Complete Guide to Hurricanes
How to Identify Hurricane Weather
If you live in an area that is known to have hurricane weather, then you must be able to understand and respond appropriately to any alerts that are issued for your location. Listen to NOAA Weather Radio to get updates as events and weather patterns are updated.
Warnings vs. Watches
A warning given by your local or a national weather alert station means that hurricane weather is expected to occur. A watch means that hurricane weather is possible within a specific time frame though not necessarily anticipated to occur. Warnings are intended to make people in the area aware that hurricane weather has the potential to arrive within a given window of time. If one is issued, you will want to keep a close eye on weather news to see if it gets upgraded to a warning.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration define how to react to warnings and watches in the following way. “During a hurricane warning, complete storm preparations and immediately leave the threatened area if directed by local officials. During a hurricane watch, prepare your home and review your plan for evacuation in case a hurricane or tropical storm warning is issued. Listen closely to instructions from local officials.”
Hurricane Preparedness for Your Home and Property
You should have some forewarning when hurricane weather is anticipated so that you can take care of preparing your property for the incoming storm without having to wait until the last second.
Home and Outbuildings
There are a few things you can do proactively that will keep your home better prepared for inclement weather. For example:
- Keeping tree limbs and overhangs trimmed
- Install sturdier windows and doors
- Install plywood shutters
- Routinely check caulking around windows and doors
- Regularly check the roof for damage
- Routinely check sump pump and generator to ensure they are in working order
Once you know that hurricane weather is on the way, you will want to prepare your house and outbuildings, do this by boarding up or closing shutters over windows, securing any loose fencing, and all doors that may come loose during high winds.
Bring indoors any loose objects that could be carried away by a heavy wind (trash cans, bikes, tables, chairs, trampoline, etc.). Clear gutters so that increased water will be able to drain away safely.
In your home, you will want to turn your fridge and freezer up to the highest settings and try to keep them closed so that when or if the power goes out, the food will remain cold longer. Make sure your smaller appliances are all unplugged and turn off your propane tank to prevent any leaks.
Once you know bad weather is likely, fill up your car with fuel and make sure that you have some supplies inside of it that you might need if you get cut off from your home for a few days. Keep copies of all of your car information on hand and in a safe place. Those documents in your car should be stored in waterproof bags. For insurance purposes, it is best to get dated pictures of your vehicle before the stormy weather arrives.
Drive only when and as far as necessary and never attempt to drive through flooded streets or washed-out bridges. If you intend to leave your car at your home for a hurricane, then make sure it is parked in a safe place such as a garage or beside a building.
Pets and Other Animals
The Humane Society recommends whenever possible to evacuate animals from dangerous weather zones well before the hurricane is set to appear. Since that is not always feasible, they do offer some other suggestions.
If you have farm animals and your pasture area fits the following criteria, then it may be safer to leave them outside of an enclosure where they can freely move to avoid debris and the worst of the weather.
- Devoid of possible debris
- Not fenced in with barbed wire
- Larger than one acre
- Has no imported trees that may easily uproot
- Does not have nearby power lines
Follow the advice given by your local agricultural county department for specific events. If you have indoor pets like birds, dogs, and cats and are unable to evacuate them, then make sure they have access to plenty of food and water since you may not be able to return right away. Leaving up to a week’s worth of food and water is best.
Every family should have an emergency plan that all members understand and can follow in case of emergencies. You should be aware of your local storm shelters.
Storm prone areas, especially near the coasts, have their evacuation zones that are used when mandatory evacuations are determined necessary. You can find your specific evacuation zone by Googling “[your state name] evacuation zone,” and then when you open up your state’s webpage, you will be able to search by area code or street address to find the closest one to your home. You should be aware of these and have a hard copy in case of internet failure at the time of the evacuation.
Where to Meet if Separated
If you have a family member with a particular medical need, you can register them with your local community response team. Make sure everyone in your family knows the locations of the nearest shelters and the safest routes to reach them. It is best to have a plan outlined for where to meet should your family be separated at the time of the hurricane.
How to Store Important Information
Insurance paperwork, birth certificates, marriage license, and social security cards, to name a few, are some of the things you want to be able to have stored safely. It is best to have copies in a different location as well as securely stored in a waterproof, transportable safe in your home. That way, if you need to evacuate, you can simply take the safe with you. There are many to choose from, but fire and waterproof ones are best.
You should have supplies both at your home and in backpacks or bags in your vehicle so that if you get stuck at home or on the road, you will be prepared. The Red Cross recommends having the following list of items. You can also purchase hurricane kits that include these items.
- Enough water for three days with a gallon of water per day, per person
- Non-perishable, easily prepared food for three days
- Flashlight (extra batteries)
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
- (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
- Extra batteries of various sizes including external phone batteries
- First aid kit, emergency blanket, and a week’s supply of any medication along with backups of medical items (hearing aids, glasses, cane, syringes, etc.)
- A multi-purpose tool
- Travel personal hygiene items
- Copies of relevant documents and emergency contact information carried in a waterproof bag or box
- Cell phones and chargers
- Cash money
- Hardcopy map(s) of the area, nearby shelters, and evacuation routes
- Baby or pet supplies as needed
- Extra set of car and house keys
- Camera for photographing damages
- Extra clothes – including rainproof clothing
How to Stay Safe During a Hurricane
Preparedness is key to staying safe during any natural disaster. If you already know what to do, where to go, and what channel to watch for updates, then there are fewer changes, of unexpected things going wrong. There is no routine hurricane so, plan with an abundance of caution.
Charge all cell phones and, when possible, have some exterior cell phone batteries available for a longer life in case the power ends up going out for long periods. Unplug devices around your home and move your electronics to high areas in your home in case of flooding. Turn off power breakers if this is suggested by your local emergency channels.
Stay within interior rooms and away from windows and glass and go to the highest level of the structure in case of flash flooding. Have several sources of light. A hand-crank radio is ideal so that you can make sure to keep getting updates if your power goes out, your phone dies, or the internet goes down.
If you have a generator, do not run it inside the home and do not wire it directly into the home wires without a transfer switch. Whenever possible make sure that outlets have GFCIs, especially for lower outlets that may be introduced to water during any flooding.
On the Road
Do not drive through flooded areas even if it looks like you could easily cross. Flash flooding could overtake you quickly. Keep a close eye for washouts and downed regions of the road, follow all emergency signs. It has been shown that natural disasters increase the use of substances to cope so, be aware of other drivers and keep on the lookout for drunk drivers. Practice safe, defensive driving, and always follow the laws of the road. During a hurricane head towards higher ground to avoid flooding.
Your GPS or phone may not work, so make sure you have paper copy maps of the area in your car. Have supplies on hand and be aware that the roads may have higher than normal traffic as many other people may have been caught on the road as well.
Finding a Shelter
Your local emergency response website will have information on shelters in your area. You will want to become familiar with where they are and multiple safe routes to get to them. Printing off hard copies of these locations for emergencies is recommended. Listen to your local emergency channels and follow any advice.
Know Where to Look for Accurate Update Information
The internet and phones may be down, so do not rely on online news alone. When it is available, then social media can usually give you up to the moment updates on where the storm is hitting and how bad it is at that time.
Listen to local emergency alerts on your radio and phone. They will often have updates on how bad the weather conditions are and suggestions on how to stay safe.
Having a AM/FM radio is very import have with extra batteries. This will be a great way to get breaking information even during a power outage. Listen to NOAA and having a Weather Radio to get accurate information for your area.
Returning Home After a Hurricane
How to Know When it is Safe
Phone services are often overburdened during and right after a natural disaster, so if you want to check up on friends and family, then try using social media or texting. Follow the directions of your local emergency response teams. Stay away from an area that is deemed unsafe for as long as needed. It can be tempting just to drive quickly to get a look at your property, but there could be many serious issues that you are unaware of such as gas leaks, unstable roads, etc. so follow the instructions given by officials.
How to Safely Check Any Wreckage
Always have someone with you so that if you are injured, someone will be able to call for help. You will want to document any damage to your property but it is vital to do so in a safe manner, which means you do not want to enter any structure until it has been deemed sound. Be prepared for it to take some time to be able to reach and inspect the full extent of the damage.
Do not walk in water as there might be power surges in it or dangerous debris. Always wear protective gear and do not touch anything electric if it is wet or you are touching the water. Turn off power breakers whenever possible.
You will want to dry out the buildings as quickly as possible.
- Remove any saturated, highly absorbent materials such as mattresses and furniture
- Open doors and windows when you are present to get airflow through the whole building
- Tear out structural items (flooring, walling, etc.) that has been thoroughly water damaged though this is easiest handled by a professional
- Clean and disinfect everything.
It is not only important to be prepared for any natural. disaster but understanding what they are will help you to be ready with the knowledge to make the best choices. Protecting yourself, family and friends is priority #1