In preparation of a hurricane or other major storm event, know in advance how you are going to receive emergency alerts, what your shelter plan is, if you will you need your emergency preparedness kit and how you will communicate with your family or local emergency management office. Photo by David Mark.
Preparing for Hurricane Season: What You Need to Know
Updated August 29, 2023: As we gear up for the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season, it’s important to be aware of the latest forecasts and take steps to ensure your safety. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has upgraded this year’s hurricane outlook from “near normal” to “above normal.” Their projections indicate the likelihood of 14 to 21 named storms, with the potential for six to 11 of those to intensify into hurricanes. Among these hurricanes, two to five could reach major hurricane status. In comparison, an average season typically sees around 14 named storms, seven hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.
At the time of this posting, Hurricane Idalia is on the horizon, poised to make landfall along the Florida Panhandle as a formidable category 3 hurricane. This impending storm brings with it the serious risk of powerful winds, extensive flooding, and the possibility of a rare, life-threatening storm surge affecting parts of Florida’s Gulf Coast.
A hurricane “watch” means a hurricane is possible for a specific area. A hurricane “warning” means a hurricane is expected to form in a specific area.
Understanding the Timing and Regions of Impact
The U.S. hurricane season, designated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), spans from early spring to November 30. Meanwhile, the Eastern Pacific hurricane season kicks off on May 15th, while the Atlantic and Central Pacific hurricane seasons commence on June 1st.
Grasping the Dangers of Hurricanes
These natural phenomena pack a punch with their devastating high winds and the catastrophic flooding triggered by storm surges. Homes and community infrastructure are often left in ruins in the wake of these storms. Alarming statistics reveal that nearly half of all hurricane-related fatalities stem from storm surge flooding, which can occur along any U.S. coastal area or in territories bordering the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Unpredictability and Preparedness
Hurricanes can swiftly gain strength, sometimes forming in a matter of days. Despite the advancements in tracking technology, predicting their exact paths remains an imperfect science. In fact, a hurricane watch is only issued approximately 2 days before landfall. Consequently, many individuals in the storm’s potential path disregard evacuation advisories and choose to face the hurricane head-on.
Impact Beyond the Coastline
The consequences of hurricanes are not confined to coastal regions alone. In some cases, torrential rains, wind damage, and even tornadoes can extend over 100 miles inland from the hurricane’s point of landfall. If you reside in such an area and have yet to consider your hurricane preparedness, now is the ideal time to start planning ahead.
Stay informed, stay safe, and take proactive measures to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your property as we navigate through another hurricane season
Strengthen Your Home Before the Storm Hits
Before the storm arrives, clean your home’s gutters and drains and bring in or tie down your outside furniture. Consider installing hurricane shutters, or board up your exterior windows and doors with plywood to protect them from flying debris and wind damage.
Have Your Evacuation Route Pre-Planned
Different types of weather emergencies can cause you to have to evacuate. In some cases, you might only have a day or two to prepare, but during more sudden weather events you might be asked to evacuate immediately. It’s important to have your evacuation pre-planned so you can leave quickly and safely.
Some key recommendations from the DHS to help plan your evacuation are:
• Know what types of disasters are more probable in your area and get familiar with your local emergency, evacuation and shelter plans for each type of disaster. Find out what shelter spaces are available near you this year.
• Other than a public shelter, identify different places you can go to during an emergency, like a friend’s house in another town, or a motel in a safe area. Since most public shelters only allow service animals, find a place that will accept your pets, if you have any.
• In cases of severe flooding from storm surge or wind damage, even pre-planned evacuation routes can become impassible, or congested. Find alternate routes if possible, and, if available, other means of transportation that to get you out.
• Put together a “go-bag” that you can carry if you have to evacuate on foot or on public transportation, and if leaving by car make sure to fill your gas tank if an evacuation seems likely. Keep a portable emergency kit with the necessary supplies in your car for traveling longer distances.
• If you don’t have a car, talk with your family, friends, or local emergency management office to see what resources are available if you have to evacuate.
Riding the Storm Out? Be Prepared for Power Outages and Blackouts
Other than drownings from storm surge, the next leading causes of storm related deaths are the exacerbation of existing medical conditions and power outages. Loss of power can lead to excessive heat or cold in your home, and destroy any perishable food.
If you didn’t evacuate after an emergency, you should be prepared to survive on your own for several days. Before disaster strikes, it’s wise to prepare a disaster supply kit with enough food, water, and other emergency supplies (including any important medications) that will last several days.
A minimum basic emergency supply kit should at least include:
• One gallon of water per person per day for several days, for drinking and sanitation
• Non-perishable food that will last several days and a manual can opener
• Battery-powered, solar, or hand crank AM/FM radio and NOAA Weather Radio
• Flashlight with an extra supply of batteries
• Cell phone and chargers (preferably solar or hand crank emergency charger) and a backup battery.
• First aid kit
Since most hurricanes and other extreme weather events come upon us quickly, to stay safe it’s important to know what to do in an emergency situation so you can react calmly and decisively. Know in advance how you are going to receive emergency alerts and warnings, what your shelter plan is, if you will need your emergency preparedness kit and how will you communicate with your family or local emergency management office.
Since Spring of 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended people include additional items in their emergency preparedness kits to help prevent the spread of coronavirus or other viruses and the flu. See the full Additional Emergency Supplies list here.
After returning home from a major storm or hurricane, continue to listen to your local officials for updates and advice. Don’t walk or drive through flood water, and avoid debris and downed or loose power lines. Never use a propane grill or a generator indoors, even if your home has ventilation. This includes inside the garage or basement, as the exhaust fumes contain a high buildup of carbon monoxide and can be deadly when inhaled.