Hurricane & Tropical Storm Preparation & Safety
As you know, not too long ago, we were all on a hurricane watch. Fortunately the most we got was heavy torrential rain combined with tidal flooding. But for a few days I was panicked that we were going to be hit with a category 4 hurricane so like the rest of Hampton Roads I found myself rushing to the store to buy a ton of water, bread and other basic necessities.
Being that during a hurricane, homes can be easily damaged or even destroyed by high winds and high waves as well as debris possibly breaking windows and doors, I was fearful that I was not fully prepared for Hurricane Joaquin and on high alert.
Thus, I thought this might be the perfect time to refresh how exactly to prepare for a hurricane and tropical storm. When your local meteorologist warns you to take cover because a hurricane is on the way, the very last thing you want to do is worry about whether or not you’re prepared. With a little effort now, you can yield big savings (and lots peace of mind) in the future.
A hurricane is a severe tropical storm that forms in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico or eastern Pacific Ocean. To form, hurricanes need warm tropical oceans, moisture and light winds. They gather heat and energy from the warm waters. Evaporation from seawater increases their power. Every year in the Northern Atlantic Ocean, hurricane season is June 1 - November 30.
Hurricanes rotate in a counterclockwise direction around an "eye." They have winds at least 75 mph. When they come onto land, they can bring heavy rain, strong winds and floods, and can damage buildings, trees and cars. They also produce heavy waves called storm surge. Storm surges are very dangerous and a major reason why people are urged to stay away from the ocean during a hurricane warning.
It’s important to note that hurricanes do not need to make landfall or move directly across Virginia to cause great damage.
The eye is the calm center of a hurricane. So don't be fooled if wind and rain stop during a hurricane. You may just be in the eye of the storm. Listen to the radio to find out when the storm has really passed.
Believe it or not, more people are killed by freshwater floods during a hurricane than by any other hazard, so it’s critical to always take caution.
Hurricanes are classified into five categories, based on wind speed and potential to cause damage:
· Category One – Winds 74-95 mph
· Category Two – Winds 96-110 mph
· Category Three – Winds 111-129 mph
· Category Four – Winds 130-156 mph
· Category Five – Winds greater than 157 mph
Once a watch or warning is issued, leave any low lying areas. If called to evacuate, do so immediately.
These 8 tips can help you plan ahead so you never have to face a storm unprepared.
1. Check your insurance coverage to make sure it reflects the current state of your home. Consider adding flood insurance and coverage for additional living expenses in case your home is uninhabitable after a storm.
2. Doing a home inventory can save you time and make filing a claim easier, ensuring you don’t forget anything. Document the contents of your home with a video camera or other home inventory tool. Keep receipts for valuable items and consider separate coverage for these things.
3. Protect your property by installing the following items in your home:
- Hurricane shutters or keep ¾ inch outdoor plywood boards for each window. If using boards, be sure to install anchors and pre-drill holes so you can put them up quickly.
- Head and foot bolts on doors for extra protection.
- Hurricane straps or clips to help hold the roof to the walls of your home.
- A safe room that can withstand high winds and flying debris.
Also, be sure to keep up with your landscaping; diseased and damaged tree limbs can become serious hazards in high-speed storm winds and cause trees and branches to fall.
4. Secure loose rain gutters and downspouts and clear any clogged areas or debris to prevent water damage to your property.
5. Reduce property damage by retrofitting to secure and reinforce the roof, windows and doors, including the garage doors.
6. Purchase a portable generator or install a generator for use during power outages. Remember to keep generators and other alternate power/heat sources outside, at least 20 feet away from windows and doors and protected from moisture; and NEVER try to power the house wiring by plugging a generator into a wall outlet.
7. Stock your emergency supply kit with basic survival items. You’ll want to have a 2-week supply of water and ready-to-eat, non-perishable food for every family member and pet. If you evacuate, you’ll want a 3-day supply of the same. Other items to add to your supply kit include:
- Manual can opener
- Essential medicines including eyeglasses and contact lenses
- Personal hygiene items such as toilet paper, toothbrush and toothpaste
- Change of clothing
- Paper towels, hand sanitizer, and eating utensils
- First-aid kit
- Battery-powered flashlight and radio with extra batteries
- Blankets, pillows and sleeping bags
- Mosquito repellant and citronella candles
- 2 coolers—one for food, one for ice
- Plastic tarp for roof/window repairs and tools
- Special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members
8. Have an established evacuation plan to help reduce stress. If you don’t have transportation of your own, make arrangements now with friends or family members and of course don’t forget about the pets.
You want to make sure the whole family is covered, so identify an out-of-state contact that everyone will call if separated and establish a meeting location at least 50 miles inland.
Lastly, gather important papers to take with you:
- Driver’s license or personal ID
- Social security card
- Proof of residence (deed, lease or utility bills)
- Insurance policies (home, auto, flood, wind)
- Birth and marriage certificates
- Stocks, bond and other negotiable certificates
- Wills, deeds, and copies of recent tax returns
- Personal checkbook and any unpaid bills
After the storm you’ll want to:
- Make sure that all is definitely clear outside, and the storm has completely passed before going out
- Report downed power lines, and stay away from them
- Use stored water and food
- Be patient…things may take some time before they get back to normal
Watches and Warnings
Hurricane/Typhoon Warning: An announcement that sustained winds of 64 knots (74 mph or 119 km/hr) or higher are expected somewhere within the specified area in association with a tropical, subtropical, or post-tropical cyclone. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds (24 hours for the Western North Pacific). The warning can remain in effect when dangerously high water or a combination of dangerously high water and waves continue, even though winds may be less than hurricane force.
Hurricane Watch: An announcement that sustained winds of 64 knots (74 mph or 119 km/hr) or higher are possible within the specified area in association with a tropical, subtropical, or post-tropical cyclone. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical storm force winds.
Tropical Storm Warning: An announcement that sustained winds of 34 to 63 knots (39 to 73 mph or 63 to 118 km/hr) are expected somewhere within the specified area within 36 hours (24 hours for the Western North Pacific) in association with a tropical, subtropical, or post-tropical cyclone.
Tropical Storm Watch: An announcement that sustained winds of 34 to 63 knots (39 to 73 mph or 63 to 118 km/hr) are possible within the specified area within 48 hours in association with a tropical, subtropical, or post-tropical cyclone.