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 making sure 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 should give it a well-spaced framework so that it develops a dominant trunk with sturdy branches. Keep the shape as high up the tree as possible. If a tree is more than fifteen feet tall, get extra help from a certified arborist to properly prune it before hurricane season begins. The arborist will be able to create a safe place by correctly removing dead branches, which could risk falling on houses, electrical equipment, cars, or people. Make the tree less prone to falling by shortening excessively long branches. Remove low branches that are close to the roof. It is essential to hire a professional to evaluate your trees every two years to avoid damage during a hurricane.
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.
are in a Mobile Home
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:
This map shows that the following counties see the most major hurricanes. Not surprisingly, the top 3 are all in southern Florida.
- Monroe County – 15 hurricanes
- Miami-Dade County – 14 hurricanes
- Broward County – 12 hurricanes
The study showed that areas at the highest risk were those that saw a high frequency of hurricanes and had large population densities per county. The index found the following areas with the highest risk:
- Broward County, FL (specifically, Fort Lauderdale)
- Miami-Dade County, FL (specifically, Miami)
- Palm Beach County, FL (specifically, West Palm Beach and Boca Raton)
- Harris County, 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:
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.
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
Yard, Deck, Porch,
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.
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.
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 primarily to the southeastern part of Florida where it made its landfall.
- 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 the Florida Panhandle.
- Hurricane Irma in 2017. This was a Category 4 hurricane and killed 87 people. The hurricane cost $50 billion in damages, where it made landfall in the Florida Keys and then went up the west coast of Florida.
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!