Saving Trees, “Norm” Not the Exception

At the 30 OCT 2017 SDCC monthly meeting, the environmentally astute Tim Solanic said that saving the city’s Live Oaks should be “The Norm, not the exception”.  Is that a voice in the city’s wilderness speaking out?  Destroying a magnificent tree that has taken a century or more to grow to make way for a structure that probably will not last a hundred years seems to point out our short-sightedness at the expense of long term goals for our city.  What do we want for our city and for our future generations?  Think about what you want to show your great grand children and talk about.  We should all want a remarkably durable city of quality with a deep sense of history.

David Williams


At Least, Do the Basics

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria’s Lessons

At Least the BASICS!

As we watched Hurricanes Harvey strike the Houston area, Irma strike Florida, and then watched Maria devastate Puerto Rico, we witnessed the might of CAT4+ hurricanes upon structures and people. These massive storms again remind us of our need for personal and family disaster planning. Consider what we would do if one of these hurricanes had struck our area or city? One of these days, a severe storm will inflict destruction here in our city and area.

Harvey was a “rain event” hitting Houston with continuous monsoon rains for days. Irma led forecasters on a “storm chase”. Unable to accurately predict its track, made forecasting difficult to determine probable impact area and prepare until the last 48 hours.

Maria devastated Puerto Rico and destroyed the island’s obsolete and poorly maintained power grid. Winds and flooding destroyed 90%+ of the island’s homes, structures and transportation infrastructure. Half of the island’s 3 million residents are without clean water two weeks after the storm passed. Cholera and typhus outbreaks are possible.

All three hurricanes, dangerous, and deadly demonstrate that we should be prepared for AT LEAST THE BASICS. Our efforts should do what is required to get us through. For basic planning, see CASPER (Coastal Action Storm Plan and Emergency Response) and Strategic Recovery Plan on SDCC websites: ( Join your neighborhood civic organization. Check out the SDCC website.

Consider the following:

Planning. Do enough to get you and your family through the first week following a storm. Greatest needs are:

  1. Water. Buy a water filter hand pump ($60-$300 at sporting goods stores). Set aside some clean storage containers.
  2. Food. Set aside canned foods that store well and can be eaten without heating.
  3. Shelter. Without power, a house may be uninhabitable. Buy a tent ($75-$300)
  4. Lighting. LED flashlights and lanterns offer much, cost little. Solar powered yard lights work enough. Hand-crank recharged lights work.
  5. The Stay-go discussions. Evacuating out of the area is impossible if attempted late. Staying in place may be impossible. Figure out and discuss your needs and options. Consider medical needs and probable disruptions. How much can you pack in your car? Can you get there in time before the storm starts?
  6. Medical Needs. Does a family member need chemo or dialysis treatments, or use insulin? Do you have a sufficient supply of needed medicines? Does your oxygen generator require electrical power to operate? How long will your oxygen tank last before a refill is required? Is someone medically fragile?
  7.  News and Information A battery powered or hand-cranked radio will be the source of information.
  8. Stay connected with loved ones. Use group text messaging to communicate on smart phones.
  9. Fuel Requirements. Consider how many gallons would be required to operate your emergency power generator for many days. Boats and cars could be a fuel resource, but safely accessing fuel may be difficult.
  10. ATM cash. ATM’s may be down or drained of cash for some time.

Weather Forecasting. Waiting for the forecaster’s “spaghetti” tracks to give enough warning may not leave you enough time to make preparations. Your family timeline should probably not be the same as shown by city and state officials. When state and city officials determine that the threat is eminent, it may be too late for you to react. You know your needs. It is safer for you to be cautious and follow your timeline.

Basic Necessities. Consider the necessities. Buy the basics. Don’t get fancy. Putting in a $9,000 emergency generator does no good if flooding destroys it. Consider your “real” necessities and do what will provide you, your family, and pets with the basics; food, water, and shelter, security and some level of comfort.

Communications. A text message sent from a loved one who has been in peril can ease a parent’s or spouse’s anxiety. With our smart phones and devices, sending a group text to family and friends can be easily accomplished if your phone has some power left even with a weak signal. Recharging devices can present a challenge, but is doable using your car’s outlet, with a solar charger, or connecting to a battery. We just need to have the required connectors.

Flood Insurance. As Hurricane Harvey moved very slowly through the Houston area, it became a “Rain event” causing extensive flood damages. Atypical monsoonal (1+ feet per hour) rainfalls flooded areas that had no history of past flooding. In these flood areas, only 15% had any kind of flood insurance. Flooding occurred when very heavy rainfalls surpassed city’s drainage systems capacities. Obviously, cities cannot afford to build drainage systems for 500-year flood levels. The destruction of a home that is not covered by flood insurance presents many issues, not only for the owner, but also for real estate assessments, city funding, and mortgage banking. Would it be cost efficient and reasonable to spend $2,000 to $5,000 per year for flood insurance for a once in a lifetime (?) event? Perhaps the insurance industry should offer coverage for a much lower risk flood event at a significant discount if more properties were covered? Until available, consider the “Rain event” flood possibility for your home, condo or apartment.

David Williams

CHSCA Emergency Planner

4 OCT 2017


Virginia Beach and Hurricane(s)

Neighborhood Storm Readiness
As the city enters another hurricane season, we are reminded that we are vulnerable to nature’s furry. Most of us would like to place hurricane preparations on our “B” or “C” list of priorities because so many chores and duties take up our time. We may think that we are ready, or can be ready in just a short time, but you may be surprised at how much time it takes to prepare for a major storm. Just consider how long it takes you to pack for a trip or vacation, and that is something that you want to do. I know. I just got back from Brussels, and I am a planner.

Recently, the hurricane predictors estimated how many hurricanes the area might experience in the coming year. In my opinion, I think such a government endeavor misses the mark. It is not how many hurricanes that may impact you, but if one should hit our area. Consider that hurricane Andrew was the first hurricane that year to hit the east coast and that it was a Cat 5. South of Miami was devastated while the residents were obviously aware of a hurricane’s potential.

We can only do so much here in VB, but we can put together a basic plan for ourselves and family. The city cannot provide enough storm shelters to help out more than about 10% of the people in the most endangered flood prone areas. If you plan on evacuating the area, consider that it will be very difficult if done too late (within 36-48 hours or more before the onset of TROPICAL Force Winds).

So, if you cannot evacuate, your area floods and there are no shelters for you and your family, what are your options? Stay where you are or hope to find a friend in a safer area? I think this is the time to to consider such principle questions for your basic planning, not when the weather lady points out a developing tropical depression that is soon to be named a hurricane.

If you do anything for yourself and family, consider what you would need in a basic emergency kit for your home to provide three days of support. There are multiple sites to help with your list making and planning. SDCC will put more information on our website to help with your planning shortly.

Community Rating System- Your $$$’s !!! ???

For all those home owners who have to pay for flood insurance for their property, FEMA, in conjunction with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has a program to help offset the costs of premiums up to 45% annually. Started by FEMA in 1990, the Community Rating System (CRS) program is initiated by the city and managed by the assigned coordinator.The Coordinator’s position is designated by the city’s mayor.

The CRS program has three major goals; (1) reduce flood damage to insurable property; (2) strengthen and support the insurance aspects of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP); and encourage a comprehensive approach to floodplain management. The CRS program is designed to help residents decrease the damage done to their property by storm flooding.

The CRS program consists of 18 public information and floodplain management activities as described in the National Flood Insurance Program Community Rating System Coordinator’s Manual (publication FIA-15/2013). Many of these activities are already being implemented and are ongoing in this city. Some of these activities include; maintaining Elevation Certificates for new construction in the floodplain (required when building or financing a mortgage for a home); providing Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) information service; sending information to residents to those in flood hazard areas concerning hazards and mitigations; providing a community website for residents to find technical information on how to protect buildings from flooding; developing new flood elevation information beyond original FIRM data; and protecting existing floodplain structures by flood proofing, elevation and minor structural improvements.

There is more that this city can reasonably do to improve our ability to obtain Flood Insurance premium rate reductions. To begin with, this city must apply to participate in the CRS program. As of this date, that has not occurred for various reasons according to my discussions and emails with several city officials. Currently, this city is the only city in the Hampton Roads area to not participate. Because some city officials have chosen to not take part in the NFIP Community Rating System program, all residents currently paying Flood Insurance premiums are not eligible for those reduced premiums. It should be noted that the cost of flood insurance premiums are expected to increase significantly in 2016 unless Congress changes the current laws governing FEMA and the NFIP. As this city is currently conducting some of the required activities of the CRS, I would expect that our future insurance premiums could be decreased by at least 15-20% if the city were to participate in the CRS program, like all the other cities in Hampton Roads.

Pedestrians, Crosswalks and Frogger

I think many would agree that motor vehicle regulations have been put in place to address safety issues and to keep us safe. To be effective, these laws must be understood and applied fairly, not arbitrarily or capriciously. Given that broad statement, how should we drivers respond to pedestrians in crosswalks?

If you condense the VDOT Crosswalk statutes to their understandable part, what are we required to do when we come across a pedestrian and a crosswalk? VDOT laws can be found at, specifically for crosswalks; 46.2-924 Drivers to stop for pedestrians.

If the speed limit on the road is 35 MPH or less, you are required to “yield the right of way to any pedestrian crossing…” Drivers entering, crossing, or turning at intersections shall change course, yield, slow down, or stop if necessary to permit pedestrians cross such intersections safely and expeditiously.

So, there you are driving down Pacific Ave down at the oceanfront and somebody steps into the crosswalk. You now slow down and some horn-happy driver behind you lets you know that apparently he is late for some important occasion. Or, even worse, that driver whips around you and then almost nails the pedestrian in the crosswalk. It is getting almost as dangerous for you to stop (getting rear-ended) as it is for the pedestrian if you don’t stop.

It seems like driver-pedestrian encounters are too commonplace and a lose-lose situation with mostly deadly consequences. People from other parts of the world where pedestrian crosswalk laws are rigidly enforced don’t know what applies. Some pedestrians become trapped in the no-man’s land, the center median as they seek temporary refuge. What gives?

How does the city and state (Dillon rules; state makes the laws, not the cities) solve this continuously dangerous situation? ENACT UNDERSTANDABLE LAWS, EDUCATE EVERYONE, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, ENFORCE. As for Frogger, it was a great video game in the mid-70’s where you, as a frog, tried to cross a busy road. This game should never be attempted in real life by us or our fellow drivers and pedestrians.

Miami and Virginia Beach are “are the top two areas of the country most at risk for residential…”

Miami and Virginia Beach are “are the top two areas of the country most at risk for residential…”.

Numbers like $39 billion do not seem to connect with most people in Virginia Beach, myself included. But, I can envision what a CAT2-3 hurricane could do to our community and my house. The thought of such losses can be daunting, but consider what you can do to limit the potential loss. And, that is what we are attempting to do at SDCC. We can’t give you a complete cure all package, but we can at least work to inform you how to limit the damages. We won’t pack your “go kit” for you, but we will tell you what you will need in it.

Shore Drive Area Storm Preparations for Arthur

As Virginia Beach seems to be in the sites of Arthur, consider what precautions that you should take. Storm forecasting is still an art and not totally a science. It is possible to be told that it will be “mostly a rain event” with tropical storm winds of gale force, but storms and their tracks change quickly. Sometimes the last minute shift in course or intensity is to our advantage, sometimes not so. Consider the following preparations:
1. Do not leave your car in an area that floods easily. You can relocate your car to North Great Neck Road to one of the school parking lots. The Great Neck area is high enough so it should not flood.
2. Put some water in containers in your freezer in case power is lost. It helps keep things cold if power should be lost, and will also serve as drinking water if needed.
3. Check your flashlights and battery supply. The new LED type flashlights are 4 times brighter and the batteries last 10 times longer. Great source for light. Know where your flashlights are located.
4. Look at the areas around your house which could flood and make sure nothing valuable or potentially hazardous could get wet (lawn fertilizer, pool chemicals, tools etc.). And don’t forget to bring in all the lawn furniture.
5. If a room floods and the wall board gets wet, the wet wall board should be removed quickly so it will not damage more wall board. If the insulation gets wet remove it also, BUT wear gloves as this stuff itches. If you have to remove a lot of insulation, wear a face mask to prevent breathing the insulation fibers.
6. PERSONAL SAFETY. Don’t drive in water that comes to the bottom of your car’s doors (8 or more inches). You can’t plow through it and the water will come up over your hood. If you get water in your engine (sucked into engine intake), you may have to buy a new engine. When you don’t know how deep the water, go around or go back. Don’t use a BBQ grill in the garage or house as the the carbon-monoxide fumes can kill you and your pets. CO fumes are heavier than CO2, so CO fumes will sink and collect in the lower parts of your house. BE careful. Keep a fire extinguisher handy. If there are down power lines, consider them HOT and LETHAL. Tree branches CAN conduct electricity, as can metal fences, so don’t touch them if your neighborhood has a power outage.
7. Watch out for one another. BE GOOD Neighbors and don’t create wakes on your road. These wakes can do damage to adjacent homes. If you are going away from the area, let your neighbor know in case of damage to your house.
Let us all hope for the best. Our lawns need some rain, but let’s hope the winds are mild and the rains are only refreshing.