At the time of this writing, we are watching a large hurricane slowly making its way in the Caribbean over to the U.S. mainland. It’s been 3 years since the last big storm hit land (Hurricane Ike,Texas, 2008), so many of us are completely unprepared for the severe rain, winds, flooding, and general mayhem that these storms can cause.
These storms can be severe, but they don’t have to be life-threatening. Unlike tornados, which can pop up with little or no notice, hurricanes are first identified when they are thousands of miles away. We can watch their development and have a good idea of how much time we have to get ready. Of course, this is just another reason to be a Prepper, because we’re always ready! If your family has a plan of action for hurricanes, even a large storm can be just a bump in the road, not the end of the road.
Hurricanes and Preparedness
Unlike some collapse scenarios, you can actually outrun one of these storms if you get enough of a head start. That’s actually one of your most important decisions: Should we get out of Dodge? If you live on the coast or in an area that floods often, rising waters (the storm “surge”) might be enough of an issue to do so. If you live in pre-fabricated housing (trailers, RVs), you will most likely be told to evacuate by the authorities. Oftentimes there will be hurricane-resistant public building in your own community that will be designated official shelters.
If you do hit the road, plan to go as far inland as possible. Hurricanes get their strength from the warm water temperatures over the tropical ocean; they lose strength quickly as they travel over land. One caveat here: If you live on the Florida peninsula, “Head North, Young Man”! The state is relatively thin and there’s not much in the interior South of, say, Orlando. Speaking from personal experience, Hurricane Wilma in 2005 hit Florida’s West Coast and still whacked us pretty hard, just a few miles from Florida’s East Coast. Oh, if you’ve got a hotel in mind, better make reservations. In any case, this is the time to check out that bug-out bag of yours to make sure it’s ready to go.
Usually, you will not be told to leave your homes (except in the cases mentioned above). As such, your planning will determine how much damage you sustain and how much risk you place yourself in. You should have an idea of what your home’s weak spots are. Do you know what amount of sustained wind your structure can withstand? I do. Since 1986 (Hurricane Andrew), new homes in South Florida must have the strength to withstands 125 mph winds. Most homes, however, are made to handle 90 mph (hurricane strength is >74 mph). If the coming storm has sustained winds over that level, get the heck out of there. (Most hurricane-proof building structure: the Geodesic Dome)
If you decide to stay, make sure you designate a safe room somewhere in the interior of the house. It should be in the area most downwind from the direction the hurricane is hitting you. Figure out who’s coming to ride out the storm with you, and plan for any special needs they may have.
Make provisions for any animals you will be sheltering.
Communications may be out in a major storm, so have one of those NOAA weather radios and lots of fresh batteries. Fill up those gas and propane tanks. Put up those shutters or board up the windows. If you’ve got potted plants or furniture on the patio, bring them inside or secure them close to the walls so they won’t be missiles in high winds. Turn your refrigerator/freezer down to its coldest settings, so that food won’t spoil right away if the power fails. Remember that, in the aftermath of a storm, credit card verification may be down, so have a supply of cash to meet your needs.
Some things less often considered include having foot and head bolts on double entry doors, and a dead bolt with a longer bolt throw length. There are ways to increase roof uplift resistance as well, simply by using wood adhesive. See: https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/retrofit/roof.shtml. Of course, have some waterproof tarps available, in case of lost shingles, etc. The roofers are going to be pretty busy after a major storm, and might not get to you right away. In South Florida after Wilma, there were still blue tarps on roofs more than a year later.
If you’ve hunkered down in your home during the storm, make sure that you’ve got books, board games, and light sources for when the power goes down. Kids (and most adults) go stir crazy when stuck inside, especially if they don’t have TVs or computers in service. Here’s where you will finally be thankful for those Game Boys they’re always playing. Discussing the situation in advance will give everyone an idea of what to expect, and keep fear down to a minimum. Giving kids responsibility to pack a bag or select games to play will keep their minds busy.
If you’re a Prepper, you already have a head start on any hurricane that may come your way. Get everyone on the same page with Plans A, B, and C. The storm will have come and gone shortly, get ready now and you’ll make sure it doesn’t take you with it!