How Do You Prepare for a Hurricane?

By Suzanne Wiley

If you haven’t done so already, August is the perfect time to get your hurricane preparedness plan in place. Why? Because peak hurricane season is just beginning. Both the Atlantic and Pacific hurricane seasons run until the end of November with the most activity generally happening in September.

satellite picture of three hurricanes back to back off the cost of the USA
Tracking Hurricanes Tracking Katia, Irma and Jose.

Even people inland are affected by hurricanes. If you don’t have ocean front property, you can’t necessarily sit back and sip on your margarita. People living 100 miles from the eye of a hurricane can experiences tornadoes, high damaging winds, flooding, power outages, heavy rainfall and thunderstorms.

  • On August 18, 1983, Hurricane Alicia hit the Texas coast in Galveston. Alicia produced 23 tornados after hitting landfall. Nine of those occurred between Houston and Tyler. Tyler is 250 miles away from Galveston.
  • The eye of Hurricane Katrina passed through New Orleans on August 29, 2005. New Orleans is about an hour’s drive to the closest beach. However, a storm surge caused multiple breaches in the city’s levee and floodwall system. Eighty percent of the city flooded and 1,464 people lost their lives.
  • Tying with Hurricane Katrina as the costliest hurricane on record, Hurricane Harvey, making landfall on August 17, 2017, was at fault for two fatal accidents due to weather in Arkansas and Kentucky, tornados in Alabama and North Carolina and horrible flooding in Tennessee.

Unlike potentially other catastrophic weather events, hurricanes come with a fair warning. There will be time to leave town and if you plan beforehand, evacuation should go smoothly.

Established in 2003, is a national campaign encouraging U.S. citizens to be prepared for natural and man-made disasters. Ready, along with FEMA, have a website devoted to informing you how to prepare for numerous disasters.

They say that 36 hours before a hurricane is to hit you should:

  • Fill your tank up with gas
  • Have your go-pack or survival kit packed in the car
  • Put blankets, pillows, a gas can and extra phone chargers in the car
  • Board up your home’s windows with 5/8-inch wood or marine plywood
Progressive pictures from NASA of 2005's Hurricane Wilma
Tracking Hurricane Wilma 2005 from NASA’s Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR).

From 18-6 hours before:

  • Charge your phone
  • Close storm windows
  • Secure or bring in patio furniture, grills, and other outside items and décor
  • Turn your refrigerator on the coldest setting and don’t open the door unless you must
  • Turn on your weather radio and check for updates every 30 minutes

Four Steps to Prepare for a Hurricane

  1. Be informed.

Do you live close to a coastal area or a major body of water known to flood? Is your home located on a floodplain? The first line of defense is knowing your risk. Plan your survival strategy and map out your evacuation routes.

  1. If told to evacuate, do so. Here is what to take with you:

  • Pets (bed, bowls and food)
  • Bottled water
  • Non-perishable foods/snacks
  • Extra gas
  • Identification cards
  • Copies of important documents including insurance
  • Cash
  • Sturdy shoes and extra clothing
  • Toiletries
  • Medications
  • Pictures or video of your valuables
  • List of emergency contact names and phone numbers
  • Cell phones with chargers
  1. Create a plan.

    Picture taken from the sky of the top of a house completely flooded
    A hurricane can still severely affect a town 100 miles inland.

Where are your local shelters? Are you able to evacuate to friends and family that live inland? This includes creating a family communication plan. If the family is separated by work or school or other activities, where will everyone meet? Appoint a family member or friend out of state as a point of contact.

  1. Build three emergency kits—one for home, one for the car and one for the office.

Your hurricane survival kit needs to include enough supplies for at least three days:

  • Water—One gallon per person per day for drinking and basic sanitation
  • Non-perishable food
  • Non-electric can opener
  • Utensils
  • Fire starter
  • Camp stove
  • Rain gear—sturdy shoes, parka, umbrella
  • Towels
  • Blankets or sleeping bags and pillows
  • NOAA-weather alert radio
  • Flashlights and lanterns
  • Batteries
  • Digital copies of important documents like insurance, birth certificates and social security
  • First aid kit
  • Essential prescription medications
  • Insect repellent
  • Bleach, sponges, sanitation items and other cleaning supplies
  • Knife
  • Plastic bags
  • Tools to turn off utilities
  • Diapers and formula for babies
  • Pet food and water
  • Activities for both children and adults
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Special dietary needs
  • Water filter or water purification tablets
Sick Hurricane Katrina evacuees on a military plane
Sick and injured people evacuating Hurricane Katrina (U.S. Air Force photo Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

Your office and car emergency kits can be smaller, as you will be using them just as get-home bags. To accommodate for ill, the elderly and other individuals with special needs, consult with your physician about providing extra medications, equipment and other necessary supplies.

Any disaster is scary but being fully prepared makes evacuation easier and quicker. If allowed to stay, surviving at home without running water and electricity will be more comfortable if your family has what it needs to cook, clean, wash up.

The most important take away from any disaster or emergency preparedness guide is to have a plan and evacuate if told to. If you aren’t sure whether you should stay or go if there is no evacuation requirement, err on the side of caution and get out of Dodge. It could save your life.

Do you live in a hurricane-prone area? If so, share with others your preparedness plan and what you keep in your hurricane survival kit in the comment section below.

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