile, other officials moved to cancel or postpone various events. Birmingham was forced to postpone it’s long-planned 325th Anniversary celebration, planned for Saturday. No new date for the event has been announced as yet. The Kennett YMCA cancelled a community swim event planned for Saturday night, as well.

Meanwhile, while Kennett schools still have a week before they open, Unionville-Chadds Ford School District officials worked to manage as Irene was slated to hit the day before the first day of the school year.

“The staff of the UCF District Office will be watching weather, water levels, and road conditions all weekend,” according to a statement issued by district spokesperson Rich Hug. “In addition, the schools will be monitored over the weekend for any possible wind or rain damage, or power outage. As the decision is made regarding school for Monday, the safety of students and UCF staff will be our highest priority.”

Local municipalities are already preparing responses to possible scenarios and readying personnel for the potentially damaging storm, should a state of emergency be issued.

If an evacuation is ordered, the first to be withdrawn from immediate danger are the community living facilities such as Crosslands, Kendal, Kennett Friends Home, Brandywine Assisted Living, and similar facilities. The evacuation center for the immediate Kennett Square area is Kennett High School and Kennett Consolidated School District is prepared to provide school bus transportation for large groups of incapacitated persons.

“We have to notify the public that an emergency has been declared…the technique we use for that is the ReadyNotify system,” Kennett’s Falcoff said.

The township manager will notify the county on what is to be broadcasted, and in turn send text messages and e-mails to those who have signed up for the notifications. Important information is also televised via the Emergency Alert System. Those who have not signed up for ReadyNotify are urged to do so at

Residents are encouraged to monitor local television and radio stations for instructions in the event of an emergency.

Severe Weather terms to know:

  • Hurricane Warning: Is a warning that sustained winds of 74 mph or higher associated with a hurricane are expected in a specified area within 24 hours or less.
  • Flash Flood Warning: Signifies a dangerous situation where rapid flooding of small rivers, streams, creaks, or urban areas are imminent or already occurring. Very heavy rain that falls in a short period of time can lead to flash flooding, depending on the local terrain, ground coverage, degree of urbanization, degree of man-made changes to river banks, and pre-existing conditions.
  • Tornado Warning: Is a warning that indicates that a violently spinning column of air in contact with and extending between a connective cloud and the surface of the earth is possible.

Meanwhile, Lloyd Bankson Roach, the emergency management coordinator for Birmingham township, offered suggestions for township residents which would seem to apply for many in the greater Unionville area.

1. Fill the gas tanks of all cars or trucks now.

2. Purchase an extra supply of AAA, C and D batteries to power portable radios and flashlights.

3. If you have well water or spring water, which requires an electric pump, provide for at least one-gallon of water per person in the household for each day of water loss.

4. Make sure there is an ample supply of any medications needed by members of your household.

5.  Let the township know if electrically powered medical equipment is in your home. Send the name of patient, address and phone number.

6. Have ample food for every member of the household for a minimum of three days.

7. Be aware that in the event of power failures, cell phone circuits become overwhelmed and don’t function. Do not use your home phone or cell phone unless absolutely necessary.

8. Call 9-1-1 with any emergencies. Do not call the township. It will only delay response.

9. DO – NOT drive on flooded roads…ever. Fast moving water can sweep your car away. There is a reason why it’s called “Creek Road. If there is heavy rain, stay East of Creek Road.

10. Absolutely avoid the bridge at Pocopson on Route 926. It is often our first trouble spot.
There are numerous other flooding prone areas in Kennett, New Garden, East Marlborough, Pennsbury and Chadds Ford. If Hurricane Floyd is an indicator, it is possible that US 1, 52 and other main roads in the area will see flooding and possible closure. High winds may also cause trees and power lines to be down. Most local officials are suggesting that people remain home unless absolutely necessary.




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