Growing up in the northeast, hurricanes weren’t a normal occurrence; we were more likely to get hit with heavy rains than the full ‘eye-of-the-storm’ impact. It really wasn’t until Sandy ripped through the Jersey Shore that I ever experienced the aftermath of severe weather—let alone a Category 2 hurricane.
This week (May 15th-21st) is National Hurricane Preparedness Week, which is dedicated to educating the public about preparing for a potential land-falling tropical storm or hurricane, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). As we approach nicer weather, we also inch closer to hurricane season. With storm predictions already on the table—the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season is projected to be the most active since 2012, according to The Weather Company—it’s important to start putting together a storm-strategy well in advance.
So, to help you form a hurricane-proof plan, let’s chat and chew about basic storm facts and important preparedness tips for this year’s windy season.
MARK THE CALENDAR
There are several key takeaways to follow when it comes to the before, during, and after stages of a hurricane in order to increase your chances of survival.
Timing is everything. Understanding the differences in timing between the two hurricane seasons is a good starting point. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1st to November 30th (peaks mid-August and late October), which affects the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or Gulf of Mexico. The Pacific hurricane season begins May 15th and ends November 30th, which impacts Hawaii, parts of the Southwest, The Pacific Coast, and the U.S. territories in the Pacific.
LEARN THE LINGO
While hurricanes pose the greatest threat to life and property, there are several other storm categories you should be aware of, and prepared for, as well.
- Tropical storm or hurricane watch: issued for an area 48 hours prior to when a hurricane is expected to hit or tropical storm conditions to appear.
- Tropical storm or hurricane warning: issued when weather conditions for a tropical storm or hurricane are expected within 36 hours.
- Extreme wind warning: notifies an area of approaching extreme winds linked to a major hurricane (Category 3 or greater).
- Other warnings: includes alerts for flash floods, tornadoes, and floods.
- Evacuation notices: state or local government officials may issue an evacuation notice, which vary in method and can be voluntary or mandatory. In the event of a mandatory evacuation notice, leave the area immediately.
PLAN FOR THE FIVE P’s
Once you begin creating your emergency list, don’t overlook some of the more obvious items—the five P’s—you will certainly regret leaving behind at home.
- People: includes people, and if possible, pets and other animals or livestock
- Prescriptions: includes prescriptions (with dosages), medicines, medical equipment, batteries or power cords, eyeglasses, and hearing aids.
- Papers: includes documents (hard copies and/or electronic copies saved on an external hard drive or flash drive).
- Personal needs: includes clothes, food, water, first aid kit, cash, phones, chargers, and any other supplies for people with disabilities or access/functional needs.
- Priceless items: includes pictures, irreplaceable mementos, jewelry, etc.
Check out FEMA’s emergency supply list for more items to consider packing in your emergency kit.
Waiting for a hurricane to greet you at the door is never a win—make sure you know your risks and start prepping well in advance of the season. Knock out the easy stuff, such as packing your to-go bag (include enough supplies to hold you and your family over for an extended period of time), mapping your evacuation route, arranging long-term housing accommodations (local shelter, family, friends)—the list goes on! Don’t forecast the unimaginable—get ahead of the storm so you, your loved ones, and your property stand a fighting chance against one of nature’s most powerful forces!