Lessons from Sandy shared at conference

Large waves battering the Narragansett coastline during Hurricane Sandy.

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — As the storm dubbed Erica by the World Meteorological Organization churns toward the southeastern United States, Rhode Island emergency responders are meeting to get ready for the storm season.

This year, as we enter hurricane season, the Pinpoint Weather Team has already tracked two storms over the Atlantic.

When Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, the entire state of Rhode Island responded. “We had a $3 million disaster,” said Westerly Town Manager Amy Grzybowski at the state’s annual preparedness conference, wrapping up Wednesday at the Community College of Rhode Island in Warwick.

“We evacuated the coast. We were fortunate in the sense that it happened after tourist season,” continued Grzybowski.

Besides holding the post of town manager, Grzybowski is also the president of the Rhode Island Association of Emergency Managers. She’s among the managers sharing their experience at the conference as they prepare for another hurricane season.

Sandy presented a challenge that reshaped Westerly’s response plan.

“We have established a re-entry plan, so not only do we know how to evacuate residents, but we know how to bring them back after the storm,” said Grzybowski. “After Sandy we had three to four feet of sand in the roads… We couldn’t bring people back until we cleared that,” she said. They also had to figure out when the safest time would be to make those moves.

On your own, you also have an individual responsibility, said Rhode Island’s Emergency Management Agency director Peter Gaynor on Wednesday. You should have an emergency kit with food, flashlights, medical records and medication — so you’re self-sufficient for the first 72 hours after an emergency.

Even though the state and county have plans, you should have your own as well, including evacuation routes and meeting points. “Make sure that not only you know the plan, but your family knows the plan, should you not be able to communicate with them,” said Gaynor.

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