Americans have experienced the costliest hurricanes ever since 1992, and the worst of those was obviously Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In addition to all of the damage that these hurricanes caused, they also took many lives. For whatever the reason, people may not have heeded the warnings about the potential severity of these storms. Part of the problem may be that people are more willing to cling to myths about hurricanes than they are to seek out information that is factually correct.
In the hope of debunking some of those myths, here is a look at some of the most common myths and the factual information that will hopefully dispel those myths.
*MYTH #1 – Opening windows on the leeward side of the house won’t let air pressure explode the house.
It is impossible to know in advance, which wall will be the leeward wall because the wind direction is constantly changing as the storm passes. Opening the windows during the storm puts you at serious risk of injury due to flying glass. Moreover, wind can drive the rain straight into the house, destroying your belongings. Air normally leaks from around doors and windows, and this leakage can help to keep the air pressure in the house slightly lower than that of the air outdoors.
The most serious danger can occur when a large window or door on the wall facing the wind breaks or fails (something that could easily happen with open windows.) For your personal safety and that if your family, it is most important that you keep all wind and air out by adequately protecting windows and doors. That means securing doors with extra bolts and long screws and boarding up windows with plywood of at least 5/8 inch thickness or using hurricane shutters.
*MYTH #2 – Hurricanes only happen between June 1st and November 30.
Although June 1st to November 30th is the official hurricane season, nature doesn’t always operate according to calendars that people create. Many hurricanes and tropical storms have been known to develop both significantly before and after the traditionally recognized hurricane season. The following examples will illustrate that.
*Hurricane Zeta in January of 2006, and although the storm never made landfall, it was still considered the last official storm of the 2005 hurricane season.
*Hurricane Lili made landfall in 1984.
*Tropical Storm Anna appeared in April of 2003.
*MYTH #3 – You don’t have to worry about evacuating because the county will come and get you.
This is another complete falsehood. The county is not going to risk the lives of their emergency personnel to come out to rescue people who failed to heed evacuation orders. If you know that there is a likelihood that your area will be affected by a hurricane, prepare for an evacuation in advance, and be ready to heed the warning as soon as the order is issued, if not sooner. If you are a person for whom evacuating will be difficult or impossible on your own, be sure that you contact the local authorities as soon as they announce that they are going to assist those who cannot assist themselves. If you wait until the last minute, it may not be possible to evacuate you.
*MYTH #4 – We already get bad winds from thunderstorms, so hurricane force winds can’t possibly be that bad.
Unless there is a tornado, typical thunderstorm winds rarely exceed 50 mph, and winds of that speed are typically gusts, not sustained winds. A 50 mph gust doesn’t begin to compare to the 110 mph sustained winds of a category 2 hurricane, or the sustained wind speeds in excess of 155 mph of a category 5 hurricane. Although category 5 hurricanes are rare, it is still possible for a storm of that strength to have sustained wind speeds of as much as 200 mph.
*MYTH #5 – It is okay to go outside during the eye of the storm because you’ll be safe then.
Although the winds do die down during the eye of the storm, hurricanes are very unpredictable and you can never be sure about when they will pick back up or if they’ll come from the opposite direction. Besides, even during the eye of the storm, anyone could easily be hurt by damaged tree limbs or pieces of a dislodged roof that may fall. There is also going to be debris all over the ground, so navigating the obstacle course outside will be very difficult, and if the storm were to pick back up suddenly, you might not be able to get back inside fast enough.
*MYTH #6 – You don’t have to worry because your homeowner’s insurance will protect you.
Many people who take out homeowner’s insurance only insure their home and property for its value. That means that they will only be reimbursed for the value of the property when they bought it. Unless your property and possessions are insured for the replacement value, you will probably not recoup enough to replace your possessions and rebuild or repair your house.
People also mistakenly believe that their homeowner’s insurance will protect them from flooding related to a hurricane. The problem with that is that if the flooding doesn’t occur from the storm surge proper, as happened with Hurricane Katrina, your insurance may not be willing to cover you for damage. Some places require that people living in a hurricane prone area have hurricane insurance, but it definitely costs more, and adding flood insurance on top of that can be far more costly than most people can afford.
Perhaps the most dangerous myth of all is that just because a mobile home is secured to a foundation and the roof is fastened with roof straps, it is safe to remain in a mobile home during a hurricane. This is entirely untrue, and the fact is, just as a mobile home is never a safe place to ride out a tornado, it is not a safe place to ride out a hurricane. Anyone living in a mobile home MUST evacuate no matter what category a hurricane is.
There are many myths associated with hurricanes. A common thread among those myths seems to revolve around how extensively people feel that they need to protect their homes and what constitutes adequate protection. This includes the type of physical protection they need to provide for their homes and the amount of type of homeowners insurance they need to have.
Other myths relate to whether or not people should open windows during the storm. What people need to understand most of all is that they need to be as far away from windows and/or doors as possible. Lastly, people question the need to evacuate. When an evacuation order is issued by local civil authorities, that generally means that there is reason to believe that the storm will be powerful enough to put people in harm’s way. Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare to heed that warning because you may not be able to get out in time.
Mythbusters: Blowing Away 5 Big Hurricane Myths –
Hurricane Preparation: Myths and Facts –
Key Facts and Common Myths about Hurricanes –
The Top Ten List of Hurricane Myths –