Being born and raised in Florida you’re taught two things as a kid: how to run from an alligator and how to prepare for a hurricane.
Chances are if you’re from Florida, you and hurricanes go way back. You’ve attended a handful of hurricane parties and played outside with your neighbors in the rain. You’ve felt an eerie power standing outside during the calm of the eye. You’ve also seen the damage they can cause and know people whose homes have been completely wiped out.
In 2004, Florida got inundated with storm after storm after storm. Two of my family members homes were destroyed and almost all of our homes were damaged slightly that year. To the joy of every kid on the block – but to the dismay of the parents – we were relinquished from school for almost a entire month.
That said, I’ve seen countless instances of the media sensationalizing hurricanes to purposefully rile people up (we’ll talk more about this later). So while you’re planning your next Caribbean getaway in the heart of hurricane season, don’t fret. The chances of a hurricane swooping your vacay are extremely slim.
But what happens on the off chance you find yourself glued to the news station on holiday listening to the meteorologist telling you to hunker down? You prepare.
BELOW WE’LL BE COVERING:
- What exactly is a hurricane and what to do the different levels mean?
- General preparation guidelines
- Prepping for a hurricane at a hotel or resort
- Prepping a rental home for a hurricane
- To evacuate or not to evacuate?
- What happens when you haven’t left for your trip but there’s a hurricane coming
- What to expect after a hurricane
- Hurricane Survival Kit list of supplies
- Additional resources
P.S. Guess how many song titles you see in here, apparently storms are a big hit in the music world. Answer at the end!
ROCK YOU LIKE A HURRICANE: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A HURRICANE WATCH AND A WARNING?
For those who may be unfamiliar with mother nature’s spinning balls of water-air, a hurricane is a system of low pressure that develops typically during the warmer months of June to November. Anything with sustained winds over 74 mph is a hurricane. Anything below is a either a tropical storm or a tropical depression.
HURRICANE WATCH | Hurricane conditions are possible. Think how you should prepare and what evacuation route you may need to take if it gets to that point. Do. Not. Freak. Out. These usually, but not always, dissipate over the next couple of days.
HURRICANE WARNING | Yup, the hurricane is probably definitely coming. Still you should remain calm, take action with your preparations and keep an eye out on the projected path. This will change often. Do evacuate if directed by local authorities.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR A HURRICANE WHILE TRAVELING
So now that you’re on your way to becoming a hurricane aficionado let’s go over a bit of general prep when a hurricane looms by.
RIDERS ON THE STORM: TRACK THE HURRICANE
- The first and foremost important thing is to keep your eye on the projected path of the hurricane. This will change more times than Lady Gaga at a concert. Thankfully, unlike tornadoes or tsunamis, hurricanes give you much more time to prepare – typically around 2-3 days.
BEFORE THE STORM
- Fill up your car with gas. Even if gas stations aren’t closed after the storm, chances are gas prices will surge with shipment routes closed or rerouted due to damage.
- Back up your computer to an external hard drive. In this day in age, almost all of us have part of our lives on these things so don’t chance it and lose everything.
- Put vital documents and other important belongings packed in a plastic water tight container should you need to evacuate on short notice.
- Keep a medical portfolio handy with any prescriptions and allergies written down.
- Get cash out, if power is out, ATM’s will also be down for the count.
- Make as much ice as possible and store in the freezer or cooler.
- Take pictures of everything you own, should insurance need to get involved after.
- Scout out the best spot to take cover. Since we don’t have basements here in Florida and most places in the Caribbean either, an interior room with few windows or a stairwell closet is your best bet.
STAYING IN A HOTEL OR RESORT?
If you’re in a hotel or resort, the staff should know what to do. Most of the time they’ll try and move everyone to one central location away from glass windows and doors. Bring all of your important documents like passports and ID’s, water, snacks and whatever else you need to be comfortable, hurricanes are no quick thing.
RENTING AN APARTMENT OR HOME ON HOLIDAY?
If you’re renting a place in the projected path of a hurricane chances are your landlord has already reached out to you with directions. Work with them to prep the area and be sure to voice any concerns you may have. Here are a few helpful reminders to prepare:
- Close all blinds, unplug all electronics, and move furniture away from windows and doors.
- If you must evacuate, remove all food from refrigerator and prop the door open and unplug from wall.
- If there is a pool or hot tub, drain a few inches to prevent flooding.
- If you’re supposed to be hit really hard, fill your bathtubs with water prior so you have clean drinking water for after.
- Put towels down by any door and window cracks.
- Speak with your landlord if they deem it necessary to board windows.
TO EVACUATE OR NOT TO EVACUATE: RIDIN’ THE STORM OUT
This may be an unpopular opinion but if you’re landlocked and not in a flood zone don’t evacuate just for the heck of it. I’ve been on a first name basis with more hurricanes in my life than I can remember and I’ve never once had to evacuate. Mainly because I live in the middle of the state (Orlando) on high ground. Due to our central location, we’ve played host to a few hurricane parties back in the day. Yes, yes this is a thing in Florida. Along with the above prep, beer and wine always seems to make their way into Hurricane Survival Kits.
Like I said before, the media tends to blow things out of proportion scaring people into leaving. Why? The more people that tune into the stations coverage of the event, the higher their ratings will be. The higher their ratings, the more $$$ they get from advertisers and sponsors. Shady? Yes. But this is how our world works nowadays.
However, if you’re on the coast, in a flood zone, or in a structurally questionable place and the storm is heading to your backdoor, leave. Especially if you’re being told to evacuate by local authorities.
BLAME IT ON THE RAIN: WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU HAVEN’T LEFT FOR YOUR TRIP BUT THERE’S A STORM A BREWIN’?
- Check the cancellation policy of your accommodations. Hurricane season is June to November. If you’re planning a vacation during these times in an area prone to hurricane activity, check the fine print of your holiday outting before booking.
- So what about those flights? When a hurricane is bound to make landfall, all flights in the area will be grounded. Many airlines waive the change fees and allow you to re-book your trip. Once again, it’s all about the fine print here. However keep in mind, that your new departure may still be delayed due to a backup of other tourists being re-routed. Although many airlines will allow you to change your flight, they will most likely not reimburse you for things like hotel nights if you get displaced.
- If possible don’t check your luggage, bring a carry-on instead. With the continual cancellations and rescheduling of flights during hurricane weather, it’s easy for your stuff to get lost in the shuffle.
- Buy travel insurance people! Especially do this if you’re planning on going to an area affected by inclement weather often. For hurricanes, the best travel insurance will provide: trip cancellation, missed connections, travel delays and travel/route interruptions.
WHO WILL STOP THE RAIN: WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER A HURRICANE HITS
You continually get told how to prepare for a hurricane but unless you live in an area repeatedly affected by hurricanes, you rarely get told what to expect after. Keep in mind that the worst damage usually occurs after the hurricane. Many time from increased water levels causing flooding. We saw it after Katrina in New Orleans and we’re seeing it now after Harvey in Houston. If you’re traveling, prepare to leave the comfort you expected from a vacation.
- It’s going to be bloody hot and humid. Since hurricanes hit in the hottest months in tropical climates, say ba bye to that A/C once your power goes out. Hopefully you’ll have a generator to plug some fans into. If not, make friends with your neighbor who has a generator.
- STAY AWAY FROM DOWN POWER LINES. You’d think it’s a no-brainer but you never know. This is especially true when driving through areas with above ground power lines. Be vigilant of what you’re driving over.
- Avoid standing water. Not only could it be contaminated with sewage causing a plethora of health risks, there may be a down power line out of view. That’s a shock-wave you don’t want to be a part of.
- If your local water source gets contaminated, be sure to boil all water before drinking. Can’t boil it? Add two drops of bleach per liter of water, stir well, and let stand for half an hour before drinking.
- Your community will come together to help people out. The worst hurricane to hit Orlando during my lifetime was Charley. Although seeing the damage throughout my neighborhood sucked, it was cool seeing our neighbors come together to help each other out.
HURRICANE SURVIVAL KIT
- Batteries (make sure they’re the size you need for your flashlights)
- Flashlights and lanterns
- Non-perishable food items like soup, canned fruit, peanut butter, etc.
- Gas cans
- Mobile charging devices
- Stock up on your prescription medication
- Insect repellent
- Gallons of water, rule of thumb is 1 gallon per person per day
- Pet food
- Duct tape
- Trash bags
- Gardening gloves for clean-up
- Toilet paper and baby wipes
- First aid kit
- Wine, duh
- Portable grill with charcoal or lighter fluid
- FM radio with batteries (if the power goes out to keep track of the storm)
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES MORE CREDIBLE THAN ME
Good luck out there and stay safe! P.S. There were 7 song titles!
*Please note, the information provided in this post is only for informational purposes and general guidance to The Wayward Walrus readers. It should not be used in lieu of, taken as, or otherwise substituted for opinion or competent counsel from a professional or local authority.