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Be prepared for hurricane season

The Cumberland County area, particularly Fayetteville, has seen its fair share of torrential storms. Every hurricane season, we glue our eyes to the TVs for a week or two and listen intently to our radios to hear predictions of strong wind gusts and heavy rains. With hurricane season in full swing now, and being that it occurs every year, now is a perfect time to make sure you, your family and your property are prepared for a coming storm.

Although hurricanes hit the coast hardest, many locals can still recall the effects of Hurricane Hazel in 1954, Hurricane Fran in September 1996 and, in more recent years, Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Matthew, to name a few. Aside from the damage done by the storms, being close to the Cape Fear River has been a concern in the past because of flooding. When Florence hit, many people were evacuated from their neighborhoods, and the Person Street Bridge had to close temporarily for the first time ever because the waters rose so dangerously high.

Hurricane season started June 1 and continues through early September. Rather than living in fear of a potential storm, citizens can find peace in knowing that there are simple precautions that can keep them and their property safe in the event of a natural disaster.

Firstly, it’s important to establish a communication plan. If a storm hit Fayetteville hard and your family was separated from each other, a contact out of town would be crucial. It is not uncommon for family members to be separated during natural disasters. Plan a spot to meet with loved ones in a more dire instance. Although it would be ideal to keep accessibility in mind, a hurricane can quickly change the convenience of travel, and having a central meeting place might be all you can count on.

Having that spot to meet will not mean much without a plan of how to evacuate and get there. While a GPS device on a cellphone might be helpful usually, in the case that there is no cell coverage, consider keeping an updated map on hand. Don’t wait until there is a crisis to practice your plan. When you have your map and a route in mind, consider driving it and coming up with backup plans for traveling to your designated evacuation location, in case the roads you initially planned on are inaccessible. You’ll also want to make sure your gas tank is full before the storm hits.

Having an escape plan will help keep you and your family safe and together, but don’t forget to take precautions in bracing your home for strong winds and heavy rains.

Check to see if your roof needs repairs. If shingles are damaged or loose, you’re going to be more at risk for property damage. Check your shingles and unclog gutters and downspouts.

Trimming greenery in the areas surrounding structure on the property is a must, and if there are any loose items in the front or backyard, pick them up.

Make sure you and everyone dwelling at your residence know how to turn off the electricity, water and gas.

When possible, secure breakable and heavy objects in cabinets and drawers; additionally secure water heaters and other major appliances.
Installing a smoke detector on each floor of your house is a good precaution year-round — also keep a fire extinguisher on hand.
In addition to the safeguards for your home, here are some tips for a survival kit.

Many people are familiar, when any bad weather sweeps in, with the rush at the grocery store to stock up on bottled water. When the water is cleared from the shelves, the search can feel desperate. One way to accomplish this, even if you have an unsuccessful trip to the store, is to fill up reusable water bottles, tupperware containers or zipper storage bags that are on hand before the storm moves further inland. It’s a good idea to keep a gallon of water per person in the household for three-seven days. Nonperishable foods, including canned goods, snacks, special foods for infants or the elderly and utensils and a can opener are all critical for a survival kit. Although it is better to be overprepared than underprepared, remember that many stores will have to throw out bottled water and food if you buy more than what you’ll need and try to return it after the threat has passed.

A first-aid kit might sound like a no-brainer to some, but be sure to include prescription medications in your supply. Having all medical supplies in the same, easy-to-access place might save you trouble later.

For your furry friends — or nonhuman family members — include food, medications, a leash, cage, a tag with their ID, etc. in the survival kit.
Other items like toiletries, clothing items, blankets and pillows are helpful. Think about what you would use in a typical day or week. Of those items, what would you need most? And, in the case of emergency, which items would you want that you might not need daily? A phone and charger, cash/cards, keys for vehicles/buildings/safety deposit boxes, insurance policies, a driver’s license, Social Security cards and tools might come to mind. Secure paperwork in a waterproof container. A flashlight and radio aside from what is in your car or phone may come in handy.

To keep up with what’s happening locally before, during and after storms, and to find helpful resources, visit https://www.fayettevillenc.gov/city-services/corporate-communications/public-information/storm-information-center for the City of Fayetteville’s storm information center, https://www.co.cumberland.nc.us/emergencyservices/hurricane-florence-information for Cumberland County’s resources and https://www.faypwc.com/storm-central/ for Fayetteville’s Public Works Commission’s resources.

Flags that can fly and those that cannot

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has issued guidance for flags allowed on military installations. It does not explicitly ban the Confederate battle flag but provides criteria for allowable flags.

“Flags are powerful symbols, particularly in the military community for whom flags embody common mission, common histories, and the special, timeless bond of warriors,” Esper wrote in a memo, adding “The flags we fly must accord with the military imperatives of good order and discipline, treating all our people with dignity and respect, and rejecting divisive symbols.”

Esper’s guidance narrows down the types of flags that can be displayed. They include flags or banners of U.S. states, territories and the District of Columbia, flags of the military services, as well as those of generals or admirals and civilian political appointees, plus flags representing the positions of Senior Executive Service employees, the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action flag, flags of countries that are allies or partners of the United States — but only when displayed for official purposes — flags of organizations the U.S. belongs to, including NATO, the United Nations and ceremonial flags representing units or branches.

Drowning at popular local swim club

The grandson of retired Cumberland County Schools Superintendent John Griffin drowned earlier this month while swimming at the Lake Pines Swim Club. Fayetteville Police identified the victim as Taylin Mack, 20, of Fayetteville. He was found underwater near a diving board. CPR was performed until emergency personnel arrived. He was pronounced dead on arrival at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center. Police said Mack had been swimming at the lake with friends.

“I will be conducting a thorough investigation into the events of this case,” said swim club owner Frank Lay on Facebook.

School to begin on time but not in classrooms

The Cumberland County Board of Education accepted the recommendation of Dr. Marvin Connelly Jr., superintendent of Cumberland County Schools and voted unanimously to start the school year with classes meeting online. The traditional school year is scheduled to begin Aug. 17. Under the plan approved by the school board, classes will operate remotely through at least Sept. 25.

Connelly said he had discussed local COVID-19 trends with county health director Jennifer Green. “The number of COVID-19 cases is trending upward at an alarming rate in North Carolina, including Cumberland County and surrounding areas,” he said.

A highly contagious coronavirus causes the disease. Forty-seven people have died in Cumberland County. The plan approved by the school board calls for the schools to transition to a blended learning environment beginning Sept. 28 if conditions locally have improved.

Fayetteville police accountability

City Council may be eager to reform policing in Fayetteville. Still, the head of the Police Accountability Community Task Force, Shaun McMillan, said consideration “might be messy and uncomfortable” for council members. The group is proposing the creation of a Civilian Police Oversight Authority. Demands to increase the power of police oversight has gained traction as protests in North Carolina against police brutality continue since the death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of Minneapolis police. The Raleigh City Council voted unanimously this month to ask the state to grant more power to that city’s new police advisory board, which was formed in February. Fayetteville City Council has agreed to establish a police advisory board, but the Fay PACT wants a Civilian Police Oversight Authority to have jurisdiction over the review board.

“I need to see (current) data,” Councilman Johnny Dawkins said. “It’s disappointing to me, you come in here with demands.” Dawkins has been outspoken in his criticism of anything more than a review board.

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