By BILL TUCKER
"Get out of the house! Now!"
Joe Mailhot yelled to his wife and son to leave the home he had built with his own hands. The water was coming - and it was coming quickly. The Mailhots, of Rochester, Vt., scrambled out as floodwaters from Tropical Storm Irene took over their home, collapsing portions of it and shifting the foundation significantly. The family was able to escape to higher ground just in time, making their way through the dangerous water levels to reach safety.
The water well that the couple had recently installed was a loss, and their home will need some major work to become livable again.
Why prepare? The Mailhots experience has, unfortunately, been lived by residents of southwestern New York many times in just the past few years. From Silver Creek to Gowanda, Sunset Bay to Olean, we have experienced significant storm and ice-jam flooding in our area.
If the Mailhots had prepared themselves for a flood, they could have salvaged more of their belongings. This is a lesson for all of us; prepare yourself and your family for that middle of the night evacuation. Have a game plan for getting out. Organize your essential survival items and documents into an easy-to-grab kit. And know how you will communicate or meet up with loved ones after you are safe.
On Wednesday, Sept. 18 from 5 to 6 p.m., the American Red Cross of Southwestern New York will host open house events in its Olean, Wellsville, and Jamestown offices to highlight September as "National Preparedness Month." We will provide you with valuable information on how to prepare and thank our local communities for all they do to continue to improve our readiness. Please attend and learn more about preparedness.
The Mailhots don't intend to leave their house. The American Red Cross was able to step in and provide help, including health checks and referrals to other Vermont relief agencies that could offer assistance.
If the family had prepared themselves for a flood, they could have salvaged more of their belongings. That is a lesson we here in southwestern New York can learn from.
Bill Tucker is the executive director of the American Red Cross of Southwestern New York.