With the Atlantic hurricane season starting this past Tuesday, June 1st, it is time to start planning and preparing. As we reflect on 2020’s record-breaking period, we know that this season, set to end November 30th, should not be taken lightly.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) says we can expect 13 to 20 very different storms this year:
- 6 to 10 of these are predicted to be named storms, with winds of 39 mph or higher
- 3 to 5 are expected to be major hurricanes with categories of either 3, 4, or 5
These expectations are slightly different for the central Pacific season—running from approximately June 1st to November 30th—and the eastern Pacific hurricane season—running from approximately May 15th to November 30th. According to NOAA, the eastern Pacific, which impacts the Southwest United States and Mexico, expects a near-normal season, ranging from 10 to 18 hurricanes. The central Pacific season, also predicted to have a near-normal season, meaning we can expect 2 to 5 tropical cyclones—which can include tropical depressions, storms, or hurricanes – along Hawaii and other accompanying islands.
Protecting Against Financial Losses Before the Storm
While storms may pass leaving communities mostly unscathed, others cause serious destruction, commonly including flooding in homes, cars, and businesses.
Whether you’ve already experienced a hurricane or are moving to an area prone to hurricanes, it’s important to know what to do in the event of a weather emergency. Being prepared can help minimize damage, including financial stress over the thought of losing your home and valuables.
Make sure your insurance policies are up-to-date and you have proper coverage. Most homeowner insurance policies do not cover damage due to flooding, which leaves many with large bills after a hurricane. If you live in a flood vulnerable area, you might be required to buy – or are simply interested in buying—flood insurance, through the National Flood Insurance Program.
Remember to take pictures of your house and other insured properties both before and after the storm. These photos will help protect your assets when filing insurance claims.
Insurance is not the only way to minimize out-of-pocket losses caused by hurricanes. Small steps such as bringing in garbage cans, trimming large tree branches, and installing hurricane shutters can also go a long way in protecting your home.
Stay ahead of the weather and familiarize yourself with how to prepare for a hurricane because these tips might not only save you some money, but could also save your life.
An Emergency Preparedness Kit for Hurricane Season
Whether you plan on staying at a local hurricane shelter, evacuating, or even remaining home, everyone can benefit from a hurricane preparedness kit. This kit is essential for safety and security as well as maintaining personal belongings.
The hurricane survival kit should contain a one-day supply of perishable foods and snacks that you can eat in the first 24 hours. It should also include non-perishable foods that can last several days and plenty of bottled water. Plan for one gallon per person per day of water for drinking and for freshening up. Freeze-dried food packets are a good idea because they are satisfying meals, yet take up little space and weight.
A small grill is also something that might come in handy for cooking food and—in an emergency situation—distilling water. If you have a grill, make sure there’s extra charcoal or gas, and don’t forget to also bring a grill-proof pot and pan.
Another essential you should include in your kit is a weatherproof bag of important documents. Before a storm, gather financial, medical, legal, insurance, and household information for every family member. Make printed copies of these documents as well as password secure digital versions.
You may also want to include a first-aid kit, flashlight, batteries, chargers, and a crank or battery-powered radio. Have cash, a list of telephone numbers and contact information, and important paperwork in a waterproof envelope.
You’ll likely need to customize your hurricane preparedness kit depending on the individual needs of family members. For example, some in your family or group may need to have their prescriptions, medical equipment, glasses, or contacts. If you have an infant, you’ll also need to have items like baby wipes, diapers, formula and baby food in your kit. Don’t forget about supplies for the members with fur or feathers—they need food, water, and may need medication too.
What to Take to a Hurricane Shelter
If you need shelter, you can find one near you by texting SHELTER and your zip code to 4FEMA (43362)
If planning to evacuate, your disaster supplies kit should be easy to carry and contain enough for you and your family to last a few days.
Based on the supply of donations they receive, some hurricane shelters will offer various essential items during your stay. However, these are limited and may not always suffice you, your family, and/or your pets.
Plan on putting together some of your own items for the stay. Your kit should include all of the above-mentioned items, as well as:
- Changes of clothing
- Toothbrushes and toothpaste
- Chargers for your phone and tablets
- Important documents (ID, proof of residency and insurance policies)
To pass the time, it’s a good idea to bring puzzles, playing cards, and other small games or books. If you have small children, have them bring one or two of their favorite toys that they can carry.
How to Prepare for a Hurricane
When a hurricane is on its way you’ll receive a warning, giving you some time to decide how you will prepare. Some may choose to stay put, hunker down, and ride out the storm. Still, others will decide to evacuate and head to an area that is out of the hurricane’s path.
If you plan to evacuate, prepare by reserving safe accommodations and packing enough essentials for you, your family and pets to last for the anticipated time period. In terms of work, don’t forget to give employers or clients advance notice of your plans. Also, in case of flooding, be sure to safeguard or take sentimental items, such as photo albums or keepsakes, in your home. Secure as much of your house as possible, especially by adding hurricane shutters to all windows.
COVID-19 Adaptations to Hurricane Preparation
As many experienced last season, hurricane preparation may be different due to COVID-19. It is important to give more time than usual to develop a plan and arrange essentials.
If evacuating to a local or public hurricane shelter, be sure to follow CDC recommended practices and maintain physical distancing. Also, be sure to plan ahead and note if the nearest located shelter is open. Assess your ongoing evacuation plans and consider backup options to stop the spread of COVID-19.
It is also important to also take the necessary precautions while evacuating to protect yourself and your loved ones from COVID-19. When preparing a standard hurricane survival kit, include items that can keep you safe during the pandemic. Your modified COVID-19 kit should consist of all the above-mentioned items, as well as:
- Hand sanitizer (with minimum 60% alcohol)
- Bar or liquid soap
- Cleaning materials such as disinfectant wipes
- Two masks per person over the age of 2
To prepare for the current season, the CDC advises individuals to get the COVID19 vaccine as soon as possible. To those unvaccinated, home delivery shopping may be the perfect solution to obtaining all the items in your hurricane survival kit.
Weather the Storm
When you live in hurricane territory, the best approach is to plan ahead and be proactive. These unpredictable storms can impact your home, work, and life, so stay safe and listen to the weather experts when they tell you to act.
If you have access to a mobile device it is key to tune into local emergency radio and television stations. Another way to stay informed is to sign up to receive weather alerts. This can be done through the FEMA app, National Weather Service cell phone, NOAA Weather Radio or (@NWS) Twitter alerts.