While much of the United States is blessed with a pretty mild climate, extreme weather events do happen in season. For coastal regions in the southern latitudes of the nation, hurricanes and other tropical storms are an all-too-common reality. These systems can effect communities further north and farther inland by spawning hordes of destructive tornadoes or rampant flooding. With nearly 40% of Americans living in coastal counties—and 80% living with 60 miles of the coast—the majority of us are likely to face these storms and their aftermath at some point.
And the aftermath can be awful. We all remember the havoc wreaked by Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, with whole cities flooded and entire communities stranded without services or aid. Over the last decade, tropical storms have done over $330 billion in damage and caused hundreds of deaths. This is a serious issue—so what can you do about it?
Well, you can’t re-direct the storm but you can be prepared. With a little forethought and the right supplies, a hurricane and its aftermath can be a bit easier to cope with.
The first step is understanding the storms themselves. There’s a lot of great information available about how tropical cyclones work, how they form, and the dangers they pose. Learning a bit about the storms and when they occur is a good first step. The NOAA also tracks storms worldwide, so keeping an eye on their website and the news and tracking storms likely to affect you is fairly simple.
The next step involves a careful look at your living situation. If your community is coastal, there are likely emergency plans and evacuation routes in place; make sure you know what they are. If an evacuation is called for, you’ll want to be on the move as quickly and effectively as possible.
If evacuation isn’t the option, you may end up sheltering in place. A good emergency supply kit makes that a lot easier. The core idea is to have a three day supply of the essentials for every person in your household, and perhaps a bit extra—don’t forget your pets! There’s a lot to be said for battery powered lights as opposed to candles or oil lamps. Electric lighting doesn’t generate heat—a must in the aftermath of most tropical storms. A battery powered fan or two can make life a lot easier if the power’s down and air conditioning isn’t an option.
Whether you stay or go, you’ll want to take steps to protect your home. Securing outdoor furniture and other loose items can prevent wind damage. Keeping trees well trimmed reduces the possibility of fallen limbs destroying your roof. Boarding up windows and vents can help stop wind and water from infiltrating the structure of your home. There’s no guarantee, but taking these steps can head off damage—and your insurance company will be a bit more sympathetic to your claim since you took steps to protect the property.
It’s important to notice that many preparations and supplies for a hurricane can be used in a variety of other emergencies, from winter storms to a simple power outage. So getting a kit together, making a plan, and being ready can help keep you safe and comfortable no matter what happens.