June 1st marked the official start of the 2013 hurricane season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predict that this year will have an actives season. As a result of expanding coastal populations, rising sea levels, and climate changes, hurricane storm surges are stronger and capable of causing more destruction. Many predictions suggest that the US has a higher risk of tropical storms and hurricanes than in 2012.
Hurricanes mostly form in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and in the eastern Pacific Ocean. All Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas are considered “hurricane regions” and parts of the Southwest US and Pacific Coast are subjected to heavy rains and floods. The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June to November, with the peak season from mid-August to late October. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15 and ends November 30.
With strengthening winds, severe thunderstorms, random microbursts, and possible tornadoes, hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland. Storm surges can occur and the heavy rainfall can cause extensive flood damage. Flying debris from excessive winds can cause further damage and the destructive results can be seen in the aftermath. Slow hurricanes traveling into mountainous regions tend to produce intense rain, which can trigger landslides, mud slides, and/or flash floods.
Before a Hurricane
It’s important to be fully prepared for any hurricane; it’s better to be safe than sorry. FEMA highly recommends that you take the following precautions:
- Build an emergency kit and ensure that every family member knows the plan.
- Know your surroundings.
- Learn the elevation level of your property and whether the land is flood-prone. This can help determine how your property will be affected with storm surges or tidal flooding.
- Identify levees and dams in your area and determine whether they pose a hazard to you.
Learn community hurricane evacuation routes and how to find higher ground. In case of evacuation, you should already know where to go and how to get there.
- Cover all of your home’s windows with storm shutters OR board the up with 5/8″ marine plywood (cut to fit and ready to install). Tape does nothing to prevent windows from breaking.
- Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure.
- Trim the trees and shrubs around your home so they are more wind resistant.
- Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
- Reinforce your garage doors; if wind enters a garage it can cause hazardous structural damage.
- Bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that isn’t tied down.
- If you own a boat, make sure it is fully secured.
- Install a generator for emergencies.
- If in a high-rise building, take shelter below the 10th floor.
- Have a “safe room” if your property is compromised.
Don’t have flood insurance protection? Well you should highly consider it. Flood insurance is the only way to financially protect your property or business from flood damage. To learn more about the flooding risk and protection, visit the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration (NFIP) at www.floodsmart.gov or call 800-427-2419.
During a Hurricane
If a hurricane is likely in your area, you should:
- Listen to the radio or TV for information.
- Secure your home, close storm shutters and secure outdoor objects or bring them indoors.
- Turn off utilities if instructed to do so. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed. This preserves food and beverages for a short while.
- Turn off propane tanks.
- Use the phone for emergencies only.
- Moor your boat if time permits.
- Keep a supply of water for sanitary purpose. Fill the bathtub and large containers with water.
- Stay indoors during the hurricane and away from windows and glass doors.
- Close all interior doors and secure exterior doors.
- Keep curtains and blinds closed.
- Take refuge in a small interior room, closet or hallway on the lowest level.
- Avoid elevators.
Evacuation is essential if under the following conditions:
- If you are directed by local authorities to do so.
- If you live in a mobile home or temporary structure – such shelter are particularly hazardous during hurricane no matter how well fastened to the ground.
- If you live in a high-rise building – hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations.
- If you live on the coast, on a floodplain, near a river, or on an island waterway.
After a Hurricane
- Continue listening to a weather radio station or local news for the latest updates.
- Stay alert for possible rainfall and flooding after the hurricane or tropical storm has ended.
- If separated from your family, use your family communications plan or contact the American Red Cross at 800-733-2767. The American Red Cross maintains a database to help you find family. Contact the local American Red Cross chapter where you are staying for information.
- If you evacuated, return home only when officials say it is safe.
- If you cannot return home, text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).
- For those who have longer-term housing needs, FEMA offers several types of assistance, including services and grants to help people repair their homes and find replacement housing. Apply for assistance or search for information about housing rental resources.
- Drive only if necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed-out bridges. Stay off the streets.
- If you must go out, watch for fallen objects like downed electrical wires and telephone poles.
- Keep away from loose or dangling power lines and report them to the power company.
- Carefully inspect the outside your home for loose power lines, gas leaks and structural damage.
- Stay out of any building if you smell gas, floodwaters remain around the building, your home was damaged by fire, and/or the authorities declared it unsafe.
- Take pictures of damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance purposes.
- Use battery-powered flashlights; do not use candles. The flashlight should be turned on outside – the battery may produce a spark that could ignite leaking gas.
- Watch your pets closely and keep alert for wild animals, especially poisonous snakes. Use a stick to poke through debris.
- Avoid drinking or preparing food with tap water until it’s confirmed that it’s not contaminated.
Check refrigerated food for spoilage. If in doubt, throw it out.
- Wear protective clothing and be cautious when cleaning up to avoid injury.
- Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
- Keep the generator outside when not in use. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can linger in your home for hours, even after it is shut off.