This hurricane preparedness blog was written by a paid contributor, who interviewed Flex Seal Ambassador, Dr. Reed Timmer.
Do you know what you should do to prepare for a hurricane?
Hurricane preparedness is critical when a storm is headed in your direction. Powerful winds and rain from hurricanes and other tropical systems can wreak havoc on communities. Even if a storm doesn’t make landfall, the effects of the turbulent weather can threaten homes and businesses for weeks.
“What makes hurricanes so dangerous is that their impact is multifaceted, as you not only get the strong winds, but you get the water component as well,” said Flex Seal Ambassador, Extreme Meteorologist and Storm Chaser, Dr. Reed Timmer. “It’s extremely important to know how to prepare for a hurricane well before a storm is heading your way.”
When it comes to hurricane preparedness, there are many things you can do in advance to get your home and family ready for storm season. Continue reading for tips on how to prepare for a hurricane.
Are you ready for hurricane season? Image courtesy of Shutterstock
Having a basic understanding of information about hurricanes and other tropical cyclones can help you better prepare for one. The first thing to know is when these storms are likely to hit.
Timmer explained that there are two hurricane seasons for the United States - the Atlantic Hurricane Season, which runs from June 1st to November 30th, and the Eastern Pacific Hurricane Season, which goes from May 15th to November 30th.
“Although hurricane season for the U.S. is about six months long, many storms tend to make landfall during a specific 3-month period,” Timmer said. “A staggering 96% of all major hurricane landfalls occur during the months of August, September, and October. Storms can and do form outside of those months, but this is where we tend to see the bulk of the action in the tropics.”
Satellite image of a hurricane. Image courtesy of Shutterstock
According to Dr. Timmer, tropical cyclones are low-pressure systems with organized convection that form in warm ocean waters. Here are the three types you should know.
● Tropical Depression: The weakest type of tropical cyclone, with winds less than 39 mph
● Tropical Storm: These are more powerful, with winds measuring between 39-73 mph
● Hurricane: A particularly strong version of a tropical cyclone that has maximum sustained winds of 74 mph, or greater
“The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Weather Service have developed the Saffir-Simpson Scale, which rates the intensity of hurricanes to classify hurricane wind speed damage,” said Timmer.
Winds are rated between Category 1 and Category 5:
● Category 1: 74-95 mph
● Category 2: 96-110 mph
● Category 3: 111-129 mph
● Category 4: 130-156 mph
● Category 5: 157 mph, or greater
Aside from strong winds and heavy rains, tropical storms and hurricanes are also capable of creating life-threatening storm surges that cause dangerous flooding.
“A storm surge is one of the most dangerous aspects of a hurricane,” Timmer said. “These surges of water get pushed on shore and can cause catastrophic flooding in coastal communities and surrounding areas.” As storms begin to approach landmasses, watches and warnings can be issued such as:
● Tropical Storm Watch: Usually issued 48-hours before tropical storm conditions arrive
● Tropical Storm Warning: Usually issued 36-hours before tropical storm conditions arrive
● Hurricane Watch: Usually issued 48-hours before hurricane conditions arrive
● Hurricane Warning: Usually issued 36-hours before hurricane-force winds arrive
“These watches and warnings are issued with lead time because once tropical-storm-force winds begin to arrive, it’s too dangerous to continue preparations and evacuations,” said Timmer. “Preparations, safety plans, and evacuations must be completed during the 36-hour period leading up to the arrival of tropical storm or hurricane-force winds, so it’s imperative you pay attention to what’s going on with these storms.”
It’s critical to know how to prepare for a hurricane if you live in an area that could be affected by one. Below are steps Timmer recommends taking to prepare for hurricanes.
Always discuss your hurricane plans with loved ones beforehand. Image courtesy of Shutterstock
Timmer suggests having your hurricane preparedness plan in place well before the official start of hurricane season.
“There is a tendency for people to ignore preparations until a storm is in their path, but by that time, it’s often too late,” Timmer said. “When a hurricane is close to making landfall, things tend to get chaotic. You don’t want to be one of those people scrambling to find supplies or figuring out what to do at the last minute. This is why I stress taking the time to prep before a storm is on the horizon.”
Your Plan Should Include the Following:
● Create a customized hurricane preparedness checklist of things to get done before and after the storm.
● Organize important documents, such as property deeds, insurance policies, and forms of identification, so they are easily accessible.
● Know whether you live or work in a mandatory evacuation zone (low-lying areas, floodplains and coastal areas).
● Identify your evacuation route and give it a dry run on a sunny day to become familiar with it.
● Decide where you’ll take shelter in the event of an evacuation.
● If you have pets, make sure you have a safe place to bring them if you do evacuate.
● Arrange a meet up place for you and your family if you are separated.
Make sure to discuss your plan with all members of your household, as well as with other immediate family members and local friends.
Note: Your plan should be tailored to the specific needs of you and your family.
Gather necessary supplies before the storm. Image courtesy of Shutterstock
Having a dedicated stash of supplies is important because even the best-laid plans can falter. Storms may be more intense than expected, evacuation may be slow, and you may have trouble getting food and materials you need at the last minute.
Timmer suggests that a good starting point is a kit of supplies that can last you and your family 3-5 days.
“Aim to have at least 3-5 days' worth of supplies, but you may even want to plan for longer than 5 days depending on your situation,” Timmer said. “If you have a large family or expect to be displaced for an extended period of time based on the storm path and projected severity, it’s better to have more supplies on hand. Most importantly, make sure your plan and kit are tailored to your family’s needs.”
A solid hurricane supply list includes essential items such as:
● Bottled water
● Non-perishable foods (canned goods, boxed items, instant foods)
● Batteries and backup chargers for all devices
● Hand-held radios for backup communication (especially if a family is evacuating in two vehicles and cell reception is poor)
● Weather radio to stay informed
● Flashlights (one for each family member)
● Survival and first aid kit
● Flex Seal Products for before and after the storm
● Compact suitcase with essential clothing items, medications, and toiletries
● Pet food, and other pet supplies, if applicable
● Books, games, or a deck of cards for entertainment
During hurricane season, it’s always best to try to keep a full tank of gasoline in your car or truck.
If evacuations aren’t mandatory or encouraged and you’ll be riding out a storm at home, it’s still important to make sure you have enough supplies on hand.
“If you are not required to evacuate, and choose to stay at home, the same supply list applies,” said Timmer. “Keep in mind that tap water may not be safe during and after a storm, so it’s also important to fill sinks and bathtubs to use for flushing toilets, washing, and other needs. You can also fill empty clean containers with tap water so you have enough fresh drinking water.”
Having an inventory of goods on hand well before a storm makes landfall can reduce some urgency when reviewing your hurricane preparedness checklist.
Keep your home protected. Image courtesy of Shutterstock
When a storm is approaching, protecting your home should be a priority. Proper storm preparation can mean less costly repairs after.
Here are some ways to help prepare your home for a hurricane.
● Clear your yard of anything that might blow around during the storm. Bring any loose items such as bikes, lawn furniture, grills, and building materials inside, if possible.
● Check batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors. Know how to turn off your home’s water and power. If you must evacuate, it’s important to turn off these utilities before leaving your home.
● Cover windows and doors. Nail pieces of plywood to the outside window frames or install permanent storm shutters to protect your windows.
● Use the Flex Seal Family of Products to help protect and repair vulnerable areas of your home.
● Our Hurricane Prep Kit can help you get ready for the storm.
Follow this Storm Season Home Preparation Guide for more information.
Know your evacuation route. Image courtesy of Shutterstock
Hunkering down indoors to ride out a storm isn’t always an option. In some situations, evacuation will be the safest course of action for you and your family.
“When it comes to evacuation, it’s always important to heed all warnings from local government and authorities,” Timmer said. “These officials will be best able to advise whether evacuation is necessary based on your location and the severity of the hurricane.”
Timmer also stresses the importance of knowing your evacuation routes and planning your destination ahead of time.
“Evacuations can be quite stressful, but pre-planning can help them go smoother. Leaving as far ahead of time as possible, knowing where to go, and what supplies to pack in your vehicle can go a long way when it comes to evacuating.”
Luckily, we live in an age where information is at our fingertips. Meteorologists, hurricane hunters, and government officials work hard to gather the most accurate and up-to-date information about hurricanes and their potential impacts.
“Information can help save lives, and that becomes even more critical during hurricane season,” Timmer said. “Follow directions and mandates from your local authorities not only for your safety but the safety of those around you.”
With knowledge, preparation, and the Flex Seal Family of Products, you and your family can feel more prepared this hurricane season.