Getting Ready for a Hurricane


Getting Ready for a Hurricane
In September 2004, Hurricane Ivan struck the Gulf Coast as a powerful Category 3. Homeowners like Jason Huffman (seen here) did all they could beforehand to prepare their homes to withstand the brunt of the storm. STEPHEN MORTON/GETTY IMAGES

There's not much that can rattle a New Yorker. Most have seen enough to know they've seen it all. So when Hurricane Irene took aim at New York City and its environs in 2011, most New Yorkers didn't bat an eye. But some did. They prepared. Allen Ortiz, from Queens built a cinderblock wall several inches high to keep water from flooding his driveway. If floodwaters poured into his basement, Ortiz was ready, too: He had not one, but two pumps at the standby [source: Fenton, Livingston and Sanderson].

In Ozone Park, Clifford Singh stocked up on flashlights and batteries. He bought extra water and food. Members of the City Island Yacht Club in the Bronx received e-mails to check their moorings and to batten down the hatches. "Sustained winds of this strength will find any weakness -- count on it," the message said [source: Fenton, Livingston and Sanderson].

Once upon a storm, the only time people knew a hurricane was going to strike was when the wind started blowing and the rain started falling. By then it was too late. Entire cities and towns were swept away.

Things began to change in the 1950s when the science of storm prediction took a radical leap forward. Thanks to aircraft that could provide accurate data on the position of a hurricane, and the development of nascent computer technology, hurricane forecasting became a lot easier. Scientists used these and other techniques to develop statistical and atmospheric models of the storms. It didn't take long for scientists to predict, with reasonable certainty, the exact track of a hurricane. People were able to get out of Dodge when the sun was still shining, saving thousands upon thousands of lives over the years [source: HurricaneScience.org].

Every storm season the evening news and morning newspapers are constantly awash with stories of people trying to stick a finger in Mother Nature's eye. You see them buying sheets of plywood, shutters and an assortment of other hardware to fight back against the storm. When the going gets tough, the tough stay put. Do these people know what they're doing? Do they have some inside information that the rest of us don't? Probably not, but read on to find out how to prepare for a hurricane.

Be Ready, Be Prepared

The hurricane season in the Atlantic begins in June and lasts until November. The peak time for these storms is in mid-August to late October. In the Eastern Pacific, hurricane season is a bit longer, starting May 15 and lasting until November 30.

Hurricanes can cause billions of dollars in damage. With winds that can top 155 miles [249.45 kilometers] per hour, hurricanes can spawn tornadoes, heavy rainfall and catastrophic storm surges. A hurricane can turn a telephone pole, lawn furniture and fence posts into flying weapons. Torrential rain can trigger mudslides and landslides. Flooding can wipe out entire communities. Sounds like the end of the days, doesn't it? The key in surviving a hurricane is to be prepared.

One of the first things you should do is build an emergency kit that will last you several days after a storm. Stock your kits with enough food, water, clothes, medicine and other essentials well before a hurricane strikes. You might be on your own for a few days, so pack a bag and be ready [source: Ready.gov].

Know your house. Does it sit in a flood plain? Are you on top of a hill? Perhaps you live near the beach, or on the side of a hill. Most damage from hurricanes occurs from flooding and tidal surges. Remember New Orleans after Katrina? The city survived high winds and blinding rain, only to be swamped by a storm surge. The surge was too much for the city's levees. When they gave way, much of the Big Easy was underwater.

Protect your property. Cover all windows. Boarding up the windows with 5/8-inch marine plywood is OK, but permanent storm shutters offer the best protection. Broken windows increase the chances of severe structural damage during a hurricane. Storm shutters are the most reliable way of protecting windows and doors. Made from aluminum or steel, the shutters are attached to the outside of the house. When a storm arrives, you simply roll the metal curtain down. The shutters cost roughly $60 per square foot of window [source: FEMA].

More Hurricane Prep Tips

More Hurricane Prep Tips
Sometimes the best thing to do is simply evacuate, so be sure to leave if the authorities tell you it's time to go. STEPHEN MORTON/GETTY IMAGES

High winds can easily topple trees. If the trees are close to your house, trim the branches, or remove the trees outright. If you're building a new house, the experts recommend planting trees far enough away to prevent any damage should they fall [source: FEMA].

Protect your roof by installing straps and clips. These devices will securely fasten your roof to the frame of the house. Roofs aren't cheap. Your insurance company will be happy. Reinforce your garage doors. Bring in all toys, lawn furniture and garbage cans. They can become airborne projectiles [source: Ready.gov]. Make sure you neighbor does the same.

If you can, build a safe room. A safe room is a place the entire family can go when a storm hits. Stock it with food, medicine, flashlights and other supplies.

The chances of a power outage during a hurricane are high. The power might be out for days, or weeks. Many people buy generators for an alternate source of power. There are two types of generators: portable generators that run on gas and standby generators.

Portable generators are labor intensive. You will have to keep filling them with gas – and that's if you can get it. You will also have to run extension cords to your appliances. You will need to keep your portable generator outside. Don't ever keep one in the garage, basement or even near a window. The carbon monoxide fumes will overwhelm you [source: Cannarsa].

Standby generators, however, are permanently installed by a professional. When the power goes out, it flips a switch, and the standby generator powers up. These types of generators are fueled by natural gas or propane. They are expensive to buy and install, roughly $10,000 [source: Cannarsa].

The most important tip for how to prepare for a hurricane, especially for those near the shore, is to know the evacuation route. When the authorities tell you it's time to leave, get out.

Author's Note: How To Prepare for a Hurricane

Can anyone adequately prepare for a hurricane? I think not, but these tips can make an awful situation seem less dangerous. They key is to use common sense, and when it's time to leave, please go. You can return later.

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Sources

  • Cannarsa, Andrew. "How to prepare for hurricane season." Baltimore Post-Examiner." June 9, 2012. (June 30, 2012). http://baltimorepostexaminer.com/how-to-prepare-for-hurricane-season/2012/06/09
  • FEMA. "Protect Your Property from High Winds." (June 30, 2012). http://www.fema.gov/library/viewRecord.do?id=3263
  • Fenton, Reuven, Livingston, Ikimulisa and Sanderson, Bill. "Hurricane Irene on path toward New York City and Long Island." New York Post. Aug. 26, 2011. (June 30, 2012). http://www.nypost.com/p/news/national/irene_becomes_major_hurricane_as_T09PLRDmLThEFZj7D9Q5NO
  • Hurricane Science.org. "Hurricanes: Science and Society." (June 30, 2012). http://www.hurricanescience.org/science/forecast/models/modelshistory/
  • Ready.gov. "Build a Kit." (June 30, 2012). http://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit
  • Ready.gov. "Hurricanes." (June 30, 2012). http://www.ready.gov/hurricanes