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How to Prepare for a Hurricane

Hurricanes and tropical storms are strong weather patterns capable of intense, sustained winds, high coastal waves and significant rain. In 2005, deadly Hurricane Katrina struck with a mighty vengeance, killing more than 1,200 and leaving $75 billion in damages in her wake. Recovery for the areas hit hardest, Louisiana, Mississippi and Southern Alabama, is still in progress.

With more than 33 tornadoes spawned by the storm and winds that reached speeds over 100 mph, Katrina was one of the most destructive hurricanes to strike the United States in history. Flooding was widespread and prolonged, accounting for displacing millions of residents.

While meteorologists can track the path of developing hurricanes, it’s often difficult to predict the strength when these storms hit land, or precisely where they’ll strike the hardest. But those who reside in coastal areas can do much to prepare in advance before weather conditions generate the next deadly hurricane.

Since hurricane season is generally from June to November, (with a peak period from August to October) planning should begin prior to these months. Remember, however, Mother Nature offers surprises us frequently. Hurricanes and tropical storms do occur outside the anticipated season from time to time.

With potential wind, storm surge waves and standing water damage, hurricanes offer many challenges in preparation. Additionally, long periods without utilities and critical supplies disruption are not uncommon after-effects of hurricanes.

Pre-Planning for a Hurricane:

Property Concerns:

  1. Roofing and Roof to Top of Wall Connection- Seek the advice of a qualified professional who can determine if these areas offer adequate support or need to be retrofitted and braced. In particular, shingles and gabled end walls, take a huge beating during sustained and strong hurricane force wind. Depending on your handyman abilities, some projects may be done by knowledgeable homeowners. For an excellent step-by-step article visit the Institute for Business & Home Safety.
  2. Shutters: Impact resistant shutters should be installed, and properly fastened. Check these between peak hurricane seasons or after any storm. Be sure they are installed correctly and have suffered no damages. Some are permanent and pre-installed in homes. Test the strength by gently leaning on them and observing their yield capacity. Shutters that will better withstand hurricane effects won’t bend against glass when struck by debris. Other options, install impact resistant glass, which is designed to be shatter-resistant.
  3. Entry Doors: Make certain doors are secured properly by installing header and foot bolts. Deadbolt locks and hinges should be checked.
  4. Garage Doors: Wind striking these large areas makes them especially vulnerable to damage. Kits are available to retrofit your garage door. If possible, have a professional reinforce and install these, however. If installed improperly, they can present safety hazards.
  5. Timing: Hurricane reinforcing kits and retrofit supplies (such as shutters) are in high demand when approaching storms are in close proximity. Many of these processes take time to secure. Beginning this process early is advisable.
  6. Know the Potential: Each hurricane is unique in how it presents, wind strength and duration vary widely with every storm. However, you should know the potential for your home’s vulnerability to flooding, winds and storm surge.
  7. Have a Plan: Of all the advance hurricane preparedness, making a plan is the most vital.

Consider the following:

  • Know factors that may affect your property. Is your home on a steep coastal slope that may offer some protection to storm surges of 15 feet or more? Is flooding a known risk? Are high winds likely to cause damage due to structural issues?
  • Determine safe areas in your home. Due to the complexity of each hurricane, you’ll need to also have planned evacuation alternatives that are within your community.
  • Establish exit routes and meeting places. Include roads you would take that are less likely to pose hazards (such as highways that take you away from the coast or avoiding low lying flood prone areas).
  • If you have to evacuate, most shelters do not allow pets. Include planning for pet care during an evacuation.
  • Develop contact numbers. Include an out of state contact, in case your family becomes separated. Keep emergency numbers posted throughout your home. Instruct children in 911 situations.
  • If you own a boat, consider how this will be stored or secured.
  • Keep at least 3-7 days of non-perishable food and drinking water on hand at all times. Allow at least one gallon of water per person for each day. Include pet and/or infant supplies if applicable.
  • Create a disaster survival kit. Include flashlights and spare batteries, battery operated radio, blankets, tool kits, a quality first aid kit, prescription medicines and copies of the scripts, non-electric can opener, extra sets of car keys, changes of clothes and toiletries.
  • Make a packet containing important documents such as insurance papers, copies of drivers’ licenses, etc. Keep this in a waterproof container.
  • Have a small amount of cash in small bills on hand at all times. ATM’s during a hurricane are often inoperable for days.
  • Maintain a full tank of fuel in at least one vehicle at all times.
  • Purchase flood insurance and review all other insurance policies. Flood insurance is additional and not typically covered in traditional home owners policies. If you are at flood risk, consider obtaining flood protection.

If you are ordered to evacuate, take your disaster kit with you. It’s possible you may become stuck in traffic for long periods or that shelter areas may not have enough supplies. If a motel is your designated shelter, make reservations well before you depart.

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