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Are you ready for hurricane season?
June 1 – the beginning of the 2018 hurricane season here in Florida. It seems like not enough time has passed since last hurricane season, and yet here we are, almost two months into it. On September 10, 2017, Hurricane Irma made landfall in South Florida, and some of us found ourselves on the less-prepared side of things… After all, Florida hasn’t been threatened with a major storm since the hyperactive hurricane season of 2004. (For those of you who are not aware of what happened during the 2004 hurricane season, see the photo below.)
Hurricane Irma was one of the strongest storms to be recorded in the Atlantic, having maximum sustained winds over 185mph and measuring 420 miles wide. Naturally, when she set her sights for Florida, chaos ensued. Why? Many Floridians became laxed in their hurricane preparedness having not experienced a major storm in 13 years. Three days before the hurricane was due to hit, gas could scarcely be found in Charlotte County and the only water left on the shelves was Fiji. Many panicked because they were not prepared so all they could think to do was go to Walmart and purchase enough water to quench the thirst of a small army. Thankfully, Punta Gorda was by relatively unscathed by Irma – some homes did not even lose power during the storm!
The lesson here is to prepare for a hurricane before it is headed in our direction. That means right now is the time to do it!
Here are some things you can do to prepare yourself now for the 2018 hurricane season:
- Stock up now on water, canned goods, batteries, flashlights, matches and hygiene products.
- Stash some cash. ATMs may not work, and credit cards may not be accepted if there is power loss.
- Gather important documents, including insurance, and any important photos or sentimental items to store in a waterproof container.
- If you have a grill, purchase propane so you can cook if power is lost.
- Purchase a battery or solar powered phone charger.
- Prepare a “go bag” in case you need to evacuate.
- For a full list of emergency supplies, visit ready.gov/prepare
Prepare your home:
- Trim your trees! Branches can fall on your home during a storm and cause roof damage.
- Consider investing in hurricane shutters or impact-resistant doors and windows. Not only can it help keep you safe during a storm, but it will increase your home’s value!
- Check your insurance policy to find out what is covered in case of a hurricane. If you do not have flood insurance, now is a good time to price it. An insurance company will not issue a new policy when a storm is on its way.
- Head to a local home improvement store and price generators. They may be less expensive than you think, and even a moderately-sized generator could run a few small appliances and fans in the event of a power outage.
- In addition to having a battery pack to charge your phone, figure out what you will do with your computer, television, and other expensive electronics. Keep them covered and stored off the ground if possible.
- Outdoor items. Outdoor items become projectiles during a storm. Take in all outdoor furniture, small potted plants and yard décor.
Should I stay, or should I go?
Many evacuate because they do not know if they can safely stay in their home during a storm. Your home may be stronger than you think, and many homes were built ahead of codes to withstand strong wind gusts. Find out your flood zone and home elevation and determine the likelihood of storm surge in your neighborhood. Know your evacuation zone, and be prepared with a list of nearby shelters, just in case your zone gets called.
If you plan to evacuate, plan for gas stations to be out of gas in most of the state, especially stations off the interstate. Download the Gas Buddy app to get up to date info on which stations have gas. Book hotel reservations as far in advance as possible, since they will be booking up fast. Most importantly, if your plan is to evacuate, do it sooner rather than later! Evacuating the day before the storm hits, or even two or three days prior is pushing it! Talk to anyone who evacuated for hurricane Irma, and they will relate the experience of spending 14+ hours to get out of Florida through stop and go traffic.
If you evacuated and come home, it is hard to determine how long power was lost at your house. Was it just for a moment, or more than a day? Do I need to throw out all the food in my freezer? Before you leave, fill up an ice cube tray or a cup of water and freeze it. Once it is frozen, place a penny on top and put it back in the freezer. Once you get back home after the storm, if the penny is still on top, your food is likely still good. If the penny sunk to the middle or bottom, the power was likely out for an extended period, and the food may not be safe.
If you have pets and plan to stay, make sure you have plenty of food and water for them too. Consider a natural supplement that may calm them during the storm. Your zone may be called to evacuate, so be prepared with a list of nearby shelters that allow pets.
Download a complete hurricane preparedness guide here https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1494007144395-b0e215ae1ba6ac1b556f084e190e5862/FEMA_2017_Hurricane_HTP_FINAL.pdf
Find out your Evacuation Zone: https://www.charlottecountyfl.gov/services/emergencymgmt/Pages/Know-Your-Zone.aspx