Hurricane Prep 2021
Hooray! Autumn is around the corner! The changing colors, the pumpkin spice, the Halloween treats, the checking and re-checking of weather updates to see if it’ll be safe to brave the road for a supply run…
While the summer showers have been and gone and we’ve been lucky enough to miss the brunt of hurricanes so far, including Hurricane Grace, there is still time to plan ahead for future stormy weather. Here’s a quick rundown of things to keep in mind when prepping.
SUPPLIES AND SAFETY
First things first, make sure you have what you need at home before going out is too risky. You could wind up without power and drinkable water due to a storm which means you’ll want certain necessities on hand:
Stock up with water stored in plastic containers. A three-day supply consisting of one gallon per person per day is recommended. Keep in mind the need for drinking, cooking, washing, flushing, et al.
Check and stock your pantry with ready-to-eat non-perishable food. Store at least a three-day supply. Be careful to select foods that do not require refrigeration, preparation, or cooking. If you do select food that must be heated, select foods that can easily be heated with a can of Sterno.
The following foods are suggested:
• Canned fruits, meats and vegetables
• Dried fruit and nuts
• Canned pasta
• Canned fruit juices, milk, and soup. (If any item is powdered, store extra water.)
• Sugar, salt and pepper
• High energy foods such as peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars and trail mix
• Comfort/stress food such as cookies, hard candy, sweetened cereals, instant coffee, tea and soft drinks
• Special items for babies, elderly or others with special diets
First Aid Kit
First aid items should be stored in an air tight plastic bag. Each kit should be stored in an easily accessible place in both your home and car.
Your first aid kit should include:
• Sterile bandages and gauze pads
• Tweezers, needle and thread
• Safety pins
• Latex gloves
• Cleansing agents
• Pain reliever, anti-diarrhea medication, and antacid
Tools and Additional Supplies
These are the odds and ends that will keep your household running smoothly. If you already have some or all of the following, DO NOT assume they’re well-stocked and/or in good condition since your last use. Items that require hand or battery operation should be tested to see if they’re reliable and standard supplies should be stocked and positioned in easy-to-reach locations. Be certain that you have the following items and that they’re in working condition:
• Paper cups, plates, and plastic utensils
• Plastic garbage bags and ties
• Soap and liquid detergent
• Battery-operated radio and extra batteries
• Flashlights and extra batteries
• Matches in a waterproof container or lighter, preferably new
• Sterno (multiple cans)
• 24-hour candles
• Non-electric can opener and bottle opener
• Gas/Charcoal/Wood Grill and Fuel* (*For outdoor use ONLY. Indoor use is a major safety hazard.)
• Utility knife
• Cellphone, charger and automobile adapter
Don’t forget your four-legged friends! Be sure to have the following in order for your pets:
• Crate/carrier labeled with your contact information and pet’s feeding instructions
• Spoon for canned food
• Pet medications
• Pet toys, blankets and treats
• Litter, litter pan and scoop
• Plastic, regular size trash bags and sealable bags for disposing of solid waste and paper towels for accidents
• Leash, collar and/or harness
With all the physical supplies and tools prepared, it may seem like you have everything under control, but there are services you may have to call in case something goes wrong. Make sure you look up and list the following phone numbers in your phone’s contacts and/or have them written out in easy view:
- Emergency/Fire/EMS/Police/Evacuation Assistance (911)
- Primary Physician
- Hospital Clinic
- Power Company
- Water Company
- Gas Company
- Kids’ School
Last but not least on your home's prep to-do list is protecting your furniture against weather damage.
Outdoor furniture should be addressed first. For apartment living, any patio pieces, birdfeeders, barbecue pits, and other back porch items should be brought inside. In the case of homes with garages and/or toolsheds, furnishings should be relocated there and secured as best you can manage. The main concern with outdoor furniture is not just the issue of losing pieces due to strong winds, but the possibility of causing damage to nearby homes as debris. Be sure to clear away any loose items like tree branches or lawn décor from the yard that may get caught in a heavy gust. Finally, have your vehicle parked in a spot with low risk of debris—either in a shelter, a garage, or out of range of nearby trees or poles.
Moving indoors, the first thing to consider is the windows. Relocate what you can away from the windows while keeping the blinds down and curtains drawn; if the glass breaks, shards, wind, and water damage could become a real issue. Larger pieces set against the wall such as bookcases, piers, and televisions can be secured with brackets or straps to prevent toppling while fragile items are moved out of display and into secure, preferably watertight containers. If flooding is a concern, elevate what furniture pieces and appliances you can onto blocks. It also wouldn't hurt to check on the quality of exterior door and window seals. Now's the time to invest in good weatherstripping, caulking any cracks, and--if the oncoming weather looks severe enough--breaking out the plywood to board over the glass.
No one wants to do it, but you should always be ready for it. With proper planning you can minimize the risks and the frustration of evacuation. To ensure your safety, plan your escape route early.
- Contact local emergency management personnel to confirm low points and flooding history of your planned route. Emergency management personnel can also provide estimates on the number of hours it would take you to reach a safe area during an evacuation.
- When a hurricane watch is issued, stay tuned to your local radio and television stations for updates on the hurricane’s position. Use a tracking map to log the hurricane’s track.
- Once a hurricane warning is issued, be prepared to evacuate. Check your survival supplies and have them ready to take in a hurry if told to evacuate.
- If an evacuation order is issued, be prepared to leave early. For any hurricane, persons located in low-lying areas or near the coast will be instructed to evacuate.
If you plan to evacuate you should see to the following, preferably while doing your supply prep:
• Have your car checked
• Fill your gas tank
• Get cash
• Have a survival supply kit ready to bring with you
• Secure your important papers to bring with you (or make sure they are in a secure place)
• Maps and evacuation route information ready to bring with you
• Charge your cellphone and don't forget chargers
Evacuation areas are subject to change with more accurate modeling techniques and evacuation shelter lists are altered each year as sturdier facilities are added and older buildings are deleted. Your county's Emergency Management Agency can provide you with updated maps with evacuation areas routes and public shelters to help you plan. Always strategize in advance which route you will take to the nearest shelter. Remember to do a head count and don't forget your pets.
Alright, you’ve gone through the whole list. You’ve got your survival kit ready, your pantry is stocked, emergency routes are planned, the radio’s on standby, everything’s good to go. Now, what about the hurricanes themselves? How badly are they going to hit? When staying updated on the news, you’ll hear a hurricane referred to as one of five categories:
CATEGORY 1- Winds of 74-95 mph: Strong enough to cause damage to shrubbery, trees, and mobile homes. Frame homes, apartments, and shopping centers may experience some damage. Snapped power lines could result in short term power outages. Flooding of low-lying areas is possible.
CATEGORY 2- Winds of 96-110 mph: Strong enough to uproot trees and cause damage to roofing and in general cause extensive damage. There is a larger risk of injury or death to people, livestock, and pets from flying debris. Older mobile homes run the risk of being destroyed. Frame homes, buildings, may see major roof and siding damage. Expect total power loss with outages lasting anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
CATEGORY 3- Winds of 111-129 mph: There is a high risk of injury or death to people. Strong enough to rip foliage from and blow down large trees. Expect damage to roofing materials of buildings, windows and doors, and structural damage to small buildings. Strong enough to destroy mobile homes and cause coastal and low-lying inland flooding.
CATEGORY 4- Winds of 130-156 mph: Strong enough for shrubs, trees, and signs to be blown down. Anticipate extensive damage to roofing, windows and doors. Total destruction of roofs on small residences, small businesses, and homes. Anticipate flooding with floating debris.
CATEGORY 5- Winds greater than 157 mph: The most deadly and destructive category. Complete roof failures and destruction of residences and industrial buildings. Shattering of glass in windows and doors. Storm surges, power outages, and widespread flooding. Regardless of the category, hurricanes can cause both coastal and inland hazards. High tides and flash floods are more likely to be coastal hazards. Continuous rainfall and runoff from high ground areas causing flooding in low-lying areas is an example of an inland hazard. In addition, inland areas on high ground normally experience damage due to hurricane winds. Building debris is carried by the wind throughout the affected area.
Weather Related Terms
These are a few of the tag-on terms you might hear when a hurricane is being discussed:
ADVISORY - A message released by the weather center, normally at 6-hour intervals, providing updates on the storm or hurricane, including watches and warnings when they are in effect. A special advisory is a message given whenever there is a significant change in weather conditions or change in warnings previously released.
EYE WALL- The area immediately outside of the eye of a hurricane associated with tall clouds, heavy rainfall, and high winds.
GALE WARNING- Storm with non-cyclonic winds of an expected speed of 30 to 54 miles per hour.
HURRICANE WATCH- A hurricane watch is issued when sustained winds of 74 miles per hour or higher are possible within the specified area of the Watch. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the onset of tropical storm force winds.
STORM SURGE- A rise in tides caused by a hurricane as it moves over or near the coastline.
TORNADO WATCH- Tornadoes and severe thunderstorms are possible.
TORNADO WARNING- Tornado detected in area—SEEK SHELTER.
TROPICAL DEPRESSION- A tropical depression is defined as a large rotating storm that has maximum sustained surface winds of 38 miles per hour or less.
TROPICAL STORM- A tropical storm is defined as a large rotating storm that has maximum sustained surface winds ranging from 39-73 miles per hour.
TROPICAL STORM WATCH- A tropical storm watch is issued when tropical storm conditions, including winds of 39-73 miles per hour, pose a POSSIBLE threat to a specified coastal area within 48 hours.
TROPICAL STORM WARNING- A tropical storm warning is issued when tropical storm conditions, including winds of 39-73 miles per hour, are EXPECTED in a specified coastal area within 36 hours or less.
By following these guidelines and staying updated, you can ride out the hurricane season like a pro.
For more information on hurricane prep and news updates surrounding upcoming storms and safety measures, check out the following websites:
- Ready or Not?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . www.texasprepares.org
- Ready South Texas. . . . . . . . . . www.readysouthtexas.gov
- Texas Online. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . www.texas.gov
- TXDOT. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . www.drivetexas.org
- National Hurricane Center. . . . . . . . . . www.nhc.noaa.gov
- American Red Cross. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. www.redcross.org
- FEMA. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . www.fema.gov