Hurricane Guide – What You Need to Know
Welcome to the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season! We hope you were active during hurricane preparedness week. June 1 is the official first day of hurricane season and we are here to share tips and help you prepare for it. Forecasters predict another “above average” hurricane season in 2021. However, we are not predicted to see as many storms as we did in 2020, which set the record for the most amount of storms. Not only should you have emergency supplies ready but you should also have a family disaster plan ready to go if a hurricane strikes, especially if you are in a hurricane evacuation zone.
Each year, hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30. Hurricane preparedness is crucial to ensure your safety and your loved one’s safety. Here is everything you need to know about hurricane season, including how to prepare and what to do if you experience damage from one of the storms.
How to Prepare
Though hurricane season can induce anxiety, there are many steps you can take to prepare your property and ensure your individual safety before a hurricane hits your area. Always pay attention to the local radio news and the Emergency Alert System for warnings of any named storm and have a hurricane preparedness plan and disaster supply kit ready to go. Your hurricane response and disaster planning can help save lives and prevent property damage, making recovery less costly.
The first thing in preparing for hurricane season is ensuring you have all of the proper tools, personal items, and medical supplies on hand in a preparedness or disaster kit. Since the season lasts for multiple months, it is crucial to have enough supplies prepared in advance that can last you until the end of November. The supplies should be kept in an easy-to-carry emergency-preparedness kit that can travel with you if you need to evacuate your home.
This kit should include, at a minimum, the following basic supplies:
- Water – at least one gallon per person, per day. You should always keep a 3-day supply for evacuation events and a 2-week supply for at home.
- Food – for food safety, keep non-perishable food and easy-to-prepare items in the kit at all times. Just like the water, you should always keep a 3-day supply for evacuation events and a 2-week supply for at home.
- Battery-powered radio or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio).
- Extra batteries.
- A first aid kit.
- Emergency blanket.
- Whistle (to signal for help).
- Any prescription medications you need. Always maintain at least a 7-day supply for medications and any required medical items in case of an emergency.
- Sanitation and other personal hygiene items, such as masks and hand sanitizer.
- A multi-purpose tool, such as a Swiss Army knife.
- Copies of important documents, such as documents that contain important medical information, proof of address, your deed or lease to the house, passports, insurance policies, birth certificates.
- Cell phone for emergency phone calls.
- Cell phone charger.
- Family information.
- Emergency contact information and emergency phone numbers.
- Extra cash (in case ATMs are out of service).
- Extra fuel for a generator.
- Extra fuel for a car.
- Extra car keys.
- Extra house keys.
- Some additional items that would be wise to include are towels, protective clothing, plastic sheeting, duct tape, scissors, or work gloves.
If you have young children or pets, you should also include extra baby supplies, pet supplies, and other items that your child or pet might need.
You should keep the kit in a designated safe room and ensure that you are able to access it quickly. Each family member should know where the kit is. You should also keep a kit in your car in case you are caught in a storm while driving. With these preparations, as well as having an evacuation plan, you will be ready in the instance of a hurricane warning. A hurricane plan may save your life from heavy rains, flood waters, high winds, and hurricanes.
To prepare for a hurricane, it is crucial to create a checklist to ensure that you do not forget any steps or required items in the hours before a storm hit. Many resources provide in-depth details on the different things you should have on your checklist. You can find the American Red Cross checklist here.
For additional information, you can check the Floridadisaster.org supply checklist here.
As part of your checklist, you should include generator planning. Ask yourself, how will your generator be powered? If a hurricane hits, it may be more difficult to obtain a fuel delivery during and after the storm. Further, it might be more costly to buy fuel during the storm than if you had purchased in advance. Determine whether you will fuel your generator with diesel gas, natural gas, or some other fuel and purchase ahead of time to ensure that you will not be scrambling for power or waiting in long lines once the storm actually hits.
Another crucial part of your checklist should be ensuring you prepare the trees on your property for a hurricane. Proper pruning is the most essential part of helping trees survive hurricanes. When the tree is young, you must provide it with a well-spaced framework so that it develops a dominant trunk with sturdy branches. Maintain the form as far up on the tree as possible. If a tree is higher than fifteen feet tall, get additional help from a certified arborist to properly prune the tree before the hurricane season begins. The arborist will be able to create a secure location by correctly removing the dead branches, which could be at risk of falling on houses, electrical equipment, cars, or people. Make the tree less prone to falling by shortening any overly long branches. Remove any low branches that are close to the roof. It is crucial to hire a professional to evaluate your trees every two years to prevent damage during a hurricane.
Strengthen Your Home
Before hurricane season, you should always take steps to strengthen your home, and business building if you are a business owner, to prevent damages during a hurricane. To prepare, you should:
- Get a comprehensive insurance coverage that includes things such as flood insurance.
- Secure and seal your roof.
- Add roof straps.
- Secure porches and carports.
- Seal all windows and doors.
- Consider investing in permanent storm shutters.
- Seal holes.
- Check for leaks.
- Prepare for long-term outages.
- Trim trees and shrubbery.
- Clean all of the gutters.
- Install garage door braces.
- Anchor fuel tanks.
What to do if you are in a Mobile Home
Mobile homes are at a much higher risk than non-mobile homes during a hurricane. If you live in a mobile home, be sure to take extra precautionary steps before hurricane season to prevent damages to your home. These steps include:
- Maintaining your home in good repair.
- Ensuring your address number is clearly visible on your mobile home.
- Checking to secure all of your mobile home’s tie-downs.
- Securing loose siding and roofing.
- Trimming all dead or broken tree branches.
- Purchasing plywood, shutters, and protective window film to secure your mobile home.
- Using child safety locks on all cabinetry, cupboards, trash cans, and other storage in the mobile home to prevent plates, cutlery, glasses, and canned goods from spilling out.
If you do not have any insurance policies for your mobile home, it is critical that you at least obtain a standard homeowners insurance for any damage that the hurricane might cause to your home or personal property. Also, have an emergency kit prepared.
If you do not have a safe place to hunker down in, such as a school or public shelter, then you should always stay indoors and away from all windows or glass doors. It is crucial to secure all interior doors and brace external doors. Stay in a safe area, such as an interior room or closet. Never go outside during a hurricane until the local officials confirm that the storm has passed.
Hurricanes and Having a Disability
People with disabilities or special needs may have to take extra steps to ensure their safety during a hurricane or an emergency. If you have family members, friends, or neighbors with disabilities or special needs, take extra steps to help them with these additional precautions. The Federal Alliance for Same Homes provides a non-exhaustive list you can use to help those with disabilities or special needs:
- Create a personal support network. This network can ensure that disabled persons have the assistance they need to help get them to a safe place.
- Have emergency instructions on the refrigerator at all times. This information can include medication information, any required equipment they need, and emergency contacts.
- Register with any local emergency management entities, fire departments, or volunteer centers.
- Plan ahead and have emergency medical transportation systems lined up to evacuate a disabled person or get them to a medical clinic.
- Whether or not you are in an evacuation zone, identify evacuation routes at home and at work.
- Know multiple locations where you can receive required medical treatment, such as dialysis.
- Know how to use medical equipment if a power outage happens.
- Always carry emergency health information as well as emergency contacts.
- Tap the space bar to engage the TDD system when calling 911.
- If you have a mobility impairment, have an escape chair ready.
- Keep extra wheelchair batteries and other medical equipment handy. This can include oxygen, catheters, food for service dogs, medication, or any other items that you might need.
- Keep a list of all of the relevant serial numbers of medical devices you may need.
- Have the emergency preparedness kit ready at all times.
What to Do With Your Boat (If You Have One)
If you own a boat, you will want to take the proper steps to ensure that your boat survives hurricane season. The BoatUS Hurricane Catastrophe Team notes that the location of where the boat is stored during the hurricane is the number one determining factor as to whether the boat will survive the hurricane.
Their best advice is to store the boat ashore during hurricane season. Some boats must be pulled to have any chance of surviving, such as smaller open boats or high-performance powerboats with low freeboard. If the boat stays in the water, it will likely be overcome by waves, rain, and spray.
When storing the boat ashore, the boat should be stored well above the predicted storm surge. Try to reduce windage as much as possible and ensure that your boat has additional jack stands (at least 3 to 4 on each side for boats smaller than 30 feet, and 5 to 6 for larger boats). Plywood should support the jack stands, which must also be chained together to prevent spreading.
If you have to secure a boat in the water, be sure to create a “hurricane hole,” which BoatUS defines as “a snug harbor protected on all sides from open fetch and unrestricted storm surge.” Do not keep your boat near rocks during a storm.
If your boat is at a fixed dock, be sure the dock lines are long and large enough to secure the boat. Further, make sure that the dock lines are arranged in an efficient, proper manner. The boat should resemble a “spider suspended in the center of a large web,” as stated by Charles Fort.
For other ways of keeping your boat in the water, you can store it:
- At a floating dock,
- In a canal, river, or waterway,
- At a mooring, or
- At anchor.
Check out BoatUS’s article here: https://www.boatus.com/expert-advice/expert-advice-archive/2019/august/where-to-keep-your-boat-during-a-hurricane
Other essential points include:
- Never stay onboard your boat during a hurricane.
- Keeping an inventory of all items, including personal belongings, that you have on the boat.
- Maintaining all documents and having insurance documents readily available.
- Being cautious once a hurricane has passed, as it may just be the eye of the storm.
Pet Preparedness and Hurricanes
We always want to ensure that our furry friends and other pets are safe during a hurricane. If you evacuate, always remember to bring your pet with you.
If you stay at home during a hurricane, be sure to keep your pet in a crate or other form of carrier, and find a safe area where the whole family is staying during the storm. Do not remove your pet’s collar or tag, in case you get separated. If your pet does not have a microchip already, it is crucial to microchip your pet in case they lose their collars.
Miami Dade County answers crucial questions related to pet-friendly evacuation centers. You are not required to pre-register your pet before using pet-friendly evacuation centers. Upon arrival, a veterinarian will examine your pet to determine if your pet will present a safety risk. You must bring supplies for your pet to any evacuation center, and centers limit pets to four per household. At least one family member must stay at the evacuation center with your pet at all times, and your pet must be in a cage or on a leash at all times.
Be sure to review the Emergency Planning with Your Pets document ahead of time to prepare before a hurricane.
Danger Zones During a Hurricane
Esri, a geographic information system company, has created a Hurricane Risk Index based on population density and previous hurricane data to determine the high risk areas. The coastal cities along the east coast and Gulf of Mexico are at great risk of danger during a hurricane, as you’d expect, and the low-lying zones that have elevations between 0 to 20 feet above sea level are especially vulnerable. The counties with the most hurricanes are seen by the darker shades of red on the map below:
- Monroe County – 15 hurricanes
- Miami-Dade County – 14 hurricanes
- Broward County – 12 hurricanes
- Broward County, FL (specifically, Fort Lauderdale)
- Miami-Dade County, FL (specifically, Miami)
- Palm Beach County, FL (specifically, West Palm Beach and Boca Raton)
- Harris, TX (specifically, Houston)
- Suffolk, NY (specifically, Long Island)
When to Consider Evacuating and How
To determine whether or not you should evacuate, you should always listen to your NOAA weather radio and stay alert with hurricane watch updates and storm advisories. People who live in a low-lying, flood-prone area or on a barrier island should consider evacuating when a hurricane approaches. Further, if you live in a mobile home close to the coast or if you are worried about the structural safety of your home, then you should consider evacuating before the storm hits. Know if you are in a flood zone or close to a flood zone and understand your hurricane risk before a hurricane hits.
When a hurricane is approaching, you should always plan ahead by making an emergency plan. Make arrangements with family members, family friends, neighbors, or other people to assist you during evacuation and know where to head when you evacuate. If necessary, contact the local emergency management office to assist you as well. Do not wait until the last minute to make these plans.
Map out your route and only use travel routes that local authorities specify. Do not evacuate until you know where you are going. Before the storm, always ensure that your car has enough gasoline to get you to your destination. When evacuating, you should always bring:
- Your emergency preparedness kit.
- Any necessary documents.
Be sure to secure your home before evacuating by boarding up windows and glass doors, anchoring all loose objects, and locking your doors.
Breakdown of Hurricane Categories, Relative Strength, and What You Can Expect With Each One
The National Hurricane Center and Central Pacific Hurricane Center breaks down each type of hurricane into categories based on wind speeds and the types of damages that the hurricane can cause. This national atmospheric administration refers to the categorization as the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
Category 1 has sustained wind speeds expected between 74 to 95 miles-per-hour (mph). This category is more powerful than tropical storms. The scale estimates that there will be very dangerous winds that will produce some damage. Well-constructed frame homes could see damages to the roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Category 1 storms can also cause large branches of trees to snap and shallow-rooted trees to topple. Power lines can see extensive damages, which will likely result in power outages that could last for one to several days.
Category 2 has sustained winds expected between 96 to 110 mph. The scale estimates that there will be extremely dangerous winds that will cause extensive damage. Homes could see major roof and siding damage. Many shallow-rooted trees will topple, uproot, or snap, blocking numerous roads. Experts expect near-total power loss, with power outages potentially lasting for days or weeks.
Category 3 has sustained winds expected between 111 to 129 mph. The scale predicts that devastating damage will occur. Experts predict that electricity and water will not be available for several days to weeks after the hurricane passes.
Category 4 has sustained winds expected between 130 to 156 mph. The scale predicts that catastrophic damage will occur. Well-built framed houses will likely have most of their roof structure damaged along with damage to exterior walls. Experts predict that power outages will likely last for weeks, or possibly months. Most of the affected areas will potentially be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
Category 5 has sustained winds expected to be 157 mph or higher. The scale predicts that catastrophic damage will occur. A high percentage of homes will be destroyed with potential roof failure and wall collapse. Experts predict that power outages will likely last for weeks, or possibly months. Most of the affected areas will potentially be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
During a Hurricane – Things to Know
If you are expecting a hurricane, you should follow the specific steps Miami-Dade County advises:
- Stay up to date with all announcements on the radio or television regarding the weather and any instructions from public safety officials.
- Stay indoors.
- Keep your emergency kit close by.
- Turn off electricity if any flooding threatens your home.
- Turn off all major appliances if you lose power.
- Use flashlights, not candles.
- Avoid using the phone.
- Do not take a shower or bath during the storm.
- Keep animals in their crates or carriers.
- Keep children informed about what is going on.
- If things begin to fall, get in the tub and put a mattress over to protect you and your loved ones from falling objects.
Home Damage – What Needs to be Secured and What’s Most Likely to Get Damaged
Some parts of your home are more likely to get damaged than other parts of the home. Before a storm, you should always secure specific parts of your home to prevent damage. These specific parts include:
- Doors and windows. Windows and doors are two of the most vulnerable parts of your home during a storm or a hurricane. In the short-term, be sure to close and lock all of your windows. Inspect each door and window to make sure that they are sealed properly and if necessary, reseal them. You should install impact-resistant shutters that are rated to withstand any flying debris up to at least 100 mph. Do not mount the shutters to a window frame. Instead, mount the shutters to the wall surrounding the windows. For your doors, install a heavy-duty bolt to each door. For the long-term, you should upgrade to impact-resistant windows and doors.
- Roof. The roof is an extremely vulnerable area of the home and is highly susceptible to wind damage. If you do not properly secure the roof, it will likely peel off. In the short-term, you should check all of the shingles’ seams and reseal them if necessary. Ensure that roof trusses have secure bracing and fix any broken or damaged shingles and tiles. You should also install metal roof straps to ensure that the roof is secure. In the long-term, you should install an impact-resistant roof that has specialized shingles.
- Yard, Deck, Porch, and Patio. The outside areas of your property are at an extremely high risk for being damaged. You should bring all ungrounded furniture and outdoor décor inside the house. Secure all porch the deck posts, confirming they are anchored. Trim all tree branches within 10 feet of your house and clean out your gutters. In the long-term, you should not have any hard landscaping near your house.
- Garage. The garage doors are extremely vulnerable during a hurricane. You should install vertical door braces and horizontal beams to prevent the doors from blowing in. You should also install an impact-resistant garage door.
- Basement. Any basement is susceptible to flooding. You can protect your property by storing your valuables in waterproof containers. You should also get a sump pump to prevent damage.
After a hurricane, you should have a home inspector come to inspect your home for damage so that you can have a thorough report when filing a claim with your insurance company.
Hurricanes not only cause catastrophic damage to individual homes but also to the community development as a whole. A hurricane can cause downed power lines, which may take days, weeks, or even months to fix.
Fallen trees can block off roads, making evacuation routes difficult. Further, flooded streets can make driving impossible.
These community damages are common, which is why you must create a plan to address these types of potential damages.
Hurricanes and Florida
As you can see from the hurricane risk data described above, Miami-Dade County, Broward County, and Palm Beach County are at extremely high risk for hurricanes during hurricane season.
The deadliest hurricanes to pass through Florida were:
- Hurricane Charley in 2004. This was a Category 4 hurricane and killed 34 people. The hurricane hit the west coast and Central Florida and cost $16 billion in damages.
- Hurricane Andrew in 1992. This was a Category 5 hurricane and killed 38 people. The hurricane cost $47 billion in damages in Bay County and other parts of Florida.
- Hurricane Frances in 2004. This was a Category 4 hurricane and killed 48 people. The hurricane hit hardest on the east coast of Florida, passing through Polk from the south and crossing paths with Hurricane Charley.
- Hurricane Michael in 2004. This was a Category 5 hurricane and killed 50 people. The hurricane cost $18.4 billion in damages throughout South Florida.
- Hurricane Irma in 2017. This was a Category 3 hurricane and killed 87 people. The hurricane cost $50 billion in damages, wrecking communities along the east coast.
The most well-known power company in Florida is the Florida Power and Light Company (FPL), whose parent company is NextEra Energy and is the biggest electric company in Florida. Other power companies include Duke Energy, Tampa Electric Company, and Gulf Power Company.
During a storm, you can report an outage, or check the status of a power outage on the company’s website. You can find FPL’s power outage information as well as where to report or track an outage here.
You can receive emergency alerts from FloridaDisaster.org’s Emergency Information center here!
Premises Liability and Hurricanes
If a hurricane caused damages to your property or caused you injuries, you may be entitled to financial compensation based on the legal concept of premises liability. Premises liability is the requirement for homeowners or property owners to maintain the safety of their property so as to not harm others.
If a property owner fails to do so and allows others to be exposed to hazards, which causes injuries or damages, then they could potentially be held liable for those damages.
Hurricanes Effect on Nursing Homes
Hurricanes often leave properties without food, power, water, or even housing. Nursing homes are required to ensure the safety of their residents at all times during a hurricane. Unfortunately, some nursing homes fail to do so, which can lead to a nursing home neglect lawsuit.
If you or a loved one was not properly protected while in a nursing home during a hurricane, you have legal rights. Nursing homes must have backup generators, procedures regarding evacuation, and other protocols to protect their residents during emergency situations.