Hurricanes happen all over the world, and while they are sometimes referred to as cyclones or other terms, these storms can be devastating if you aren’t prepared. Modern technology allows us to be given a week’s notice of an approaching storm or more, so there is really no reason not to be prepared.
Sometimes those time frames are shorter depending where and how quickly the storm develops. But if you live in an area that is affected by hurricanes or tropical storms, you should always pay attention to your local weather forecast anyway.
Here we will look at the most important things that you should know if you ever find yourself in the path of an approaching storm. Do you know your evacuation route and is it safe to take? Do you know what you should have in your survival kit? Do you know that when the weather clears up the storm may not be over? The eye of a hurricane can be very deceiving.
Here are some very important things to know whether you are a long time resident of an area that deals with hurricanes, or if you are a new resident to the area.
15. Your Evacuation Route Isn’t Always Right
If a hurricane is coming your way you will want to take a look at the evacuation route for your area. But it’s not as easy as just that. Evaluate the storm that is coming and the path that it’s taking. If it’s a big enough storm that you feel the need to go elsewhere, don’t hesitate to do so. There are evacuation routes set up everywhere and there are usually signs directing the way. But you also have to see which way the storm is heading to make sure your evacuation route is safe.
Just because the signs point the way for you doesn’t mean that’s the route that you should always follow. If you leave early enough you shouldn’t run into any issues but the longer you wait, the higher the chance of coming across some problems. So always see where the storm is and where it’s heading before following an evacuation route. After all, you may just lead yourself into more danger than you would have been in if you had stayed put.
When a hurricane is headed your way all you have to do is see the path that it’s going to take and then make your plans. The best evacuation route is to go where the storm isn’t going to be. It may sound silly and simple but it’s something that people don’t think about. They think the marked evacuation route is the best route to take and that’s not always the case.
14. The Path Of The Storm Can Change Quickly
When you are in an area that has a hurricane bearing down on it, one of the first things that you want to do is find out where it’s going. You should pay close attention to it because the path may change several times before it makes landfall. Today’s meteorologists are very good and they can now give us a week’s notice and sometimes even more.
If you don’t pay attention to a hurricane when you know there is one coming your way, you are only asking for trouble. But the path may dictate that one day you are preparing for the worst while the very next day that isn’t needed. That’s because the path has changed. Several factors determine the path of a storm and where it goes. It can actually change course several times in a single day. You always want to know if your area will be hard hit or possibly not see any effects at all. You never want to be caught blind. The more notice you have, the more time that you have to prepare.
Once you are notified that a hurricane might be headed your way it’s a good idea to check up on it once a day. As it gets closer you’ll need to check more often but you always want to know the path that it is going to take. If you are in the path take precautions as quickly as you can.
13. Don’t Underestimate The Strength Of The Storm
If things turn bad and you have to evacuate, you’ll need your vehicle to be gassed up and ready to go. NEVER wait until it’s time to bug out. If you wait that long you’ll find that a lot of gas stations are closed because of the storm. That won’t be a good situation to be in.
Once you know a hurricane might be headed your way and you know which path it is going to take, you always want to pay attention to the strength of the storm. A hurricane can range from a low of Category 1 to a high of Category 5. A good rule of thumb to follow though is to always prepare for the worst. It’s always better to be over prepared than under prepared. And NEVER underestimate a storm that is coming your way.
If it is a Category 1 hurricane coming at you, don’t think that because it’s not a Category 5 you don’t have to pay attention. If you have never been through a hurricane before, you may think that just because it’s not the worst there is, everything will be alright. A category 1 storm will bring very strong and damaging winds (74-95 miles per hour), very heavy rain, a lot of flooding and very heavy storms wrapped up within the bigger storm itself. Every level of storm will come with heavy downpours and flooding. It’s the wind and the storms wrapped up inside of them that intensify as the level gets higher.
A Category 2 storm has sustained winds of 96-110 miles per hour and a Category 3 hurricane packs a punch of 111-129 mile per hour sustained winds. If a Category 4 or 5 storm is heading your way it’s best to get out. With sustained winds of 130-156 miles per hour (Category 4) and 157 miles per hour or higher (Category 5), there will be catastrophic damage.
12. The Difference Between A Watch And A Warning
When there is a hurricane out over the water, most of the time a hurricane watch or warning will be issued for areas that might be affected. If your area is in the path of the storm there will probably be a hurricane warning issued while an area that won’t see direct landfall might be issued just a watch.
It works the same as with tornadoes. When a watch is issued it means that conditions are favorable in your area for the event to happen. If it’s a tornado watch that could mean the atmosphere is unstable enough to produce some of those brutal storms. If it’s a hurricane watch that usually means there is one nearby but meteorologists don’t expect it to be a major event in your area. But if a watch is issued, then you definitely know that it could. While you aren’t guaranteed to be affected, you can never be too sure. If you are in any type of watch zone you should always pay close attention.
11. Difference Between Hurricanes And Tropical Storms
If your area is facing a tropical storm you should always prepare as if it’s a hurricane. The main difference between the two is the wind factor. A tropical storm will contain the same heavy rain and probable flooding and some of the storms will be severe, but the sustained winds will be at a lower level. That being said, you should know they could pack sustained winds up to 73 miles per hour. A Category 1 hurricane is classified as that when those winds reach 74 miles per hour.
Sustained winds of 73 miles per hour can do a lot of damage even though it’s still considered a tropical storm. You should never take a storm lightly because it’s a tropical storm and not a hurricane. Depending on the strength of the storm you could find yourself grossly under prepared.
Even a weaker tropical storm can still pack a solid punch. Sustained winds of 40-60 miles per hour are nothing to take lightly and they can still do some damage. Especially when they are combined with heavy rainfall that saturates the ground. You will see a lot of trees go down during these lower end tropical storms just as with a bigger one.
10. What To Include In Your Survival Kit
You should always have a hurricane supply kit or survival kit. If a storm is heading your way, even a minor one, you should always have one at the ready. You just never know what Mother Nature is going to bring to your doorstep. If you get hit worse than you anticipated and you don’t have one of these already, you could find yourself in a heap of trouble.
The more you have put away, the longer that you and your family will be able to survive if you don’t have power or find yourself the victims of a catastrophic storm. Water and food are the most important things to have. You should have enough water for one gallon per person, per day. You should always keep enough to last three to ten days. And don’t forget to calculate some for your pets as well.
Food should be the same thing, have enough for three to ten days based on how many people there are in your family. And don’t forget food for your pets either. Good foods to pack away are non-perishable packaged or canned food. While they may not taste very good, they could be what keeps you alive in the worst of circumstances.
Candles and flashlights are also must haves in your kit.
9. Generators Are A Must Have
Everyone knows that life goes downhill quickly when the power goes out. If you have gone through the brunt of a hurricane, or even sometimes just the outskirts of one, you know that you could find yourself without electricity for upwards of ten days. This is an extreme case, but it does happen quite a bit for some of the harder hit areas. Worse yet, if there is a lot of flooding in the area it will also make it hard for them to get things fixed.
It is also worth noting that power companies will sometimes shut off electricity to certain areas on purpose if there is bad flooding. They do this to lower the risk of electrocution. It makes sense, but it means that it could be days before it comes back on depending on what’s happening in your immediate area.
It’s a good idea to do your homework on a good generator. There are several places that you can buy good ones and you should always research them online before you purchase one. Once you decide on one, make sure that you know how it works and what it can run in your household. They may be expensive but it’s money well spent if you ever need it.
8. Don’t Be Fooled By The Eye Of The Storm
There are several things that you should know about the eye of a hurricane. First off, in most cases, the eye of the storm is where the strongest winds of the storm are usually located. But that’s not the case 100% of the time so you need to pay attention to the forecast. The winds in the eye can be very destructive and if it’s a high category hurricane the eye area will more than likely have a devastating effect wherever it hits.
Directly in the middle of the eye is beautiful weather. Nothing goes on there at all. The eye is circular and sometimes it can extend to fifty or up to a hundred miles wide. If you are hit by the eye of a hurricane, don’t let it fool you. When that nice weather arrives you may think that the storm is over but there is still more to come. The back side of the storm will be coming through before too long and the devastation will begin all over again. You don’t want to get caught outside when the bad weather starts again.
7. Which Side Of The Storm Is Most Damaging
Above you read about the damage done in the eye of the hurricane, but sometimes if a storm isn’t well developed, the most damaging winds can be far away from the eye. You can identify those winds in the lower right quadrant of the storm if you’re looking at it on radar.
No hurricane is exactly the same and you should pay close attention to it if one is approaching your area. Don’t think that you are safe because the eye isn’t going to make a direct hit on your immediate area. The atmosphere and the development of the storm will dictate which part of the storm will have the most damaging winds. If you are new to dealing with hurricanes you might be surprised when you find out where the most damage will occur on some storms.
Every once in a while, the storm can be long gone from your area and you might still experience severely bad weather. Some hurricanes are very large systems and the center of the storm could actually be several states away while you are still experiencing heavy rain and storms. It’s always a good idea to follow your local weather until everything is completely over for you.
6. Have A Family Emergency Plan
It’s always a good idea to have a family emergency plan that everyone understands. It could contain anything from phone numbers to use, to places to go, to places to meet up. Having a meeting place set up ahead of time is always a very good idea. You never know what might happen and people might get separated accidentally. This type of plan should be in place for even the most basic of tropical storms or hurricanes.
Before hurricane season begins it’s recommended that your family goes through a dry run of things so everyone is prepared for what may happen. A dry run can be done in less than an hour so it’s not a very time-consuming event to just refresh everyone’s memory.
Each member should have a job to do as well in case of a major storm. Maybe one person is responsible for getting candles together and making sure that all of the flashlights have fresh batteries in them. Another person can be responsible for getting enough water and food for the family and maybe one person gets everything together for your pets to be taken care of.
5. Flooding Can Happen Well After The Storm Ends
Whenever a tropical storm or hurricane comes there is always flooding involved. While a lot of it can happen during the main storm itself, the bulk of it will happen after the storm is gone. Heavy rain and storm surge are the cause of this. Localized flooding is a common occurrence and the strength of the storm will directly affect the amount of flooding.
You should always be aware of this if you live in an area that is known for flooding, but even if you don’t, that doesn’t mean that you should let your guard down. If the storm is strong enough there will be flooding everywhere, even in places that don’t normally flood.
With the heavy rain and storm surge, a lot of flooding will take place during the storm or within 24 hours of it leaving. High tides also play a huge role as well and can lead to the flooding actually becoming worse a few days after the storm is gone. Sometimes the worst of the flooding won’t even start until 48 hours after the storm is gone.
Every storm is different and affects flooding in different ways. Even if you don’t feel the effects from a storm you could still see flooding nearby. Always stay on top of things with your local weather until every threat has passed.
4. Gas Up Before The Storm Arrives
You will always want to make sure that your vehicles are gassed up before a hurricane or tropical storm hits. And never forget about your generator. However long your generator runs, you will want to make sure that you have plenty of that fuel on hand so you can have power in case the electricity goes out.
Make sure that you fill up all of your vehicles as well. Never wait until the day before a storm is going to arrive. If you do that you may run into all kinds of unfavorable situations. Maybe there is no gas left, maybe there are huge lines waiting for gas, and maybe the price goes up before the storm hits. It’s always best to gas up a couple of days ahead of time if something is coming your way.
3. Know Your Building And Window Ratings
Every year new technology comes out that makes buildings and windows stronger against debris or very high winds. Newer buildings or houses are required to fall into whatever category is set by local code enforcement. But windows are not always included in those local guidelines so you’ll want to find out what rating you have at your dwelling.
If you are in a newer residence, chances are good that everything is up to code and you will be safe, but there is still value in knowing what the ratings are. A lot of things are rated for Category 3 storms and not higher. Everything varies so you’ll want to know what your ratings are and compare them to the incoming storm. That will give you a good indication of where you stand in terms of safety.
Older dwellings may not be up to code and older windows may not stand up to what’s coming. In these cases, you should never “ride out the storm.” It’s better to be over cautious and alive than what could happen if you stay in an unsafe dwelling.
If your windows are older it’s always a good idea to tape an “X” on them with duct tape. This way if the window does break, the pieces will more than likely stay together and not shatter all over the inside of your dwelling. Flying glass can kill you, plus if they stay together in bigger pieces they are easier to clean up than if they shatter into millions of tiny pieces.
2. Take Evacuation Orders Seriously
If your local law enforcement or government agency declares a mandatory evacuation you should not ignore it. These may be ordered because you are in the path of a direct hit from a hurricane or there is a strong possibility of major flooding in your immediate area.
If a voluntary evacuation is ordered you should give it serious thought. Make sure to gather up all of the information that you can before you make your decision. But remember that a storm does what it wants. Meteorologists give you the best information that they can, but they aren’t always 100% on because the storm can change suddenly.
If you are given a mandatory evacuation, don’t even think about it. Act quickly and take it seriously. What this means is that all emergency personnel are going to be pulled from the streets and shut down during the storm. They will not put their lives in danger to save yours. Simply put, if you are given a mandatory evacuation order and you don’t follow it, you are on your own. You can call 911 all you want but nobody is going to come help you. Once the storm has passed and things are safe again, emergency personnel are put back into duty on the streets, but not until their lives are no longer in danger.
1. Know Your Flood And Home Owner’s Insurance
You will always want to make sure that your homeowner’s insurance is up to date if a hurricane of any strength is coming. You should do this even if a tropical storm is coming. The most common damage during these storms is fallen trees and power lines/poles.
You don’t want to just assume they’re up to date, you also want to be sure of what is covered and what isn’t. Flood insurance is always a tricky thing so you’ll want to look into that carefully. Some home owner’s policies cover flooding, but many people are surprised to learn theirs doesn’t.
In a lot of cases, flood insurance needs to be purchased separately. In some more difficult cases, it even needs to be purchased from a different company. Once the storm has passed and you have suffered some kind of damage it’s too late to make any changes that are needed. You never want to be in that position.
Even renters need to look into their renter’s insurance policies to see what’s covered and what isn’t. The insurance companies don’t care if something is destroyed and not covered. They never have and they never will. You need to know what you have BEFORE the storm comes. In some cases, companies won’t allow you to make changes if a storm is coming, so it’s good to know what you are covered for well in advance of any storm.