Disaster, flood preparedness top priority at Wilkes


Courtesy of the Wilkes Archives

Wilkes University in 1972 after Hurricane Agnes, which brought historic flooding to the area, leading to more than $2.8 billions in damage.

Cabrini Rudnicki, News Editor

In the past month, the United States has had a historic opening hurricane season with the destructive appearances of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. The significant damage and costs have led many people to question the safety plans of their own area, as well as the future of the world’s climate.

According to NBC News, 70 people died in the aftermath of Harvey, and it has cost the government more than any past national disaster except for 2005’s infamous Hurricane Katrina. As stated by CNN, Hurricane Irma caused the evacuation of more than 50 million U.S. citizens, and was called the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic ever recorded by the National Hurricane Service.

The city of Wilkes-Barre has previously suffered similar destructive damage in 1972 with Hurricane Agnes, which according to the National Hurricane Center, was the costliest hurricane  in United States history at the time.

The Times Leader reported in a retrospective 2009 article that the flooding caused $2.8 billion in damage, and led to more than 68,000 homes and 3,000 businesses being destroyed.

The combination of current events and past trauma has caused students of Wilkes University to look at the hurricane season with weariness.

Justin Kraynack, Chief Risk and Compliance Officer, discussed the university’s emergency preparedness for natural disasters.

“We have plans in the Emergency Preparedness Desk Reference, a handbook given to students and faculty throughout campus,” he explained.

The pamphlet can be found at the Public Safety building, freely available to any interested students.

In the reference book, the University Administration outlines such things as flooding safety. For example, the book asks student and faculty to call Facilities Management, close doors and windows to prevent further flooding and stay away from flooded area until staff electricians have deactivated all electrical circuits.

The book features this type of instruction and reference for all kinds of emergencies.

“We tend to get the aftereffects of the hurricane, like high winds, tornados, and flooding,” said Kraynack. “We check the projected data of the National Hurricane Service. Generally, we see them 10 to 15 days away, so we have time to monitor and plan in advance.”

Timothy Lavoie, a freshman medical laboratory science major, was initially frightened by the current events, but also viewed it as scientific proof of a much discussed, controversial topic in the political climate.

“I think it confirms that global warming actually exists.”

LTC Mark A. Kaster, an earth and environmental science professor, viewed it instead as evidence of the shifting climate.

“You can connect the dots and assume there is a correlation between the amount of storms and climate change, but I can’t say Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, or Jose are due to global warming because they are naturally occurring,” Kaster said.

“It took Mother Nature hundreds of millions of years to convert sunlight coming in,” said Kaster. “We are burning through that stored sunlight in the matter of a few decades. It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to realize that we are contributing to that curve [of data showing climate change].”