The Atlantic Ocean is known for its hurricane season between the 1st of June and the 30th of November. Its peak activity starts in late August and continues through September. Hurricane Katrina hit on the 28th of August 2005, causing countless deaths and over $108 billion worth of damage. In the aftermath, millions of people offered to help rebuild the area. Many people also started making preparations for a future natural disaster. The tragedy in the gulf was a harsh lesson and people didn’t want to have to go through it again. It’s been over 10 years and the towns aren’t fully rebuilt. You can still see many signs of the hurricane’s destruction. In order to prepare for hurricanes, you need to understand them. They come in different sizes with various wind speeds. You should make a plan for each scenario and make a priority from finding out what you are dealing with first.
We’ll go through the hurricane categories and then we’ll move to a list of supplies and precautions. This knowledge will make a huge difference if you ever have to face something like a hurricane.
The first question you need to answer is: should you evacuate or bug in? The decision is very important and you will not have much time to make it. If you stay too long, you might not be able to leave anymore. Check the forecast and try assessing the risk. Depending on how strong the storm and the winds are, you will be able to make an informed decision. Of course, you also need to take into calculation your environment and how well you’ll be able to protect yourself from such a storm. Here are the hurricane categories according to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
#1 Category I Hurricanes – Sustained winds of 75-95MPH
Winds are very dangerous and will produce some damage. Power lines are likely to be out for several days. Trees with shallow roots will be toppled and large tree branches will snap. Homes will incur minor damage. The roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters are likely to be affected.
#2 Category II Hurricanes – Sustained winds of 96-110MPH
Winds are extremely dangerous and will cause extensive damage. You should expect an almost complete power outage that can last even for weeks. Many trees with shallow roots will be uprooted. Roads will be blocked by trees and debris. Even homes with a well-constructed frame will sustain major roof and siding damage.
#3 Category III Hurricanes – Sustained Winds 111-129 MPH
Damage will be devastating. Both electricity and water will be unavailable for whole weeks after the storm had passed. Many more trees will be uprooted and there will be a lot more debris blocking the roads. Even well-built framed homes will take major damage of roof decking and gable ends. It is possible that the storm will partially remove them.
#4 Category IV Hurricanes – Sustained Winds 130-156 MPH
Damage will be catastrophic. Most of the affected area will be uninhabitable for weeks or even months. Residential areas will be isolated by fallen trees and power poles. Most trees will be either snapped or uprooted. Even well-build framed homes will lose most of the roof structure and exterior walls.
#5 Category V Hurricanes – Sustained Winds 157 MPH or higher
Damages will be catastrophic. Similar to a category 4 hurricane, the affected area will be uninhabitable for months. Power, water and utilities outages will last for months. Residential areas will be isolated by debris and fallen trees. Most of the framed homes will be completely destroyed. The walls and roof will collapse in most cases.
Fight or flight?!
Depending on how strong your house is and the weather forecast, you will have to decide quickly if you are staying or evacuating. If you decide that it’s too dangerous to bug in, take these precautions into consideration:
#1 Plan ahead
During Katrina, hotels and motels hours away from New Orleans were completely booked. Don’t start rushing down the highway without a direction or destination, hoping to find a place. It would be worth your while to talk to a relative or a friend that could have you for a couple of days.
#2 Don’t waste time
During a crisis situation, roads and highways are likely to get jammed with cars. Especially the main roads leading out of towns and cities will be blocked. Cars can run out of fuel or break down, worsening the whole situation. Make sure that you always have a full tank and some spare fuel. Also make sure that you leave as soon as possible to beat the crowd.
#3 Plan on delays before returning
Even if you manage to evade a hurricane, it will take some time before you’ll be able to return. It is likely the roads will be blocked or damaged. Make sure that you have some bills or an ID with your address on it to prove your residence, if you have to.
#4 Lock the house
It may seem like an obvious thing, but in the middle of a crisis, you might overlook it. Before leaving, you should make some preparation for debris and damage.
#5 Tell friends, relatives and neighbors where you are going
Make sure that people know where you are going. Exchange phone numbers and stay in touch. Should anything happen to you, they will find out quickly. However, evacuating is a safe move.
#6 Turn off power at the main breaker box
Before leaving, make sure you turn the power off. This will prevent any electrical damage from happening to your home. Leaving it on could pose a real threat. Water or floods can cause a short circuit, burning the electrical framework and could even cause fires.
If you decide to bug in, there are some precautions you should take. It’s safe to assume that utilities and services will be out for a several days. Here are some items that you should include in your hurricane survival kit. If you are missing most of the stuff on the list, you might want to consider evacuating. Just make sure you don’t take too long.
#1 Water and food
You’ll need at least one gallon per person for a couple of weeks. Make sure that you also have a few weeks or a month’s supply of food for each person.
#2 Power generator
A generator is a great idea for such disasters; however, you’ll need to stock up on fuel. Considering you won’t run it all day long, you should keep enough to last you for a couple of weeks. If power goes out, don’t just connect the generator to your home. Make sure that you use a power transfer system. It would also be a good idea to cut off the power from the national grid and switch your home to the generator.
#3 Battery operated radios
Battery operated devices will be very convenient. Make sure you have a supply of batteries and at least one functioning radio. With the power out, this might be your only source of news and weather updates regarding storms and floods.
Cash machines and ATMs will be out of order until the power network is restored. Make sure that you have some cash for emergency situations. You don’t want to rely solely on electronic money transfer
If your life depends on medicine, make sure that you have enough. It’s safe to have a month’s supply of medicine and drugs stocked up. Local pharmacies and hospitals might not be open for days or even months after the disaster. It would be wise to also stock up on painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs and anything that your kids might need if they catch a cold or get sick. Make sure that you also have a well-supplied first aid kit for cuts, burns and other injuries.
#6 Can opener
You could survive without one. However, having one will greatly ease the job. You will probably have a lot of canned food stocked up for survival purposes, so it will definitely come in handy.
Make sure that you stock up on battery operated or hand crank powered flashlights. The best choice would be to have headlamps. They give a lot of light and allow you to use both of your hands. They’re great for most situations. However, it would be wise to also have at least a regular battery operated flashlight as backup.
#8 Grill fuel
When the grid goes down, you will probably use a grill to prepare your meats and many other foods. Make sure that you have appropriate supplies to cook your food.
#9 Plastic tarps
Having some around will be very useful. They are light and cheap. You can use them to keep you dry, patch roofs or protect yourself from direct exposure to the Sun. Although this isn’t a must, having some around could solve a lot of problems.
#10 Tools, nails and wood
It would be wise to stock up some wood, nails and tools for general repairs. You might have to close off windows or make other repairs once the storm had passed.
#11 Cleaning supplies
After all has passed you will have to clean up a lot of stuff. Running water will probably be in short supply if at all. Since commerce will probably be out for several days as well, it would be wise to make sure you have some basic cleaning supplies. You can stock up bleach that can be used to disinfect just about anything. You could also use disinfecting wipes, rags, scrubbing pads, cleaning gloves and sponges. Make sure you also stock up on diapers and any other supplies your kids or babies might need.
#12 Mosquito repellent
Katrina hit in late August. In general, hurricanes hit in the final summer months, when mosquitoes are still abundant. Having large flooded areas will greatly contribute to their spread. Make sure that you stock up on repellent to keep them at bay.
#13 Water filtration methods
You should definitely have some water stored for such an emergency. However, even that might not be enough. Water supplies might get contaminated or compromised in a hurricane. The safest thing would be to also have a filtration device or system that you can use off grid.
If you have pets, you need to take their safety into consideration and have a pet survival kit with your bug out bag. Of course, you’ll have to take them with you if you are evacuating. Make sure that you have enough food and water for at least a couple of weeks. Also stock up on any medication it might need and bowls. One of the most important things you should do is make sure that your pet has a collar with identification on it. In this way, it will be easier to find him if you are separated. You will definitely need a carrier for smaller pets and a leash regardless. While the list can go on, these are some basic supplies that you will need anyway.
Hurricanes can be devastating. They can cause massive damage and countless deaths over entire coastlines. Strong winds can uproot trees, roofs and cause massive floods. If you ever have to face a hurricane, make sure that you know what to do. First, assess the danger through expert media channels. As quick as possible, make a decision regarding bugging in or evacuating and stick to it. If you decide to bug in, make sure that you have all the supplies you will need over an extended period. If you decide to evacuate, let people know of your plans and have a precise, safe route out of harm’s way.
Did you ever face a hurricane? What would you do in such a case? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.