The two main dangers I pay attention to with hurricanes are tornadoes and water damage. Living in Louisiana, we’ve seen our fair share of both including Hurricane Katrina.
Storms can shift at any time. Do not ever think you are out of danger until the storm fully dissipates or heads back out to sea far enough to not be a danger. Hurricanes can head out to sea, regain strength, and return.
Get a battery operated radio. Buy extra batteries, and test it. When your power goes out, you have no television or internet, and the cell phone lines are jammed with excessive activity, this will be your only way to find out what is going on outside your home.
Have a plan to get to higher ground in case water rises. A house I owned close to the gulf at the time Katrina hit flooded past the roof. No one expected that, so prepare for the worst and hope for the best. This storm is smaller so that’s not expected, but if you are close to the water you need to prepare for a storm surge (water rising rapidly onto land). Storm surge can cause more damage to property and loss of life than people think.
Tornadoes occur usually on the outskirts of the hurricane with high winds. Secure outdoor items and have a plan in case a tornado warning is issued in your area. Make sure every person living in your house knows where to go in case you need to prepare for an approaching tornado. Most recommend a central part of the home on the first floor, and cover yourselves with a mattress to shield from falling debris. If you have a basement or storm cellar, even better.
You need to have enough water and food for each person for a few days. Estimates usually recommend 3 days worth of water and food per person (one gallon of water per day per person). If you have an ice chest or other container that can be closed/sealed, place your water and food in there to keep it dry. Choose food in containers that cannot be affected by water. Put your extra batteries in a plastic bag and store them with your supplies. Your main goal is to make sure these supplies do not get ruined. If you receive heavy damage to property or landscape, it is possible for emergency crews to not be able to reach you for days.
Phones: Charge your cell phones the night before to full capacity. If you have car chargers, most of them will work without the car being turned on (as long as the battery is operational). Keep those chargers with you. In the event your vehicle is disabled, you can still find another vehicle to plug in your phone.
Medications & Allergies: VERY important. If you take any medications for any reason, check your supply and get refills now. Place them in plastic bags with your supplies. If you have any allergies, have medication for that or epinephrin if needed.
Bugs: Yes, bugs. If you encounter rising water, there can be bugs and small reptiles in the water. Keep some bug spray/repellant/medicine with your supplies. I remember as a teenager there was a flood caused by a hurricane in my neighborhood. I had to walk two miles through water that was almost to my neck, and when I finally got to my house I had plenty of bug bites. Mosquitoes will also breed in standing water, so take precautions for this also. After the storm passes, empty or overturn any containers holding water.
Personal documents: Throughout the many floods and hurricanes, my family lost a lot of important documents and photographs. Wrap them in plastic/zip-lock bags/etc. to keep them safe. Place your driver’s licenses and insurance information (life, car, house, flood – which is sometimes a separate policy) in a plastic bag with your supplies. If you receive damage, this will be the first piece of information you will need to get assistance. Also make a list of the phone numbers for FEMA and Red Cross. With heavily damaged areas, ATMs won’t work. You may have no access to money. Keep some cash set aside in plastic and call these associations for assistance.
It is possible to be without power and outside contact for days. Keep the above preparations in mind and prepare what you can. The above is only based on my personal experience with floods and hurricanes, nothing technical.
Some other things to consider:
- Baby items and supplies
- First aid kit
- Waterproof camera
- Extra set of keys
- One extra pair of socks and shoes for each person (closed-toe tennis shoes are recommended; those sandals might be cute but you want your feet covered)
- Pets: very important. Keep a few days worth of pet food in plastic. If you board your pet, have an emergency contact for the boarder (cell phone, email address) and ask them what their emergency plan consists of.
- Extended Family: Do you have an older person or someone with disabilities in the storm zone? Do they live in a facility? Contact them or the facility and make sure they have an emergency plan.
- Refrigerators and freezers: turn them to the coldest setting and avoid opening them in the event of power loss.
- Evacuations: If you evacuate, do not return until emergency officials have deemed it safe. Many people have been harmed by downed power lines and debris. It’s not worth the risk.
- Use your telephone only for emergencies. Text messages seem to go through when phone calls fail, although they may be delayed.
- Do not attempt to drive through areas with standing water unless you are sure of the depth.
- Gasoline: Gas stations can and have run out of fuel. Fill up your vehicle and fill an extra container (keep the container outside). You will also need gas and/or oil to power a generator (if you have one). Make sure you have what you need to power these items.
Most importantly, have a plan and make sure your family knows it. Contact relatives in safe areas and let them know your plans. Arrange for a checkpoint date (to call them, check in, assess damage) if you can.