Tag Archives: hurricanes

  • Hurricane Preparedness Mini-Series - Part Four: Under a Hurricane Warning

    Summer hurricane season is here, and as long as a storm isn’t right on your doorstep, there’s still time to prepare. These five installments about hurricane preparedness will remind you of ways to stay safe and secure before, during, and after one of these destructive storms.

    Part Four: Under a Hurricane Warning

    A hurricane warning means the storm is definitely heading in your general direction, and it’s time to decide whether or not you are going to evacuate. In making this decision, remember that a hurricane is not a spectator sport! While it may be pretty exciting to experience such a force of nature, the excitement could quickly turn to fear and panic if high winds, storm surge, and flooding destroy your home or make it impossible to live in.

    This is not a time for foolish bravado and hosting a hurricane party, especially if the hurricane is severe. Cat 5 is the strongest category of hurricane, but even smaller, weaker storms can cause wind damage, serious flooding, and loss of power and other utilities. These effects can possibly impact you and your home for extended periods.

    Any hurricane can also spawn tornadoes. I once saw twin water spouts (funnel clouds that form over the water) come ashore on a Florida beach and cause damage. The storm surge is the “wall” of water that the storm brings with it from the ocean or gulf, and is especially dangerous if it coincides with high tides. A friend showed me a photograph of a chain link fence dotted with the bodies of dead fish that got caught in the links during a powerful storm surge in Texas, all facing forward, their mouths gaping open. Wind and water are powerful forces. Respect them.

    Some factors that mean evacuation is the best course include the following:

    • Your area is told or advised to evacuate by the local authorities
    • You live close to water (including a river, stream, canal, or inland waterway) or in a low-lying area that could easily flood
    • You live in a mobile home, an RV, a high-rise building, a beach cabin, or in an older home that might have become less sturdy over the years
    • You have a family member who might suffer from a power loss because of needed electric medical equipment—C-pap machines, oxygen, etc.
    • You live on an island or any area reached by a bridge that might wash out during the storm
    • Your gut instinct says “GO!”

    If you choose to evacuate, don’t hesitate, as traffic will only become increasingly heavy as the storm approaches. Put up the final boards or shutters on remaining windows, turn your refrigerator down to its coldest setting, turn off and unplug other major appliances and desk computers to protect them from electrical surges as the power comes and goes, and fill the bathtub, sinks, pans and pitchers with water to use for washing, flushing, and cooking when you come back in case your usual water source is cut off or contaminated. Your car should be loaded and ready—grab your loved ones and go.

    Sheltering at Home
    If you decide to remain at home and ride out the storm, fill bathtubs and sinks with water for bathing or cleaning, pans and pitchers with water for cooking, and have plenty of bottled water on hand for drinking.

    Open your fridge as little as possible, and turn it to a colder setting than you normally keep it, though not cold enough to freeze everything. If the power goes out—make that whenthe power goes out—you’ll want your food to stay cold as long as possible. If you’re preparing a meal, decide ahead of time what you need from the fridge and quickly take it all out at once rather than opening and closing it several times.

    If you have a freezer, fill empty spaces in there with containers of water so the entire freezer is filled with frozen items. Doing so will keep the temperatures down longer, and will prevent excess pockets of cold air that can be “lost” every time the freezer door is opened. Freeze containers of water or freezer-paks ahead of time; when the power fails, pop them into a cooler and use that to cool drinks and perishables as long as possible. Try to use up your perishable foods before you turn to the emergency foods that you would have taken with you if you had evacuated.

    Once the power is off, turn off and unplug all your appliances (even refrigerators and freezers) to avoid power surges. Be prepared with games, cards, books, puzzles and toys that do not require electricity to keep children—and adults, for that matter—entertained for quite a while.

    Be very careful with candles, either utility or 100-hour types, or with hurricane lamps, gas lanterns, flat fold stoves, or anything that has a flame. Keep them out of the reach of small children. NEVER bring a generator inside your house! The same goes for gas camp stoves or charcoal grills. They all emit gases or fumes that can be deadly. Alternatively, you could use a camp stove for short durations if you have adequate ventilation available. Think now about how you would survive without power during a hurricane, and plan ahead to have the needed equipment that can be run safely inside without access to utilities.

    Stay inside during the storm. It may be tempting to go outside and see what’s blowing around and making all that noise, but don’t give in—there’s no point in putting yourself in further danger to satisfy your curiosity! Even if the calm eye passes over you and the sun shines for a bit, remember the storm is only half-over and the winds will soon hit from the other direction.

    During the worst of the storm, shelter in an inner hallway—away from windows, doors, and skylights. Keep your flashlight and NOAA radio with you, bring pillows and bedding to curl up on, and snacks and water to sustain you. You will probably be uncomfortably warm, but with strong winds and blowing rain, open windows or doors aren’t the best solution for cooling down. If you absolutely must have some ventilation, crack open a window on the leeward side of the house. If you have a battery-powered fan, this would be the perfect time to use it. (Bring along a sack with extra batteries for any equipment you may be using.) Play games like “Twenty Questions” that don’t require light or equipment, tell stories, sing songs, and try to stay calm and soothe the fears of children.

    If water comes into your house, go to the highest level you have. Another precaution for this possibility: pile your most precious photo albums and other important items on a high (stable) shelf, bunk bed, or table. You might want to pile furniture up in the middle of the living room. If you have nice throw rugs, roll them up and put them on top of your stack. In a worst-case flooding scenario, if there is an accessible attic in your house you may need to go there—and you should have placed an axe and saw there ahead of time just in case you need to create an escape hatch (a fairly rare situation, but remember Katrina). In any storm situation, always err on the side of caution!

    Whether you stay home or evacuate during a hurricane, you’ll need to have specific plans and equipment available. Take the time now to create a plan, prepare your family, and gather the supplies you’ll need. You’ll be so glad you did if the time comes that you have to use them.


    See other articles in this mini series:

    Part One: Advance Planning and Preparation

    Part Two: Prepare Your Home, Pets, and Property

    Part Three: Under a Hurricane Watch

    Part Five: After the Storm 

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: hurricane preparedness, hurricanes

  • Hurricane Preparedness Mini-Series - Part Three: Under a Hurricane Watch

    Summer hurricane season is here, and as long as a storm isn’t right on your doorstep, there’s still time to prepare. These five installments about hurricane preparedness will remind you of ways to stay safe and secure before, during, and after one of these destructive storms.

    Part Three: Under a Hurricane Watch

    When a hurricane is out there swirling around and looking as if it might head in your direction, it’s time to get serious about your personal safety and that of your family, your pets, and your neighbors.

    Hurricanes are often unpredictable; they can stall, turn, and take unexpected tracks. This is why there are always multiple possible models for their progress shown on TV. Listen to the NOAA weather radio band to track the storm and get any instructions that are issued from the authorities for your area.

    Top off your gas tank and pack emergency kits and other supplies into your car. Keep it parked facing outward for easy merging into traffic, especially if you live on a busy street. If you have a boat, secure it the best you can or bring it ashore into a covered facility if possible.

    Be sure your cell phone is charged and that your car phone charger is in your vehicle. It's also a good idea to have alternative ways to charge your phone, like the Goal Zero Nomad 7m Solar Panel. Program important numbers into your phone, but don’t forget to take a separate list on a card or paper in case your phone is lost or service fails.

    Put away flower pots, lawn furniture, and anything else that might sail around in a strong wind—which is pretty much anything that isn’t bolted down! Board up your windows, leaving just one or two open for now for ventilation if you must.

    Gather your family around. Keep them close by in case you need to evacuate. Review your evacuation plans and revise if necessary. Check with those friends or relatives you’re depending upon for shelter to let them know you might be coming.

    Double-check on arrangements for your pets, and keep them on leashes or fenced into your yard—you don’t want to be hunting for them if you have to exacuate! If you absolutely must leave pets at home (not advised), tape a notice on the outside of a front door or the inside of a window letting emergency personnel know they are there: “2 DOGS INSIDE.” If your front door has a window, tape the notice on the inside so it doesn't blow away. Leave your bathroom door firmly propped open and the toilet lid up so they can drink if their water bowls go dry. Make sure they have plenty of food available, and for dogs, their favorite kind of chew toys for a little comfort. Realize that you will probably come home to quite a mess—and some very anxious pets.

    Post a paper on your fridge, the inside of your front door, or another prominent place giving the address and phone number where you can be reached. Give your relatives and friends the same information.

    Check with your neighbors to see if anyone needs help boarding up windows, getting last-minute supplies, putting away lawn furniture, etc. Be especially watchful for older folks or the disabled.

    There are a lot of things to think about when preparing yourself, your home, and your family for a hurricane. This article is a good starting point but certainly not comprehensive. Make a list specific to your home and family so you can have an organized way to prepare when a hurricane watch is announced for your area. Making these preparations can help you feel more secure in uncertain situations.

    See More Articles in This series:

    Part One: Advance Planning and Preparation

    Part Two: Prepare Your Home, Pets, and Property

    Part Four: Under a Hurricane Warning

    Part Five: After the Storm 

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: hurricane preparedness, hurricanes

  • Hurricane Preparedness Mini-Series - Part Two

    Summer hurricane season is here, and as long as a storm isn’t right on your doorstep, there’s still time to prepare. These five installments about hurricane preparedness will remind you of ways to stay safe and secure before, during, and after one of these destructive storms.

    Part Two: Prepare Your Home, Pets, and Property

    Yesterday we talked about creating a plan for your family and preparing the supplies you would need in case of a hurricane. Today let’s chat about how to prepare your home, your pets, and your property for a hurricane.

    Your Home
    Think ahead! Obtain flood insurance well before a possible need; most policies have a time clause before they go into effect. Learn what all your options are before choosing a coverage plan that works for you and your property.

    Inspect your yard for anything loose that might fly around and cause damage during the high winds of a hurricane. Even a small item, hurled by extremely high winds, can become a dangerous projectile. Put tools, lawn furniture, and ornaments securely away inside a sturdy shed, garage, or in your house (piling them in your carport doesn’t count). Make your fence as strong and secure as you can. Trim trees, bushes, and dry palm fronds; dispose of the cuttings well before a storm approaches.

    Your Pets
    Plan for the needs of your pets. Find out which designated shelters can and cannot accept pets (most cannot because of insurance liabilities). A few might accept them if they are leashed or contained. If you’re planning to stay with friends or family, check with them ahead of time to find out if Fido and Fluffy are welcome; don’t assume. “Love me, love my dog” might be your attitude, but not everyone is happy to invite your furry friends into their home. Small children may be afraid of your pet, or your hosts may have allergies or other concerns. Investigate which animal shelters might be able to take them if you must evacuate, or make plans for your pet to live comfortably and safely outside while staying with friends or relatives. Have your pets’ immunizations up to date (required by shelters), and be ready to provide copies of their medical records if asked. Have their dishes, leashes, food, meds, litter, pooper-scooper, and familiar toys ready to go if you must evacuate. Include plenty of water for them with your supply.

    Some pet owners turn their dogs and cats loose to fend for themselves when a storm threatens, or leave them locked in the house with food and water and hope for the best. Neither is a good choice if you can possibly do otherwise. Your furry or feathered friends are not wild animals. They’re dependent upon you for food, water, shelter and comfort, and can easily panic and either destroy your property (my friend’s dog ate the entire end off of their couch when left alone during a thunderstorm), run away, be injured or killed, or bite someone. Even if you are able to find your pet when you return (which is often impossible), you may not recognize its personality because of the trauma of abandonment, neglect, possible injuries, and fear of the storm it has experienced. Do your best for your pets by finding a responsible pet-sitter for them, arranging for a shelter to take them, or by taking them with you (which would probably be their first choice).

    Another note from personal experience: If you are traveling with a cat, use a carrier; cats are much more secure and easy to control if they have their own little cubbyhole to hide in. (They may still yowl in protest, but it’s better than the alternative.)

    Your Property
    Take “before” pictures of both the inside of your home and the outside for insurance purposes, to show the normal state of things. If there is damage when you return, take “after” pictures from the same vantage points for easy comparison. Also take pictures (even video) of valuable items you would want replaced. Make a list of your belongings to go with the pictures and video in case of loss or looting.

    Make copies of your most important papers, licenses, cards, certificates, policies, etc. to take with you if you must leave. Also include a list of important phone numbers and addresses, in case something happens to your cell phone. You may want to include a family picture and a flash drive or external hard drive containing any computer data you would be devastated to lose. You may also want to think about using an online third-party storage service for digital files you can upload from home so there is always a copy available if your own hard drive or other storage devices are ruined. If you are hesitant to upload information or photos onto a site like this, consider asking a friend or relative out of town to store an external hard drive for you—the trick with this is keeping it updated if you live very far away. Wrap all these items in plastic for safekeeping. Have a supply of cash in small bills available; in the likely case of a power outage, credit cards, debit cards, and checks will not work.

    Make sure your car is in good operating condition. Get any needed repairs done in a timely way so that if you need to evacuate you won’t have to stop and get a new tire or water hose.

    If you haven’t already done so, pack an emergency bag (bug-out bag) for each family member and have it ready to grab. Include:

    Depending on the person’s age and ability, they may not be able to carry their own food and water. Though a well-fitting backpack is the best carrier for most people, those who can carry less weight may benefit from a backpack that can also roll if needed. Still others may prefer duffel bags; find the best fit for your supplies and comfort. Include a card in each bag that has the person’s name, address, your out-of-town contact’s phone number, and your own phone number on it. You may want to bring a lightweight sleeping bag for each person, and familiar pillows are comforting if there’s room for them.

    Obtain storm shutters or plywood pieces to fit your windows and have them cut and ready to install with appropriate fasteners (screws and nails). Be familiar with the installation process (or have an easy-to follow diagram or instruction sheet) so you aren’t scrambling with unfamiliar items when a storm is approaching.

    The better prepared you are, the less fear and distress you’ll experience. Even if things get scary when the wind blows, you’ll know you’ve done your best.


    More Posts in This Series:

    Part One: Advance Planning and Preparation

    Part Three: Under a Hurricane Watch

    Part Four: Under a Hurricane Warning

    Part Five: After the Storm 

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: hurricane preparedness, hurricanes

  • Hurricane Preparedness Mini-Series - Part One

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    Summer hurricane season is here, and as long as a storm isn’t right on your doorstep, there’s still time to prepare. These five installments about hurricane preparedness will remind you of ways to stay safe and secure before, during, and after one of these destructive storms.

    Part One: Advance Planning and Preparation

    As early as possible, plan potential evacuation routes and destinations in case you must leave home. Find out about your area’s preferred evacuation routes, but also scope out some back-road shortcuts that might help you blend into the stream of traffic more quickly. (Realize that during evacuations, most local freeway lanes may be dedicated to one-way, out-bound traffic.)

    Have an idea (or two) of potential destinations. Find out where designated shelters are planned—schools, churches, etc.—and also obtain the phone numbers and locations of hotels and motels along the way, but recognize that they will fill up fast and may not be able to honor reservations.

    Are you lucky enough to have hospitable family or friends far enough inland to be out of danger’s way? Shamelessly beg to stay with them for the duration of the storm. Once they make landfall most Atlantic hurricanes begin to tend toward the north and eventually back toward the east. If you can head west and south you should be in relatively safe territory, although the rain bands can extend outward for many miles. The strongest and most dangerous part of the storm is to the north and east of the calm eye as it comes ashore.

    Utilities and Weather Tracking
    Teach responsible family members how to turn off utilities and tune into NOAA Weather Radio for up-to-the-minute storm tracking and instructions. You do have a battery-powered radio that receives the NOAA band, don’t you? If not, get one! The NOAA broadcasts are found in the VHF public service bands at seven frequencies between 162.4 and 162.550.

    Emergency Supplies

    • If you haven’t already done so, obtain the following items:
    • Plenty of bottled water
    • Flashlights, lanterns, 100-hour candles
    • Extra batteries
    • Car phone chargers
    • A first-aid kit
    • Emergency food items that can be used at home or easily taken with you
    • Essential medications
    • Baby items if needed
    • Pet items if needed

    From my own experience: DO NOT wait until a storm is announced to shop for these things, as store shelves will empty unbelievably fast; all that may be left to buy are pickled onions and hair-coloring! Stores usually have only about three days’ worth of supplies at the best of times, and when a hurricane threatens is definitely not the best of times.

    • Appropriate food items to store include:
    • Food bars (granola or high-calorie, high-nutrition food bars)
    • Canned meat, beans, cheese spread, and fruit
    • Well-packaged crackers
    • A selection of MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) such as those used by the military
    • Freeze-dried or dehydrated fruits
    • Small packages of gelatin, juice, or pudding that do not require refrigeration
    • Individual servings of cold cereal and powdered milk with enough water to reconstitute it

    Minimize the use of alcohol, soft drinks, and extremely salty items, since they make you thirstier and you’ll go through your water storage faster. Instead, encourage the family to drink water and juice.>

    Decide ahead of time on a family communication plan—designate a place to meet if you get separated, and choose someone to be your contact person for everyone to call to report in. An out-of-town contact is best to act as a sort of clearing-house for your calls, for two reasons: they won’t be as impacted by the storm as you are, and if phone lines and cell service is overloaded or fails, long-distance lines are restored more quickly than local ones. Be sure all family members have the phone number of that person—memorized as well as written down.
    Teach family members who are old enough to call 911 if needed. Discuss some situations when they might need to call 911 (if someone is severely injured or unconscious, for example).

    If you live in an area that is prone to hurricanes, taking these steps can help create some sense of order amid the chaos if a storm ever hit your home or community. Preparing an evacuation, communication, and weather tracking plan now will give your family the mental preparedness they need, and gathering food and other emergency supplies will provide for their physical needs in a time of crisis.


    More Posts in this Mini-Series:

    Part Two: Prepare Your Home, Pets, and Property

    Part Three: Under a Hurricane Watch

    Part Four: Under a Hurricane Warning

    Part Five: After the Storm 





    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: hurricane preparedness, hurricanes

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