Warwick prepares for Jose

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Fire Chief James McLaughlin has no desire to meet Jose, but he’s ready to greet the tropical storm forecast to arrive in Rhode Island today.

“In preparation for the storm, the fire department needs to make sure all pumps, chainsaws, fuel supplies and generators are up and running,” said McLaughlin, who is also the city’s emergency management director, on Monday morning.

The department expects the storm to have heavy rain and 50-60 mph winds, and in preparation plan to remove one of their boats, normally docked at Cole Farm, from the water. Two others are being left in the water.

To track the storm and stay fully prepared, the fire department uses Web EOC, Hurrevac, and the local news to monitor the storm and its surges. To keep citizens up to date on this information, the department sends out Code Red alerts, updates its Twitter and Facebook pages, and advises citizens to keep up to date with the mayor’s communications page as well.

“The key for any storm preparedness is communication,” said McLaughlin. “Good communication lessens a lot of the chaos during a storm.”

An important development in the city’s storm preparation this year is a new storm shelter, if needed. The shelter is now Pilgrim High School, which, according to the Chief, was checked by the Red Cross and chosen because of its full kitchen and two diesel generators, as well as its proximity to the senior center. It is also further away from the coast than Vets, which has been the preferred shelter for decades. The senior center and the library are warming and cooling centers in the event of prolonged power outages, while Thayer Arena will be used as a shelter for animals.

The National Weather Service of New England predicts a Tuesday afternoon arrival for the powerful storm.

“By Tuesday afternoon there will be rain and northeast winds of about 30 mph in the Warwick area,” said Bob Thompson, spokesperson for the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass. “The wind and rains will both pick up overnight into Wednesday, with gusts reaching 45 mph and 2-4 inches of rain possible over the two-day stretch.”

Jim Peters, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, is preparing for 50-60 mph winds in the area and said that T.F. Green Airport is the only major airport within the forecast cone of the storm with such strong winds.

Thompson also said that the coastline will be hit with stronger winds and there will be heavy surf as well as possible erosion on beaches. With those gusty winds, power outages are possible, even in the Warwick area.

“The storm looks like it’s going to hang around offshore and Warwick will be on the far western fringe of the rain shield, so the area should have some rain into Friday, although the brunt of the rain will be Tuesday into Wednesday,” said Thompson.

The Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency put out a press release warning Rhode Islanders about the storm.

“Even though Jose is not forecasted to make landfall in Rhode Island, we will still feel the effects of the storm,” said Director Peter Gaynor. “I urge Rhode Islanders to proactively take steps to ensure that their family and property are protected against the possibility of high winds in the area. Ensure that loose yard equipment is secured, check boat moorings, and safeguard against loose tree branches hanging over your property.”

RIEMA also warns citizens from going in the water at all during the storm due to elevated surf and strong riptides.

Reports from weather services around New England have varied in just how strong the storm will be, ranging from 19 mph winds, according the Weather Channel, all the way up to 60 mph according to the FAA. Staying vigilant while remembering not to overreact may be the best approach for Rhode Islanders to take.

Even if the storm isn’t as strong as some predict, Jose is sure to bring heavy rain and strong winds during mid-week, and Warwick Fire Chief McLaughlin believes that his department is doing its best to be prepared.

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