Hurricane Sandy is battering the East Coast this morning, expected to wreak havoc for millions of people from the Mid-Atlantic to northern New England. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who are affected by the storm. Please take care and be safe.

Because of Sandy’s timing this late in October, the confluence of multiple items could make the hurricane a 100-year storm. Specifically, with colder air moving east and south from Canada along with a full moon over the weekend, the storm surge could be far larger than normal and the post-landfall storm could turn to snow and ice.

That means Hurricane Sandy brings three different potential problems: flooding in coastal areas and low-lying places, wind damage, and a strong likelihood of power outages in the Northeast.

Though the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will notionally lead response and recovery efforts, the reality is that the power companies, local governments and community organizations will be the focal point of most response and recovery activities. FEMA can’t turn the lights back on and it doesn’t clear snow — it just pays for some of those items after the fact.

So, if you live anywhere from North Carolina to Maine, here are some tips:

  1. Watch, listen to, or monitor weather service updates on Hurricane Sandy to keep abreast of the latest path and any mandatory evacuations that have been issued.
  2. Make sure you have a good supply of water and dry food that can keep you and your family fed for several days. If your power goes out, minimize opening the refrigerator to keep the cold air inside.
  3. Have a radio and flashlights available with backup batteries so you can follow recovery efforts.
  4. Locate the closest disaster relief center or evacuation site in case you need to leave your home.
  5. Keep your cell phone plugged into the charger and use it wisely if the power goes out.
  6. Fill your car and extra containers with gas, as power outages and debris could limit gas quantities at gas stations after the storm.
  7. Finally, make sure to have all medicine in a go-kit (and a cooler ready for ice in case the power goes out) so you can leave quickly and not put your health at risk.

Being prepared for the worst ensures you don’t become an unnecessary burden to first responders and allows them to focus on vulnerable individuals. The American Red Cross and federal government’s websites offer good advice and information about disasters, including steps you can take to make your own emergency preparedness kit.

Remember also that in times of crisis, faith-based and community organizations are uniquely positioned to provide relief after a disaster. Hurricanes such as Katrina in 2005 and Irene last year reminded Americans about the importance of first responders and others on the ground who offered help and aid.

Heritage’s James Jay Carafano and Jennifer Marshall have written that Americans can best prepare for disasters by building better individual-based programs, a culture of preparedness, and resilient and self-reliant communities:

In most disasters, the first few hours and days are critical, especially the first 72 hours. During this period, immediate life-threatening illness and injury must be addressed, and shelter and water must be provided. … In addition, critical services and infrastructure must be restored or replaced so that disaster assistance can be rushed to the individuals who need it most. Because bringing in outside assistance during this period is difficult, the most effective responses come from those who are closest to scene.

Last year as many in northeastern Pennsylvania faced flooding from Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, private charities and local businesses provided an outpouring of food, furniture and housing repair assistance. While these stories rarely make front-page news, the same thing happened when deadly tornadoes ravaged communities in the Southeast and Missouri last year.

Now, with Sandy battering small towns and big cities along the East Coast, Americans must band together to help family, friends and neighbors once again.

Quick Hits:

  • As the hurricane approached New Jersey for a direct hit, Gov. Chris Christie pleaded with residents in low-lying areas: “Don’t be stupid. Get out.
  • The San Francisco Giants defeated the Detroit Tigers last night to win the World Series in a four-game sweep. It is the team’s second championship in three years.
  • The federal government spent more than $60,000 to support welfare programs for each household that is in poverty, according to Republican staff on the Senate Budget Committee.
  • As the end of the year approaches, more attention is finally being paid to the “fiscal cliff.” Experts now fear the impact could be more devastating for the U.S. economy than originally believed.
  • The Heritage Foundation is closed Monday due to the storm. Our event with Steve Forbes, chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes Media, has been canceled. We hope to reschedule for a future date.