Each year hurricane season begins on June 1st and lasts 5 months, with storms typically peaking in August and September. As with every hurricane season regardless of forecast, knowing the essentials of how to prepare could truly be a life saver.
Hurricane Knowledge First, know your hurricane facts and understand common terms used during hurricane forecasts. Storm conditions can vary on the intensity, size and even the angle which the tropical cyclone approaches your area, so it is vital you understand what the forecasters and news reporters are telling you.
Tropical Depressions are cyclones with winds of 38 mph. Tropical Storms vary in wind speeds from 39-73 mph while Hurricanes have winds 74 mph and greater. Typically the upper right quadrant of the storm (the center wrapping around the eye) is the most intense portion of the storm. The greatest threats are damaging winds, storm surge and flooding. This is in part why Hurricane Katrina was so catastrophic when bringing up to 28 foot storm surges onto the Louisiana and Mississippi coastlines.
Here are some important terms you may hear:
Tropical Storm Watch: Tropical storm conditions are possible in the area.
Hurricane Watch: Hurricane conditions are possible in the area. Watches are issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical storm force winds.
Tropical Storm Warning: Tropical storm conditions are expected in the area.
Hurricane Warning: Hurricane conditions are expected in the area. Warnings are issued 36 hours in advance of tropical storm force winds.
Eye: Clear, sometimes well-defined center of the storm with calmer conditions.
Eye Wall: Surrounding the eye, contains some of the most severe weather of the storm with the highest wind speed and largest precipitation.
Rain Bands: Bands coming off the cyclone that produce severe weather conditions such as heavy rain, wind and tornadoes.
Storm Surge: An often underestimated and deadly result of ocean water swelling as a result of a landfalling storm, and quickly flooding coastal and sometimes areas further inland.
During a watch, prepare your home and evacuation plan in case a warning is issued. During a warning, carefully follow the directions of officials, and immediately leave the area if they advise it. In the event of an Extreme Wind Warning/Advisory, which means that extreme sustained winds of 115 mph or greater are expected to begin within an hour, immediately take shelter in the interior portion of a well-built structure. Hurricane Forecasts Predicting a tropical cyclone's path can be challenging; there are many global and local factors that come into play. The storm's size and path can directly influence what sort of wind patterns guide, enhance or hinder its growth, and vice versa! Forecasters have computers that take huge amounts of data and try to predict where the storm will go and usually can calculate 2-3 days out fairly accurately. This is where you hear the terms computer models and spaghetti models being used. Generally the forecast track or path is given with the average consensus of these models. The National Hurricane Center has the most up-to-date information on tropical cyclone developments, forecasts and weather alerts, discussions analyzing the data and more. http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/
Hurricane Names Hurricane names are picked randomly, then rotated and recycled every 6 years. If a hurricane was catastrophic or severely deadly and costly (i.e. Charlie, Katrina, Irene) it is officially retired since use is not appropriate and can be confusing when naming current storms. To view the current list of tropical cyclone names click here: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/aboutnames.shtml Power Outages In the event a storm should leave you without power, there are a few things to consider and help you be ready and stay safe outside of your normal hurricane preparedness.
Gas: Make sure your tank is full far in advance of an approaching storm. Most people wait until the last minute, rush to get extra gas for cars and generators, and subsequently gas stations can run out early.
ATMS: Have extra cash on hand in the event no ATMS in your area are accessible or working.
Cell Phones: Charge your cell phone and limit use after power is out.
A/C: This can be the most uncomfortable side effect of losing power during a storm. Try to prevent as much light from entering and warming the house by covering up your windows on the inside. If you have back-up or battery operated fans, don't run them unless you are in the room. Fans create a difference in perceived temperature but do not cool the room; instead they create a cooling effect by dispersing the heat off your skin. It is said they can actually add heat to a room just by running.
Water: Fill bathtub and large containers with water for washing and flushing only.
Food: Turn your fridge temperature down and/or freeze any food or drinking water that can be frozen if you expect a power outage. Here is a guide on freezing food: Freezing and Food Safety. Have a cooler with ice packs prepared to cool your drinks and snacks after power has been out for more than 4 hours. And importantly, check out this food safety guide for when to discard your perishable food: http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/refridg_food.html
Health/Safety: The CDC has a great guide on how to stay safe in the event of a power outage: Power Outages
Remember, any severe storm can be deadly and destructive. If you've survived a landfilling cyclone, you know the inconvenience and distress it can cause. One of the best tips to be prepared is knowing the cycle of a cyclone - Approach, Arrival & Aftermath. Prepare ahead of time and listen to the directions of officials for the approach. Secure your home, or find a safe shelter for its arrival, and know how to proceed safely during the aftermath.
The primary resources for financial assistance immediately following a disaster are your homeowners insurance, FEMA Individual Assistance, and an SBA Loan. Always contact and submit a claim with your insurance company immediately after the disaster. Check out the information below on registering with FEMA and submitting an application for an SBA loan.
First, file with insurance & apply with FEMA If you haven’t already done so, file a claim with your insurance company. If you have uninsured or underinsured losses, contact FEMA for federal assistance by going online to disasterassistance.gov or by calling 800-621-3362 (TTY 800-462-7585). Don’t wait to start the clean-up process. Be sure to photograph/video damage and keep all receipts for repair work. If you’re insured for the damage to your home : FEMA may not send an inspector right away. You’ll need to submit insurance documentation to show your coverage is insufficient to meet your disaster-related needs or you have exhausted the Additional Living Expenses provided by the insurance company. FEMA cannot pay for damage covered by insurance or duplicate benefits from another source. Next, comes a call A FEMA inspector will contact you to schedule an appointment 7 to 10 days after registration, if you weren’t insured for the damage to your home. During that call, write down:
The inspector's name;
Date of call;
Date and time of appointment; and
Inspector’s telephone number.
Then, inspection day The inspection is free. It generally takes 30 to 40 minutes, and consists of inspecting all areas of your home and a review of your records. Inspectors can only verify your loss. They do not decide the outcome of your claim or condemn a property. FEMA inspects damaged property for disaster recovery program purposes only. The inspector will ask to see:
Proof of ownership/occupancy of damaged residence such as: structural insurance, a tax bill, mortgage payment book or utility bill;
Insurance documents: home and/or auto (structural insurance/auto declaration sheet);
List of household occupants living in residence at time of disaster; and
Disaster related damages to both real and personal property.
Your inspector will have FEMA identification in the form of a badge with a photo that states FEMA and Contractor. If the inspector does not show you photo identification, do not proceed with the inspection.
It’s important to note: you may also receive a visit from more than one inspector during the recovery process. In addition to FEMA contracted housing inspectors, representatives from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), as well as state and local officials may also visit neighborhoods in affected areas. Finally, a decision will be sent to you Survivors should receive a determination letter with their eligibility decision and the reason for it by regular mail or electronically, typically within 7 to 10 days after the inspection. For those who are eligible, the letter states the dollar amount of the grant and how the money must be used. If you disagree with FEMA’s decision, the letter explains how you can appeal the decision. Read your determination letter carefully. FEMA may need additional information or documentation from you—such as an insurance settlement showing you may not have been covered for all of your essential needs—before you can be reconsidered for federal assistance.
SBA Loan - what is it?
The US Small Business Administration (SBA) is the federal government's primary source of funds for the long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property. SBA offers low-interest disaster loans to businesses, private nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters.
The SBA Process: The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) may send you a loan packet after you apply for assistance at 1-800-621- FEMA (3362) or www.fema.gov. It is very important to complete the forms in this packet and return them to the SBA as soon as you can. If you do not fill out and return the SBA application, you may not be eligible for other types of assistance.
You can receive face-to-face help in filling out the SBA loan packet at any Disaster Recovery Center. For the nearest location, call the toll-free SBA Disaster Helpline at 1-800-359-2227.
SBA low-interest loans are available to renters, homeowners, business owners, and non-profit organizations that suffered losses due to this disaster.
Homeowners may be eligible to borrow up to $200,000 for real estate repairs.
Renters and homeowners may borrow up to $40,000 for replacement of disaster damaged personal property.
Businesses may apply for up to $1.5 million for losses not fully covered by insurance.
SBA loans are made for the repair or replacement of real estate or personal property. You may also increase your loan up to 20 percent to spend on protective improvements that may help prevent damage from happening again.
TSA helps you if you cannot return to your home after shelters have closed because of loss or damage. This program provides temporary assistance and helps pay for the cost of a hotel room while you look for long-term housing. To learn more about the program and whether you may qualify, go to: www.fema.gov/transitional-shelter-assistance.
Mortgage Forbearance may be available if you live in an area affected by a hurricane (or other disaster) and you are having trouble making your mortgage payments. This means that you may be able to temporarily stop making mortgage payments without going into foreclosure. The payments are generally postponed, not forgiven. In addition, late fees may also be waived. Call your mortgage servicer (the company you send your mortgage payments) to see if they can work with you.
Florida Housing Search The housing locator service allows people to locate available housing that best fits their individual and family needs. The service can be accessed online 24 hours a day and is supported by a toll-free, bilingual call center M-F, 9:00 am - 8:00 pm EST. Individuals can easily search for housing using a wide variety of search criteria with special mapping features and receive apartment listings that provide a multitude of important information about each unit. In addition, the site connects people to other housing resources through website links and provides helpful tools for renters such as an affordability calculator, rental checklist, and renter rights and responsibilities information.