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How to Prepare for a Hurricane

Evacuating a Hurricane Zone or Riding Out the Storm

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

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If you've been getting ready since a hurricane watch was issued, you should be prepared to take off the minute you get evacuation orders. The longer you wait, the bigger your chances of getting stuck in a massive traffic jam. Try to consolidate everything as much as possible when you're packing – the fewer cars on the road, the better, and you'll also want everyone in the same place. No need to pack up everything you own; just take the necessities.

If you have time, disconnect appliances (so there's less risk of electrical shock when power is restored) and turn off the gas, electricity and water before you leave. Make sure you have all important papers and documents with you – ID, insurance policies, wills – as well as medications.

You're going to hit more congestion the farther you drive, so try to pick the closest possible evacuation destination. The best-case scenario would probably be a friend or relative who lives in your area but doesn't have to evacuate. Don't be tempted to avoid traffic by getting fancy with your route – follow the official evacuation routes.

If you have room in the car, bring your disaster supply kit. If you do end up staying in a shelter, you never know what kinds of conditions you might encounter. A shelter should be your last resort, especially if you have pets – many don't accept animals.

When the storm has subsided, don't rush to return home. Wait for instructions.

Staying Put

If you don't have to evacuate – or if for some reason you can't – you might decide to hunker down and ride out the hurricane at home. First and foremost, remember that most people who get hurt during a hurricane are injured by flying glass and debris, so don't go outside, even if it seems like the storm is over. You might actually be in the eye of the storm, and you could be stranded outside when the winds kick up again.

Before you gather in your safe room, fill up bathtubs and any spare containers with water (the tub water can be used for washing and flushing the toilets). You might want to leave one bathtub empty – tubs are always a good place to take shelter if you cover yourself with blankets or a spare piece of plywood.

  • Turn your refrigerator or freezer to their coldest setting and limit how often you open it. This will help your food last longer if you lose power.
  • Haul your emergency supply kit into the safe room with you, and make sure you know where a fire extinguisher is.
  • Keep listening to the radio for weather conditions and instructions. Stay in the room – and away from all windows and exterior doors – until the authorities say everything is clear.
  • If you do end up having to evacuate, turn off your power, gas and water before you leave. Be very careful to avoid downed power lines.
  • If you're trapped in a building that's flooding, go to the highest level you can. Don't climb into a closed attic where you may be trapped by rising water.

Don't walk, swim or drive through flood waters. Even 6 inches (15 centimeters) of fast-moving water could knock you down. One foot of moving water could sweep your car away. Turn around and try another route [source: Ready.gov].

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