Of all the natural disasters that can happen, a hurricane is probably the easiest to plan for. That’s not to say that we should take them lightly, we shouldn’t. They can be very serious and we should plan accordingly.
For those of us who live along the coast, we spend our summer and early fall watching the weather reports and tracking the hurricanes. Modern meteorology can predict landfall very accurately, but always know that they can’t be right 100% of the time. Hurricanes can turn at any time and can be very unpredictable. So it’s best to have a plan.
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
This is a hard question and a very personal one. Some families will leave for a category 1 hurricane that is supposed to hit 100 miles a way – just in case. Other families will stay when a category 5 hurricane is supposed to hit their backdoor – because they can. We’ve found that if we’ve already made some general decisions about leaving or staying it make the whole process much easier. Our family is comfortable staying through a category 2 hurricane; maybe even a category 3 if it’s on the low side. But if it’s going to be close to a category 4 and the expected target is 50 miles either side of us…we’re heading out of Dodge. And we’re heading out 24 hours before landfall. We have several family members who live a few hours away and that is where we go.
Preparing your home
Your home needs to be prepared whether you stay or leave. You need to board up your windows with plywood or, at least, tape an X on each window with masking tape. We have plywood cut for each window stored in our garage and use these clips to keep them in place. You can probably find them locally, too. Yes, it’s a bummer seeing that plywood sitting there year after year and not being used. But if we don’t store it, the likelihood of us getting some at the last minute is slim to none.
You need to pick up the yard and store anything that can blow around in the garage or shed. If it’s too big it needs to be anchored down or tied to something really, really strong. These are the things that will fly through the air and break windows or put holes in roofs.
If you have trees close to your home, trim the branches away from the roof. Make sure to tie down any young trees that might me uprooted during the storm.
If you have livestock you need to make sure their structures are strong. If you have a lot of large animals, there is probably not a whole lot you can do to protect them, but they’ll figure it out and huddle together for protection. Do what you can, that’s all you can do.
If you don’t have a home inventory already, get your camera out and take tons of photos of the outside of your home and property and of every single wall in every single room – no matter how messy – and don’t forget the closets and garage. Put the camera card in the family lock box.
Another thing to do, even if you leave, is fill your bathtubs and large containers with water. You can use this water for flushing the toilet and cleaning. You wouldn’t want to use this water as your drinking water.
If you are staying…
If you are staying you need make sure you have enough food and water 3-7 days. The hurricane will technically be over in a day or so but often there are power and water outages that can last a few days. If there are widespread outages, grocery stores won’t be open and it takes a few days for relief organizations to mobilize.
As a rule of thumb you need a gallon of drinking water per person per day. For our family, that means we need about 50 gallons of water. That is a lot of water! I purchase about 40 gallons of water in the spring and store them in our garage. I purchase several cases of individual bottles, and a few 2.5 gallon jugs but mostly I purchase the gallon size jugs. You can also can water, but I don’t have that many extra canning jars and that task for 7 people is overwhelming to me.
If your food needs to be cooked, you need some way to cook if there is a power outage. We use our propane camp stove and it works great. This is also one of those time that disposable plates, paper towels and napkins and plasticware is good to have on hand.
You also need to fill your gas tank all the way up. You might not be able to get gas for a few days after a hurricane, if there are power outages.
It’s also good to have a battery operated radio — you know, the old school kind.
If you have a landline, it’s good to have a corded phone to plug in. Cordless phones won’t work if there is no electricity.
You need enough toiletries to last 7 days, this includes things like toothpaste, diapers, wipes, toilet paper, soap, contact lens solution, etc.
You also need several flashlights and battery operated lanterns, along with extra batteries, duct tape, waterproof matches or utility lighters, candles, first aid kit, non scented bleach, insect repellent, fire extinguisher, carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.
Lastly, you need cash. You cannot depend on your debit or credit cards working after a hurricane.
If you are leaving…
To me, leaving is the easy option. You prepare your home and property. You pack some clothes and snacks, grab the family lock box and go visit family.
If you leave, it’s important to have cash on hand and not just your debit card. You never know how far power outages will go during a hurricane. Real paper dollars are important and hopefully you have a stash in your family lock box.
We don’t worry about taking food or water for 7 days with us when we leave. However, we pack some snacks and water for the trip. If we decide to come home before power is back on, we can buy food and water in whatever city we are in before coming home.
The most important thing to do if you plan on leaving is to make the decision early. Do NOT wait until five or six hours before landfall and then decide to leave. That is a great way to get caught in a line on the freeway, run out of gas and get stranded. It not only put you and your family at risk, but it also puts the emergency workers at unnecessary risk.