The evil twin hurricanes that slapped America's Gulf Coast have reminded communities throughout the country of the need to be prepared for all emergencies. We seem to have spent the last four years preparing for terrorist attacks while putting the thought of natural disasters aside.

Even though modern meteorological science has given communities several days warning to prepare for the storms, most of them were overwhelmed by the enormity of the wind and rain. Norman was actually preparing for double digit inches of rain from Hurricane Rita.

Fortunately, the expected deluge never materialized. But it got Norman civil emergency planners to thinking about our level of preparedness. Our biggest nemesis seems to be thunderstorms and tornadoes but flooding has also plagued the city in the past. The numerous trains that come through town also pose a potential hazard. A derailment and chemical spill years ago reminded us of the potential for disaster from the rails.

Norman council members and key city staff members discussed the situation this week. They said no warning system exists that could alert residents downstream of the Lake Thunderbird dam of the need to evacuate.

Fire Chief Johnny Vaughn said he hadn't anticipated dealing with an influx of storm evacuees from the South or the East. The Moore Community Center was home to several Hurricane Rita evacuee families over the weekend.

City manager Brad Gambill has recommended that staff members begin to envision some disaster scenarios and what level of response that Norman residents could expect from their city government. Other communities and their residents are likely to face the same exercise. The time to do that is now before our area is caught off guard.

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