This post is part of a series of posts, called Storm Prep Saturday, that will focus on severe weather prep.
Yes, hurricane season is about two months away, but now is the time to start preparing! If you live in one of the 185 coastal counties from Texas to Maine, you should start thinking now about how to prepare yourself and your home for hurricane season. Growing up in South Florida, I’ve been through my share of storms.
For most of the storms, we stayed at our house. When Hurricane Charley threatened, we made a last minute decision to evacuate. My parents home is only at about a 4 ft elevation, and they were predicting the storm to come up the river right by them, with a possible 10-15 foot storm surge. Our house would have been under water, so we left. My uncle works for the hospital, and was on shift during the storm, so he was able to get family in there. Normally a hospital is NOT a shelter. But my family was able to help out. I stayed in the safe room with a bunch of the kids since I was the oldest, and the adults went to help move patients away from windows. One of the windows broke in a supply hall so they were moving everything to a different area. It was an interesting experience.
As a native Floridian growing up on the coast, hurricanes are a pretty natural thing for me. And honestly, of all the natural disasters, I will take hurricanes because you have ample notice to prep and/or evacuate if necessary. I’ve also heard a lot of people not know what to expect during a hurricane.
Common Misconceptions about Hurricanes
- Water is the biggest threat, not the wind.
- Have you ever seen what moving water can do? It only takes a few inches of moving water to knock a person off their feet, and about a foot of water to move a vehicle.
- Flooding rain doesn’t always happen quickly, but storm surges rise in hours
- If you are in an area that is expected to have a storm surge, leave as soon as possible. A storm surge can go from one inch to one foot in minutes!
- Just because the “eye of the storm” doesn’t directly hit, you still need to be prepared
- They eye of the storm is only a small portion of a hurricane. Depending on the strength and size of a hurricane, damaging winds and floods can reach for dozens of miles outside the center.
- Hurricanes can spawn tornadoes
- Yes, hurricanes are made of strong winds, but they can also form tornadoes, so be prepared same as if you were under a tornado warning.
- More people are killed after the storm that during it
- Use extreme caution after the storm. Don’t walk in any flood waters. Look for any downed power lines and always assume they are live. If a building seems unstable, leave immediately.
- Emergency crews can only be on the road until the sustained wind reaches a certain speed, usually 30-45mph
- Different jurisdictions have different thresholds, but in general, emergency crews are not out during a storm. Once the roads are considered too hazardous for emergency crews to be on the road, they won’t be and you will be on your own.
- The government is not responsible for clearing roads in gated communities and/or private roads
- FEMA doesn’t have to pay the city and/or county back for debris removal from private roads. If you live in a gated community, those roads are usually considered private. Keep this in mind when deciding to stay or evacuate during a hurricane, it will take longer for your roads to be cleared.
- Homes are built to withstand certain wind speeds, know the wind mitigation level of your home before the storm hits
- Having a wind mitigation inspection done on your home could save you money on your home insurance, and also will let you know what your home is built to withstand and where you could make improvements.
- Storms can occur outside of “hurricane season”
- The earliest recorded hurricane occurred on March 7, 1908 and the latest was on December 31, 1954. Even in recent years, Tropical Storm Zeta formed on December 31, 2005, just about 6 hours earlier than the one in 1954.
Biggest Impacts of a Hurricane
- Death or injury to people or animals
- Damage or destruction of buildings or structures
- Disruption of transportation, gas, power, water, communications, and other services
- Coastal flooding from heavy rains and/or storm surge
- Inland flooding from heavy rains
What happens during a hurricane?
During a hurricane, you need to be prepared for almost any type of severe weather. Hurricanes are known for their strong winds, as they are only classified a hurricane once the sustained winds at the center reach 75 mph or higher. But hurricanes also cause torrential rains, lightning, tornadoes, flooding/storm surge, and a drop in barometric pressure.
“Fun” Facts about Hurricanes
- In the years 1851-2010 there were an average of 6 major hurricanes per decade
- 2005 had the highest number of named storms: 28 tropical storms, 15 hurricanes, and 7 major hurricanes with 4 of those reaching category 5
- The longest-lived hurricane was the 3rd storm in 1899 which lasted for 28 days as a tropical storm and 11.5 days as a major hurricane
- Hurricane Wilma, in 2005, had the lowest recorded barometric pressure at 882 mb
- 78 storm names have been retired
Who Should Prepare?
There are 185 coastal counties spanning from Texas around to Maine with 59.2 billion people (as of July 1, 2015) that are in the danger area. This includes both the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the United States. If you live in one of those counties, you should prepare for the potential of a hurricane.
It is estimated that only about 51% of home have an emergency evacuation kit prepared. That’s not enough. Everyone should have an emergency kit ready. Not only those in hurricane-prone areas, but for whatever disaster your area is known for.
From 1851-2015, there have been 290 direct hits to the United States by a hurricane:
Things to think about
- How will you and your family get emergency alerts and/or warnings? What about when the power goes out?
- How will you and your family get to a safe location if you need to evacuate? What will you do if you are separated?
- How will you and your family get in touch with other friends and family? Think about those in the area and out of the area to keep in contact with.
- Where are the closest storm shelters to you? Plan multiple routes in case one is inaccessible. If you have pets, plan for them, not all shelters accept animals.
- Make a plan as a family. Make sure everyone knows the plan. Talk with kids about it all to try to alleviate any fears.