Riding out a hurricane can be an experience, and your level of preparedness can determine if that’s a good or bad experience. Even if you evacuate, knowing that a hurricane is heading towards your home can be a scary thought, and also an experience in itself. I have done both, having grown up along the Florida Gulf Coast. When we decided to stay home, we were as prepared as we could be, and ready for the storm. Being a teenager, I found the experience fun in a way, but I wasn’t the one worried about my home insurance and children and all that worry that comes with being a parent and homeowner.
No matter which you decide, stay or leave, make sure to properly secure and protect your home and property. If you are leaving, make sure you bring all the necessary supplies with you, and if you are staying home, make sure you also grab the supplies needed for that decision.
The last few hours before you start getting the feeder bands of a hurricane are truly the “calm before the storm”. It’s amazing how quiet, clear, and beautiful of a day you can have leading up to a hurricane. I remember the morning before Charley hit wondering if it was really necessary to have cancelled school. By about lunchtime, it was definitely the correct call as the storm hit around 1:45 in the afternoon, only about 20 miles north of where we lived.
During a Hurricane
Many of the recommendations for what to do during a hurricane are similar to those during a tornado, which makes sense since a hurricane can spawn a tornado.
- Stay inside
I know it’s neat to see what’s going on during a hurricane. My mom and I may have ventured out a bit during Hurricane Wilma. But really, it’s not a great idea. You never know when the storm will change and you don’t want to be caught outside.
- Stay away from windows and doors
Similar to a tornado threat, try to be in a central room on the bottom floor (unless you start to have flooding) with no doors or windows. Even when you’ve boarded up, there’s still the potential for a projectile to come through a door or window.
- Keep the news on constantly
While you have power, keep one tv on with the local news or Weather Channel constantly. Once you lose power, make sure to listen on the radio.
- Unplug anything you can
If your power surges, you don’t want it to ruin any of your electronics. Also, if there is any flooding at all, it’s better that your electronics are not plugged in with the potential to get wet.
- Don’t be fooled by the eye
If you are getting directly hit by the storm, the eye may pass over your area. The eye wall has the strongest winds of the entire system, but also has the calm in the center. Don’t be fooled into thinking the storm has passed, it will start up again in minutes.
- Listen for instructions from utility companies
It’s rare, but sometimes you will hear instructions to shut off your utilities. Usually this happens if there is flooding expected, you are told to shut off the electric to your home to try to prevent damage. Just know if you are instructed to turn off any natural gas from the source, you will have to have a technician come turn it back on.
- Turn off major appliances in a power outage
During a power outage, there are sometimes surges in the electricity. This can ruin your major appliances such as your air conditioner, water heater, clothes dryer, etc. Turn off or unplug as much as you can.
- Don’t take a bath/shower
Yes, it’s usually a lot of wind and rain during a hurricane, but there is the potential for lightning as well. Follow typical lightning safety and stay out of the bath and shower.
- Stay awake and alert
Don’t fall asleep during the storm. Things can change in an instant, so you need to be awake and alert. If the storm hits overnight, take it in shifts with another adult to keep watch on the news while the other is sleeping.
- Know how to manually open garage door if needed
In the event that you need to quickly evacuate your home, make sure you know how to manually open the garage door. If the power is out, your garage door opener won’t work.
After a Hurricane
Once a hurricane passes, once you are sure it is completely through you area (not just the eye of the storm), the cleanup and recovery begins. Before you jump into it, there are a few things you need to make sure you know and do.
- If you evacuated, don’t return until the official all-clear is given
Until the authorities give an all-clear on an area, it’s best not to try to enter. Usually the all-clear is given once all major roadways are considered safe and any downed trees and power lines are taken care of.
- Inspect your home carefully before entering
Walk around the outside before you enter your home. Check for any signs of structural damage. Look for any down power lines or gas leaks that could pose a harm to you and your family.
- Keep watching/listening to the news
Depending on the severity of the storm, keep watching the news for at least a few days for any updates on damaged areas, school closures, road closures, etc.
- Beware of misplaced animals in and around your home
When the weather gets bad, animals will seek any shelter they can find. If there is an opening, this could mean your home. Keep an eye open for animals, rodents, and snakes that may be in or around your home.
- If your home seems unstable, leave immediately
Any sign of structural damage could compromise the safety of your entire home. Do not enter if you are unsure if the home will hold up.
- Take extensive photos of any and all damage to your property
Once you know it is safe to enter your home, before you move or do anything, take extensive photos of your home. You will need these for insurance purposes.
- Avoid contact with floodwater
Floodwater can have so many things in it, including harmful animals, bacteria, waste, and downed power lines among other dangers. Do whatever you can to stay out of floodwaters.
- Drive only when necessary
If roads are flooded, you shouldn’t be driving on them because it’s hard to know how deep the water is. Roads can also be unstable if they’ve been washed away underneath. Try to stay off the roads until the city has deemed them safe.
- Assume all electric lines are live
Always assume any electric lines are live. Electricity travels through water, so stay out of any water that has power lines in it. Stay away from trees or buildings with down power lines on them.
- Report any damages to proper authority
If you see a power line down, notice a gas leak, trees blocking roads, etc. make sure to report these to the proper authority so they can assess the damage and make any necessary repairs.
- Stay alert for more flooding
Just because a hurricane has passed, doesn’t mean all the flooding has gone. Waters can still rise with a rising tide, or with the smallest amount of rainfall. Water will also flow downstream and can overrun riverbanks as it goes.
- Check on any neighbors
Once you know your family and home are safe, check on any of your neighbors who may need some assistance.
- Make temporary repairs
Temporary repairs, such as tarping your roof, may be necessary to make your home livable until you can get a permanent repair made. Use caution when making any repairs, and don’t overexert yourself either.
- NEVER use your generator indoors
Practice safety when using a generator. It should never be used in the home or even in the garage. Generators should be placed at least 20 feet away from any doors and windows. They emit carbon dioxide which is a deadly gas that is colorless and odorless so extremely hard to detect.
- During repairs, make your home stronger
Once you start making permanent repairs to your home, do what you can at that time to make your home stronger and more ready for the next potential hurricane.
- Get a professional to repair when needed
Some things will require a professional to be repaired, so make sure you call one in. Before you do, though, make sure to make a claim with your insurance and talk to them because they may have certain companies that you need to use to have it covered.
Whatever you do, make sure to keep safety your number one priority during and after a hurricane. Things can literally change in seconds, hope for the best and prepare for the worst. And don’t forget, everyone you meet in your area will have been impacted in some way from the storm, whether directly or indirectly, so please exercise patience and acceptance when you are recovering from a hurricane.