NEW HAVEN, CT — With one, if not two eyes on Hurricane Irma in the Atlantic Ocean, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and other officials Tuesday warned Connecticut residents to prepare well in advance of any storm that winds up threatening the East Coast.
During a press conference at the Emergency Operations Center in New Haven, Malloy, Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner Dora Schriro, and New Haven Mayor Toni Harp implored residents to take storm threats seriously.
“We should have preparations in place — the time to prepare for the possibility of any major storm impacting our communities is now, now when it is just days away,” Malloy said.
A state of emergency has been declared in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Florida as Hurricane Irma heads for the region as a Category 5 storm that is expected to strengthen further before making landfall in the Caribbean later Tuesday.
The storm was upgraded to Category 5 in a National Hurricane Center Advisory, putting it at the highest level that is measured, similar in scope to Hurricane Harvey, which devastated portions of Texas with, in some areas, 50-plus inches of rain last week.
As of Tuesday evening Irma had maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour. It’s now the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic basin outside of the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico in hurricane records.
Computer models show the system heading toward the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Cuba on Friday into Saturday, and possibly turning north toward Florida by the weekend.
But forecasters warned that it is too early to tell the exact path of the dangerous hurricane, and potential does exist that it could move further to the northeast — toward the East Coast and Connecticut.
Malloy said he and state officials will be monitoring Irma’s path closely over the next 24-to-48 hours.
“I know people are concerned about the track of Hurricane Irma and I can assure them that we are watching closely this powerful storm. We are prepared as a state to respond in the event we are impacted,” Malloy added.
“We know that a storm can strike at any moment and can cause significant damages as we have seen in Texas,” Malloy said.
While Malloy and Schriro said it is still much too early to know whether Irma will have an impact on Connecticut, it isn’t too early to plan.
And even if Connecticut is lucky to duck a blow from Irma, “We are at the height of the hurricane season in Connecticut,” Schriro said.
“An important part of preparation is to know where the evacuation routes and weather hazards are in your community, such as storm surge, areas prone to flooding, and those roads and bridges that frequently close due to severe weather,” Schriro said.
Malloy and Schriro urged residents to have what they termed a “basic emergency supply kit.”
That kit, they said, should include: a gallon of water per day for at least three days; a three-day supply of non-perishable food; battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA weather radio with tone alert and extra batteries; flashlight; first aid kit; a whistle to signal for help, garbage bags and plastic ties for sanitation; wrench or pliers to turn off utilities; a manual can opener; local maps; cell phone with chargers; food and litter for pets.
Lastly, and probably most importantly, Malloy said, “Make sure you have an ample supply on hand of all necessary medications.”
Harp said New Haven has paid close attention to the devastation that Harvey has wreaked on homes, cars and people in Texas.
“In New Haven there is about 1,900 acres with a 100-year flood zone,” the mayor said. She said city crews have been working diligently to ensure enforcement of floodplain ordinances and that storm and drain maintenance is up to date.
Malloy reminded residents to download the state’s “CTPrepares” mobile app for their smart phone and tablet devices. The app, which can be downloaded free of charge from Apple iTunes and Google Play, provides state residents with information and alerts in emergency situations, and gives preparedness tips in advance of an emergency.
The app has been downloaded on more than 10,000 devices in Connecticut so far.