What is a Hurricane? – It’s a force that can kill the unprepared
Your Hurricane Survival lesson starts here. A hurricane is an intense, rotating, oceanic low pressure system that can produce winds in excess of 74 miles per hour. The Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas are subject to hurricane damage. In addition, some areas of the Southwest and Pacific coast do experience the hurricane leftovers in the form of flooding and heavy rain from hurricanes that had formed further south.
The hurricane season starts in June and lasts until November.
Hurricanes are capable of causing an immense amount of damage to coastlines and hundreds of miles inland.
Hurricane extras – what comes with it
- Winds from 74mph to more than 155mph
- Storm surges at the coast lines
- Heavy rainfall
- Flying debris
- Landslides/mud slides
- Flash flooding
- Category 1 = 74-95mph
- Category 2 = 96-110mph
- Category 3 = 111-130mph
- Category 4 = 131-155mph
- Category 5 = 156+ mph
MYTH: Only the storm surge is dangerous.
REALITY: A storm surge is essentially water that is being displaced by the sheer force of the hurricane wind that moves in towards land. Though it claims it’s share of casualties, a lot more people perish from flash flooding of rivers because they don’t expect just how much water is being moved.
MYTH: Upper floors of my apartment or building are a better shelter, where I can weather the hurricane.
REALITY: Hurricane winds are stronger higher off the ground, so upper floors are actually exposed to more damaging winds. It’s possible that parts of your roof may be torn off, and if you are on the upper floors, that will expose you to greater danger. Plainly spoken, if you are in a room where the roof has been torn off, the hurricane will pick you up and give you a tour of the neighborhood. Safe landing, however, is not part of the package…
THE KING OF ALL MYTHS: I’m safe in my mobile home.
REALITY: Mobile homes are made of lighter materials than most buildings. They also lack foundations. The fact that they are, in most cases, raised off the ground is not helping matters, since it allows the wind to get underneath them. They get overturned, broken in half, have siding ripped off them, etc. They are not where you want to be during a hurricane, so please, when an evacuation order is issued, go to a shelter.
Preparing for a Hurricane – before it happens
According to the Prepare-Survive-Thrive theory, we must anticipate every contingency and implement methods to counteract said contingency.
For the purposes of this discourse, we will assume that the following will happen as a consequence of the approaching hurricane:
- The electrical grid has ceased functioning
- Water and gas are not available
- Grocery stores are closed and shuttered
- Flash floods are likely
- It’s raining heavily
- The wind is very strong
Watch the Weather / Watch the News
The worst thing that can happen is that the hurricane will take you by surprise. Even though in this day and age, information is literally available at our fingertips, technically it is possible that you might be unaware of the weather forecasts, at least for a time. However, if you live in a hurricane prone area, you absolutely must stay informed. There is a multitude of smart phone apps that will keep you informed in addition to radio and TV.
Knowing your territory
Find out if the area is prone to flooding
Find out if there are man-made structures that can jeopardize your existence if destroyed, such as levees.
Preparing for a hurricane – your house and property
- You should have insurance. This step should be taken care of weeks if not months ahead. Your insurance agent will likely have advice on how to prepare your property for a hurricane in your specific area. Be careful! Often times hurricane insurance may not cover flooding! (take pictures of everything valuable for insurance purposes)
- Board up your windows with pre-made (of course), 5/8″ marine plywood.
- Do all you can to fasten the roof to the frame more securely. Menards or Home Depot will be happy to advise you on what works best.
- Cut off limbs of trees that may break off during a hurricane.
- Secure your garage door so that it doesn’t open even a little, or else you might be in for a lot of grief.
- Remove all things from your yard that are not tied down, as everything that can be picked up by the strong winds will become a missile that can kill or injure.
- If you have a boat, consider placing it in storage.
- If you have the time, building a weather-proof panic room is a good idea.
- Stock the Safe Room where you will hunker down with food and water.
- Place expensive electronics, computers, rare books and valuables on the lowest shelves only if you are intending on them being destroyed.
- Place valuables in zip-lock bags.
- Prepare your “Grab’n’go” bag – this is a bag that contains your most important documents, valuables and money. For exact list of contents, click here.
- Prepare your “Essentials” container, a hurricane kit – this is a bag with emergency supplies that will allow you to survive for a bit.
Preparing for an evacuation
- Prepare your house, as described above
- Find out what the main evacuation routes are
- Secure your home from burglars
- Talk with your family and friends and agree where you will go and with whom
Packing your car before an evacuation
Bottom line – your planning and preparation should make evacuation as easy and stressless as a Sunday trip to the park.
Pack your car early.
Pack as if you were not coming back, because you might not be.
- Pack all important documents
- Cash (since the assumption is that there is no electricity, plan on not being able to use your credit card, bring enough cash for a week or two)
When to evacuate:
When advised by announcements on TV, Radio, local/state police or other officials, or if you feel that you should.
- Plan your route
- Don’t be in the path of the hurricane
- If possible, make it so that you are driving away from it
- Don’t count on the hurricane to move like you expect it to
Evacuate immediately if:
- You live in a motor home. Mobile homes are inherently unstable in hurricane conditions and may end up overturned.
- You are in a high-rise building. They are more affected by hurricane winds.
- Your area is prone to flooding.
- You live near a coast, a river, etc.
When unable to evacuate:
First, answer this question – are you unable or unwilling to evacuate? We all want to be polite and not inconvenience anyone, but when your life is at stake, you should reconsider your views. You should evacuate, even if it means that you will have to share your crazy aunt’s apartment with her 50 cats. It’s better than endangering your life. Find out where the Red Cross shelters are, as they can be an option in case your home is not safe to be in during a hurricane.
If you are not evacuating:
Go to the panic/safe room. If you don’t have one, consider staying in the basement only if it’s safe from flooding. YOUR BASEMENT IS NOT AN OPTION IF YOU LIVE AT LOWER ELEVATIONS OR IF THERE IS A POSSIBLITY OF FLOODING. CHECK WITH YOUR LOCAL MUNICIPALITY TO MAKE SURE. Otherwise, the bathroom is an option, since there are usually windowless and generally equipped with doors. This should shield you from flying debris if your windows give out.
Close doors and windows. The myth of leaving some windows ajar so that pressure is not allowed to build up is just a myth. Close all windows shut and tape up the glass if you can. This will not prevent the glass from breaking, but will prevent most of the glass from flying all over the place if the windows do give out. Shut all blinds and curtains.
Wear shoes and sturdy clothing. You don’t want to have to roam the house in search of clothing when it’s time to leave your safe area. There’s nothing worse than having to walk around barefoot among sharp glass and debris.
Protect yourself against looters and thieves. Another sad factor about hurricanes is the opportunistic looters. Unfortunately, some will try to take advantage of the situation to ear some extra cash. If you have chosen to stay in, you will do well to be armed. If you end up evacuating, secure your valuables so that if you do suffer a break-in, it will not be devastating.
Food. Cook all food that can be cooked, divide it into single meal portions and freeze in plastic bags. That way, when the time comes, all you need to do is pull out as many bags as needed, very quickly and shut the fridge door, thus conserving the cold.
Water. Bottled water is best, but fill your bathtub and sink anyway. It will be good for washing, flushing your toilet, etc. The size of bottles and the amount is up to you, but the rule of thumb is that you should have 5 gallons of water, per day, per person.
Medicine / First Aid Kits. Make sure that you have a couple of First Aid Kits. One for yourself and the other to give to someone who is unprepared. Make sure that all prescription drugs that you and your family will need.
Weapons. I’d love to say that you can trust your neighbors and strangers, but I can’t.
During the hurricane
Remember these simple guidelines:
- Stay Indoors.
- Concrete structures are better than wooden ones as shelter.
- Stay at the lowest level you can.
When to leave your safe room
You will be informed that all is well via the official channels. This is why it’s vital to have a radio with you in your shelter and to have it tuned to your local emergency channels.
When you leave your safe room, you must be very careful, as the landscape may have been rearranged. Watch for broken glass, debris, broken branches falling from buildings, etc. There is no need for you to become a casualty, especially after the fact. When you do choose to survey your surroundings, please make sure that you dress appropriately. The last thing you want is to walk around barefoot or in flip-flops.
Recovering after a Hurricane
Hopefully, your recovery will be a smooth one, since you have taken pictures of everything, you have a charged cell phone, your car, boat and pets are safe and your insurance agent has been aware of the hurricane since before it started and is now ready to receive your filled out forms.