Storm Surge: Why we must Evacuate when ordered to do so
Essential guide to Hurricanes
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.
Do you have insurance? Even if you're a renter, there are things you should know. If you are a homeowner, make sure that your homeowner's policy has adequate coverage for tropical storms and hurricanes. Hurricane coverage typically has higher deductibles when making claims. If you are a renter, do you know that your landlord's insurance policy does not cover any of your personal belongings? You need to get a separate renter's insurance policy, which a lot more affordable than you may think. Lastly, note that neither homeowner's nor renter's insurance policies cover damage caused by floods, even if during a hurricane. You need to get a separate flood insurance policy. Lastly, take the time to inventory and photography your property and possessions to help make the claims process smoother. Renters should plan ahead to protect their personal belongings. As a renter, there's not much you can do to protect the property itself, but there are things you can do to help minimize an potential damage to your personal possessions. Have a plan to bring indoors anything that can become windborne debris (grills, patio chairs, umbrellas, etc). Prepare to raise up electronics and other expensive items up off the floor. If the windows break or the roof leaks, you don't want your computer, TV, or other things swimming in a puddle on the floor. Have a box of trash bags ready to bag up or cover your possessions against getting wet. Don't leave any small valuables behind, if you can take them with you. Have all your important papers in a box ready to grab. "Go Tapeless!" Don't bother taping up windows. It just doesn't work and leaves a sticky mess to clean up later. Homeowners can do a lot to minimize the potential damage to their homes. There are many small, cost-effective things that a homeowner can do to reduce the amount of damage that can occur to their properties. If done right, you could possibly even receive a discount on your homeowner's insurance premiums. Visit the Federal Alliance for Safe Homesfor more information.
After a hurricane or other emergency, residents may experience prolonged power, phone and elevator outages. Residents may not be able to leave their apartments to get assistance or let others know that they are in need. The Vulnerable Population Registry is a tool that municipalities use to help evaluate resident needs in their communities and assist in planning a response in an emergency. Does someone you know have a disability, frailty or health issue, regardless of age AND plans to stay at home in the event of a hurricane or other emergency? Please help them register for Vulnerable Population Registry. Sign-up is once for the year and the information is kept confidential. Sign-up now & avoid the stress of urgency when needed. Click here for more information!