Frankenstorm is not a Halloween Trick or Treat for Facilities and Homes

Oct 29, 2012

Stuart Smith

Stuart Smith


Sometime early Tuesday morning Hurricane Sandy is expected to make landfall somewhere between Delaware and New York. The latest update as of 5:00 AM on Monday says although it is not the most powerful storm to strike, it is near record size (about 1.5 times the size of Texas) and is forecasted to cause billions of dollars in asset damages.

The projected path of the storm current path has it following the jet stream which has a created a negatively tilted trough bringing the storm into a collision course with a blast of arctic air coming in from the west. Their impending collision is expected to cause a freakish storm creating a myriad of problems and has been dubbed “Frankenstorm” by NOAA forecaster Jim Cisco.

The actual path of the storm will see it hit Maryland/New Jersey as a hurricane, become a tropical storm over Pennsylvania and then a tropical depression over central New York. As with most tropical storms, the bulk of the rain and damage will be to the North and East of the projected path.

Don’t Freak Out Over a Freakish Storm

As a veteran of tropical storms I can tell you that hurricanes of this size are not to be trifled with even though it usually takes a direct hit to cause major damage. Frankenstorm is different as the combination of storms will cause coastal and inland problems over a large geographic area.

As a result, businesses, schools, governments, hospitals and homes all need to make emergency preparations. The key to success in these preparations is not to panic but to understand the types of dangers and then execute organized and methodically plan to prepare.

Types of Dangers from Frankenstorm

The damage likely to be seen by any facility or person is dependent on their location and proximity to the center of the storm force winds. The types of damage the mid-Atlantic and northeastern states will see include:

  • Flooding in low lying coastal areas as a result of storm surge and tides. Hardest hit areas will include the coast of New Jersey and northern Long Island with expected surges between 6 and 15 feet.
  • Minor storm surge flooding along inlets, rivers and other waterways. Storm surges could be 1-6 feet.
  • Flooding in low lying areas as a result of torrential rain for the next few days.
    Side note: Don’t try and drive your car through a flooded area as it only takes a few inches of water to float a car and a washed out roadway to kill someone.
  • Power outages from down power lines, blown transformers and flooded substations.
    Utilities can be out a few hours or a week in more remote locations.
  • High winds and tornado activity. Tropical storms spawn tornadoes and colliding weather systems spawn tornadoes. A tornado can flatten almost anything in its path. The debris left over includes fallen trees, overturned vehicles, broken glass, smashed signs etc.
  • Roadway washouts and pothole development. This happens when water washes away the base under a road or area of land.
  • Mining slags pond/tailing ponds failing. You should know if you are downhill or in the path of a mining operation.
  • Rooftops and rooftop assets. High winds can cause roof damage to homes or facilities. They can also damage rooftop HVACunits, cable dishes and so on. If a roof is damaged, you need a plan to repair as soon as possible and the subsequent rains can cause major interior damage.
  • Communications blackouts. It is possible that cell towers, television stations and even your cable/internet will be out for some period of time.
  • Agricultural damage. This may include crops, livestock and fertilizer runoff.
  • Tainted groundwater supplies from agriculture, mining and wastewater flooding.

Needless to say that Halloween is going to be missed by many people this year. The good news is you should have plenty of treats handy as you listen to the roar of the winds without trying to be a daredevil.

Minimize Home and Facility Damage with Inspections and Checklists

The important thing to remember is that it is not possible to be prepared for everything that can happen. However, it is possible to minimize the damage to facilities and homes by using checklists and periodic inspections of assets.

For example, each household should have a checklist of survival supplies such as fresh water, batteries, food, medicines and blankets. A checklist and/or schedule should also be made for checking the roof periodically or testing the backup generator. The idea is to make sure you know the condition of your home assets and monitor changes.

For facilities, the concept is the same. Facility managers must know the condition of their assets before, during and after the storm. Inspections play a huge role in this for facility management.

In addition, some facilities and operations are critical to storm/emergency response. Utility companies need to ensure their crews have the equipment they need to respond, hospitals need to have plans backup power plans as well ensure medicines are

For facilities that are shutting down in advance of the storm, facilities managers need to make sure equipment is shut down properly and are not affected by a sudden power outage. Facility management also need to make sure that when equipment is restarted all the safety protocols are in place and INSPECTIONS have been done before turning them back on.

There is no doubt that damage will occur somewhere. There is also no doubt that a fair amount of damage will be self-inflicted by poor preparation. The key is to maintain composure, plan and execute.

We hope all of our friends in the path of Frankenstorm stay safe. Good luck to you all and make sure your cell phones are charged and do not waste the battery (you may be without power for a few days).

Stuart Smith

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