I’ve lost count of the number of hurricanes I have experienced in my life- upwards of twenty. As a kid, I saw them as both a blessing and a curse. Hurricane days meant no school, but of course there were the inevitable days of no electricity and endless amounts of yard cleanup for a good half a week afterward. My family’s house is sturdy brick and not too close to water, so we never felt much dread of the true dangers of these storms aside from the possibility of fallen trees.
I was always surprised at the shock of our neighbors before the day-long wind and rain. Many nowadays are moving to the coasts of the United States from areas which don’t see much tropical action; some people have no idea what to do. The main key to preparing for a hurricane or tropical storm is simply that: Be prepared, and know what to expect. Here are a few guidelines that will hopefully take some of the pressure off as we continue in the midst of hurricane season.
* Electricity and water outages are almost a given if you live in areas that aren’t strangers to tropical storms or hurricanes. Keeping a two or three day supply of water and non-perishable foods is a good idea, and so is doing your best to consume any food that needs to stay refrigerated beforehand. Buy candles, flashlights, or glow-in-the-dark torches for nights. Filling up bathtubs can provide water for washing, which can be a relief after a humid day without air conditioning! Another treasure can be found in a battery powered radio, which can keep you up to date on what the storm is doing.
* Flooding is possible if your home is located in a low-lying area or if you are near a body of water such as a river or marshlands. There unfortunately isn’t much to be done for prevention, but placing valuable items off the floor can lessen damages if flooding becomes an issue.
* Debris is to be expected. Before the storm hits, look out for large branches or old trees that could potentially fall and cause damage to your property. Save yourself some trouble and take these out beforehand if the risk seems high enough. Be ready to have a good deal of cleanup after the storm- high winds will blow all sorts of things across your yard and leave you to pick up the mess! Also, if possible you should move cars into a garage or open area- anywhere away from the danger of fallen trees.
* Windows may need to be boarded, or simply crossed with duct tape to prevent possible shattering from debris or strong winds. I’ve personally never had to take this precaution, but those who live in more open areas such as near a beach usually keep boards handy just for hurricane season!
* Kids should be assured that this is just a big storm. Keep something for them to do handy (a coloring book, a board game, their favorite toy) and let them have a flashlight or glow stick to hold at night. And don’t forget pets either! Make sure you have plenty of food and water for them, and keep them in a place safe from debris and high waters. As a reminder from one who has learned this the hard way: Remember to bring the cat in, or he may call you out to save him in the middle of the storm!
* Evacuation is often mandatory for those who live on the oceanfront, and is always an option if you feel your home is unsafe. Your local news station will provide information on evacuation routes and in-town shelters. Most of these shelters will be school gyms or churches, and some will even allow pets.
Disasters can happen, but taking precautions can often prevent a good deal of potential damages and discomforts. Hurricane veterans such as myself all know that the key is not to panic, and to analyze your situation beforehand so you can take the best measures at staying safe. Hurricanes and tropical storms are always a hassle, but with some basic knowledge you can take the edge off of that first experience.