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Three Practical Tips to Prepare for Hurricane Joaquin (or Any Storm for That Matter)

Three Practical Tips to Prepare for Hurricane Joaquin (or Any Storm for That Matter)

"Prepare and not panic"

With Hurricane Joaquin still classified as an extremely dangerous Category 4 storm, will the collective East Coast freakout in the form of cleaning out the water and bread aisles begin? Will they take seriously the warnings from officials and emergency management that not just the hurricane, but an already drenching rain storm, are events to take seriously?

While some preparation for Joaquin — or any storm situation really — might seem excessive and might even be for naught if the weather takes a turn for the better, the old adage of "better safe the sorry" rings true. Or perhaps New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's tweet after declaring a state of emergency Thursday, says it best: "We need you to prepare and not panic."

The storm was predicted to turn to the north and northwest toward the United States on Friday, but forecasters were still trying to determine how it might affect the East Coast, which has already been suffering flooding and heavy rains from separate storms.

A boat passes Pier A Park on the Hudson River with the New York skyline in the background, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015, in Hoboken, N.J. Officials are taking precautions for the rest of the week as forecasters closely follow Hurricane Joaquin. (AP/Julio Cortez)

Tip #1 — Can't See the Bottom? Don't Walk in It.

From South Carolina all the way up to Maryland, many inches of rain have fallen and more are predicted. Couple that with more precipitation anticipated from a hurricane and you have what Capt. Pat Schoeffel with the Richmond Police Department in Virginia is worried about: dangerous flooding.

Schoefell told TheBlaze video producer Michael Mason that his first-ever 24-hour shift occurred in 2004 as Hurricane Gaston roared through the area.

"Never slept," he said.

"Water was rising getting people trapped," Schoeffel explained, saying it was just "too much rain in a little amount of time."

Like many emergency responders, Schoeffel warned people not to walk or drive through high water.

Not only can this water be a force stronger than you ever imagined with the potential to sweep you off your feet, there's another danger.

"The water raises some of the manhole covers. You can't see it because the water is over top of it, and if you're walking along, you step in a manhole uncovered, you're gone down underneath the street," he said.

If the area is flooded, water draining down that manhole could also draw you down "like a vacuum," he said.

Tip #2 — Ditch the Candles

While responding to emergencies during Hurricane Gaston, Schoeffel said some of them included fires that started with candles.

"When [residents] lose power, they just start using candles," he said. Instead, people should use flashlights and battery-powered items.

Watch TheBlaze interview with Schoeffel for safety tips:

Tip #3 — Hit Up the Grocery Store (Here's What You Really Need)

A trip to my local Giant Food grocery store revealed that, despite a couple of days of foreboding rain, it still hadn't quite sunk in for the D.C. metro area that a storm of literal hurricane proportions could be coming on top of recent rain. To put how people react to storms in the D.C. area into perspective, a forecast — just the forecast — of 2 inches of snow might preemptively close schools the night before and cause some aisles of the grocery store to be completely wiped out. And I know D.C. is not alone in this behavior.

Shelves are seen at a D'Agastinos grocery store, Aug. 27, 2011, in New York during Hurricane Irene. (AP/Karly Domb Sadof)

As of late Thursday afternoon, there was a significant but not devastating dent in the water and bread aisles.

Giant spokesman Jamie Miller, based in Landover, Maryland, understands how this area reacts to storms and he told TheBlaze the grocer is more than prepared to handle these situation where demand might be higher for specific items: water, milk, bread, batteries and toilet paper.

Any other more obscure, non-essential items that see an uptick in sales ahead of storms? Miller said comfort foods seem to be something people turn to as well.

"I think it's important to prepare for the worst case situation," he said, noting that the company too has plans in place should stores themselves lose power. "We really feel it's important to keep our stores up and running in situations like this."

Now the ultimate question: Will Joaquin really make landfall in the U.S.? Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and hurricane center spokesman, told the AP it's a "distinct possibility."

The U.S. National Hurricane Center's long-term forecast showed the storm, with winds reaching 130 mph now, might near the U.S. East Coast along North Carolina and Virginia on Sunday or Monday.

The storm was expected to turn north later Friday as it moves away from the Bahamas overnight, with some weakening expected on Saturday. The National Hurricane Center on Friday had the storm tracking farther away from the U.S. East Coast than originally predicted.

Image source: NOAA

Joaquin has been battering islands including San Salvador, Cat Island and Rum Cay and unleashed severe flooding on others, including Acklins, where some of the roughly 565 residents were trapped in their homes. Officials also were investigating reports that eight to 10 people were caught by the storm on the normally uninhabited Samana Cays.

The Hurricane Center said parts of the Bahamas could see storm surge raising sea levels 6 to 12 feet above normal, with 12 to 18 inches of rain falling in the central Bahamas.

Even if Joaquin moves further out to sea, forecasters still warned that coastal areas can still get walloped with rain and flooding associated with the hurricane even if it is 1,000 miles away. And because Joaquin can keep funneling tropical moisture into storm No. 1 from afar, even an out-to-sea Joaquin can worsen flooding.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency told TheBlaze in a statement that it had been increasing support to its D.C.-based Watch Center and was deploying or preparing to deploy teams and lead initiatives in potentially affected states.

Check out FEMA's specific tips for hurricane preparedness.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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