HARLINGEN — Hurricane season is upon us.
Are you ready?
The cadets in the Harlingen High School South Air Force JROTC program have spent the past few weeks filling sandbags to make sure you’re prepared.
Those sandbags are a much-needed item to fend off flooding during bad weather.
As of yesterday, the cadets, working in the school parking lot, had filled about 2,000 bags. The sand, bags and shovels were all provided by the county.
Yesterday morning, Cameron County Commissioner Gus Ruiz was there to pick them up on behalf of the county.
“We are very grateful here at the precinct,” said Ruiz, commissioner of Precinct 4.
“Our constituents are going to be very grateful, too,” he said. “One of the most wanted items during hurricane season are sandbags.”
The sandbags were being taken to the precinct warehouse where they would be stacked “nice and neat.”
“What happens is, during a major event, whenever our constituents need these services, we do one of two things,” Ruiz said. “A lot of the small communities ask for a certain amount of sandbags so we are able to drop off a certain amount. In addition, we have a central distribution point which is our precinct warehouse.”
Dalis Garcia was one of about 85 cadets who helped fill sandbags.
“Once the weather gets bad, people are going to come in,” said Dalis, 17, a cadet second lieutenant who will be a senior next year.
“We’re going to see how happy they are going to be for the fact that we gave them something for their homes,” Dalis said. “Doing community service like this, it pays off at the end, knowing that I’m doing something good for the community.”
The cadets worked to fill sandbags while attending to annual exams and other end-of-school year activities, said Air Force Master Sergeant Armando Tsukano, instructor. He said the students could fill 30 sandbags in a five-minute period.
“This is a program to build citizens of character,” he said. “There’s a lot of character building when you’re filling sandbags. You know that you’re helping your fellow citizens in your community.”
Dr. Bobby Muniz, a school board member, commended the students on their efforts.
“I think the fact that we’re actually taking county personnel and students from HCISD and combining them, it’s a win-win situation,” Muniz said. “The students are learning about teamwork, they’re learning about being efficient, they’re learning about being effective. The students are working together for a certain goal and the goal here is to do the sandbags.”
This is the first year cadets at South have taken on this project, but it won’t be the last.
“We have more sand coming and more bags coming,” Tsukano said. “We’re going to be filling sandbags throughout the summer and we’re going to be doing this year after year.”
Plan & Take Action
Everyone needs to be prepared for the unexpected. Your friends and family may not be together when disaster strikes. How will you find each other? Will you know if your children or parents are safe? You may have to evacuate or be confined to your home. What will you do if water, gas, electricity or phone services are shut off?
Put together a basic disaster supplies kit and consider storage locations for different situations. Help community members do the same.
Basic Disaster Supplies Kit
To assemble your kit, store items in airtight plastic bags and put your entire disaster supplies kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers, such as plastic bins or a duffel bag.
A basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items:
• Water – one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
• Food – at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
• Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
• First aid kit
• Extra batteries
• Whistle to signal for help
• Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
• Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
• Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
• Manual can opener for food
• Local maps
• Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
Develop and document plans for your specific risks.
• Protect yourself and family with a Family Emergency Plan
• Be sure to plan for locations away from home
• Pet owners should have plans to care for their animals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer information on animal health impacts in evacuation shelters.
• Prepare your boat and be aware of marine safety if you are on or near the water.
Be alert for:
• Tornadoes – they are often spawned by hurricanes.
• The calm “eye” of the storm – it may seem like the storm is over, but after the eye passes, the winds will change direction and quickly return to hurricane force.
• Wait until an area is declared safe before returning home.
• Remember that recovering from a disaster is usually a gradual process.