Schools Begin Preparations for Hurricane Isabel

September 15, 2003
All principals of the Montgomery County Public Schools were provided an update today [Monday, September 15] in preparation for the potential landfall of Hurricane Isabel somewhere along the east coast of the United States later this week.

The advancing hurricane is being monitored for any potential impact on the school system. This Friday, September 19, is a scheduled professional day for teachers and other staff. All schools are scheduled to be closed that day for students (except for students in the College Institute program with Montgomery College).

"Although weather predictions are never absolutely certain, it is prudent to take several preliminary steps in order to ensure that emergency preparedness measures are in place, tested, and available to you in the event that your local school crisis plan has to be implemented," said Larry A. Bowers, chief operating officer, in a memorandum to principals. "In addition, there are safety steps for your facility that could minimize potential damage."

Schools already have extensive school emergency plans and other provisions in the event of a crisis, but certain aspects of preparing for a potential hurricane were emphasized today. Principals were urged to take the following steps with their staff:

1. Start and run the emergency generator for a period of time to ensure that the appropriate transfer load occurs. Report any problems to the maintenance depot.

2. Clean all roofs, gutters, and drains; and remove any debris that may clog the drains.

3. Remove and store all outside objects that may be blown away (e.g., trash cans).

4. Check all wet vacuums and cleaning equipment. Notify the plant operations supervisor if this equipment is not functioning.

5. Check all flashlights and portable radios and make sure the batteries are operational.

6. Ensure that all cell phones are properly charged.

7. Ensure that the NOAA emergency radio is operational and located properly for monitoring.

8. Review local crisis plans with appropriate staff.

9. Be alert to weather updates and emergency announcements.

Information is being monitored from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Montgomery County Emergency Management Center at the following Internet sites identified below, as well as the site for Montgomery County government at

Summary Information About Hurricanes

A hurricane is a tropical storm with winds that have reached a constant speed of 74 miles per hour or higher. The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June to November with the peak season from mid-August to late October. Hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland. Winds can exceed 155 miles per hour (Hurricane Isabel has reached 155 mile per hour sustained winds to date). Hurricanes and tropical storms also can spawn tornadoes and microbursts, create surge along the coast, and cause extensive damage due to inland flooding from trapped water. Tornadoes most often occur in thunderstorms embedded in rain bands well away from the center of the hurricane, however they also occur near the eye-wall. A storm surge is a huge dome of water pushed on-shore by hurricane and tropical storm winds. Storm surges can reach 25 feet high and be 50-100 miles wide.

Hurricane Watch vs. Hurricane Warning

It is important to know the difference between hurricane watches and warnings. A hurricane watch is an announcement that a hurricane could pose a possible threat to a specified coastal area within 36 hours. A watch is used to inform the public and marine interests of the storm's location, intensity, and movement. A hurricane warning is an announcement that sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher associated with a hurricane are expected in a specified coastal area within 24 hours or less. A hurricane warning can remain in effect when dangerously high water or a combination of dangerously high water and exceptionally high waves continue, even though winds may be less than hurricane force. A warning is used to inform the public and marine interests of the storm's location, intensity, and movement for a distance of approximately 300 miles.

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