Anytime a natural disaster occurs — even far away — Oklahomans are notably quick to respond. With Hurricane Florence about to descend upon the East Coast, the countless helpful gestures soon-to-follow could be a godsend … or a nightmare.

Anytime a natural disaster occurs — even far away — Oklahomans are notably quick to respond. With Hurricane Florence about to descend upon the East Coast, the countless helpful gestures soon-to-follow could be a godsend … or a nightmare.

Pottawatomie County/Shawnee Emergency Management Director Don Lynch said though help is going to certainly be needed, it's vital the right kind of help is sent.

“As this event unfolds, people should reach out to a charitable organization in the affected area with whom they or their organization has a connection prior to sending any donations,” he said.

During a disaster event (of the scope and magnitude of Hurricane Florence) the amount of donated goods that the affected area receives ends up becoming the second disaster, he said.

As well-meaning as many people are, some donations are not always as helpful as intended.

“Perishable items are perfectly fine to donate if they have been requested,” he said. “But it is not a time to clean out your closet.”

Lynch said clothing, expired goods, toys, etc., end up showing up on-scene — unannounced — by the semi-truck load.

He said manpower that could be dedicated to other response/recovery activities instead has to be dedicated to managing and sifting through these items to separate what is usable and non-usable.

During any disaster, Lynch said the best donation that can be made is always monetary.

“These donations can be used to purchase the exact items that victims are in need of, such as clothing that fits, medicine, food for people with special dietary needs, etc.,” he said. “These items are purchased locally, which in-turn boosts the already suffering economy of the area and speeds up the recovery process.”

Monetary donations to a reputable charity are always welcomed and especially appreciated, he said.

Staying connected

Another challenge faced during natural disasters is the uncertainty of whether family or friends are safe and well. It can be very difficult to make contact with loved ones when people are displaced, power is out, internet service and phone reception is slow or down.

“People in our area can assist their relatives and friends in the evacuation areas by encouraging them to follow the evacuation orders and procedures issued by the local governments in the affected areas,” he said, “and by assisting with finances and other logistical support — housing, transportation, etc. — for the evacuation.”

Lynch said it also would be a good time to establish a Family Communication Plan with a designated contact outside of the affected area with whom evacuees can provide status reports.

“Especially upon return to the evacuated area when phone, internet and other communications services will be limited for a period of time,” he said.

The American Red Cross Safe and Well system is designed to register those affected by the disaster and allow people to search for friends and family.

Lynch said it can be accessed at www.redcross.org/safeandwell.

Expectations here

“We shouldn’t see any effects in our weather from Hurricane Florence,” Lynch said. “However we could see some effects from Tropical Storm Joyce now developing in the Gulf of Mexico and expected to make landfall in South Texas Friday (the same time Florence is expected to make landfall on the East Coast).”

He said tropical-style rainfall would be the primary effect on Oklahoma's weather.

Watch for updates.