Hurricane season officially begun on June 1st. We know all too well how destructive hurricanes can be, from Hurricane Katrina that hit Louisiana in 2005 to Hurricane Harvey that struck the Texas in 2017. They cause damage through a variety of means, including winds that can exceed 155 miles per hour, tornadoes, and flooding. Slow moving hurricanes that hit mountain ranges can also trigger landslides, crushing anything in its path. The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June to November, peaking in mid-August to late October. Since hurricane season recently started, here’s some important tips to keep in mind so you can be prepared.
Start out by building an emergency kit: flashlights, bandages, batteries, water (one gallon per person, per day), non-perishable food, a can-opener, a radio, duct tape, and dust masks. Gas powered generators can help maintain your refrigerator’s temperature, but NEVER use them in an enclosed space, even if there are windows and fans in use.
Next, take note of your neighborhood surroundings, including the locations of dams or levees, your home’s elevation, and whether your home is in a flood prone location. Make plans to secure belongings, should you need to evacuate. Learn the evacuation routes for your community and take note of higher elevation locations. When a storm is expected, cover your windows with 5/8” marine plywood, pre-cut to fit your window frames, or invest in permanent storm shutters. If you reside or work in a high-rise structure, be prepared to take shelter at or below the 10th floor.
Finally, make sure there is a clear family communication plan, should any of your family become separated during the storm. Make plans to contact each other by 2-way radio or meet at a prearranged location.
Listen to the radio or television for updated information. Ensure storm shutters or boards are in place and secure. Secure any loose outdoor objects such as lawn chairs and tables or bring them inside. Turn off your utilities, if instructed, otherwise, set your refrigerator to its coldest setting. In the event the power is knocked out, your refrigerator will keep its contents as long as possible, so long as the doors remain shut. Turn off propane tanks or natural gas lines to prevent leaks and fire hazards. Fill a bathtub with water and use a bucket to refill toilets after flushing them.
Stay indoors and away from windows and glass doors. Keep all interior doors closed and centrally locate yourself within your building at the lowest possible level. Take cover on the floor under a table or other sturdy object if the need arises. Avoid elevators at all costs.
Continue listening to local news or a NOAA weather radio for update information. Stay alert for extended rainfall and possible flooding. In the event you become separated from your family, contact the American Red Cross at 1-800-RED-CROSS or www.safeandwell.org. This would also be a good time to use your family communication plan and follow the instructions previously set up. If you were forced to evacuate, do not return to your home unless officials say it is safe to do so.
If you cannot return home and need shelter, text “SHELTER + (your zip code)” to 43362. Keep away from loose or dangling power lines and only drive if it is absolutely necessary. Be aware of flooded roads, washed out bridges, and fallen objects or other debris. Stay out of your home if you smell gas, flood waters have not receded, or the building was damaged by fire. Use flashlights instead of candles to navigate in the dark. Avoid using tap water until you are certain it isn’t contaminated and check refrigerated foods for spoilage.
There is usually plenty of warning for an impending hurricane, but the need to evacuate can come at a moment’s notice. Always take care to ensure you have an escape plan, and if it only seems slightly risky to stay, it is better to be safe than sorry.