Hurricanes occur in North America between June and November, not this month. But, now is the time to begin putting together an emergency plan. In 2010, 123.3 million people or 39 % of the nation’s population live within 50 miles of hurricane prone coastal areas. Hurricanes are tropical cyclones with torrential rains and winds that range from 74-155 miles per hour or faster. In the northern hemisphere, these winds blow in a counter-clockwise direction (clockwise in the southern hemisphere) around a center “eye”. The ‘eye’ is usually 20 to 30 miles wide. The storm may spread up to 400 miles wide.
As a hurricane approaches coastlines, a huge dome of water precedes it (storm surge) and crashes into the coast. This surge often causes flooding that can be fatal. In addition to the storm surge, hurricanes contain torrential rains and tornadoes. If you live near a coast, pay attention to the weather forecasts. Hurricanes are classified into five categories based on wind speed, central barometric pressure and damage potential. The larger the number, the more catastrophic the damage will occur.
Learn the Buzzwords:
- Hurricane/Tropical Storm Watch – a storm poses a possible threat within 36 hours.
- Hurricane/Tropical Storm Warning – the storm is expected within 24 hours. Follow instructions issued by local officials. Cover windows with boards or storm shutters; secure outdoor objects; fuel your car; get your disaster supply kit (72 hr kit) ready. This is the time you may be told to evacuate. If so, do it, don’t wait until the last minute.
- Storm surge – the large dome of water preceding the storm formed as the winds push water toward the shore. Surges may be 20 feet high and 50 – 100 miles wide
- Eye wall – the area that circles the eye of the storm and contains the most damaging winds and heaviest rains.
- Outer bands – the bands or rings of thunderstorms that make landfall first.
Create an emergency plan
Talk with your family or household members about how to prepare and respond to the types of emergencies that are most likely to happen in your area. This includes developing a plan for home, work and school. Decide who will be responsible for what. This way you can work as a team. Practice some of these elements as you develop them. In addition to planning what you will do if you’re at home, plan what t to do if you are separated; include plans for any animals, too. If your community experiences a disaster, be sure to register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well website to let your family and friends know you are safe. The Red Cross has a free emergency app for your cell phone or tablet. You can get this FREE from the Apple Store or Google Play. You can also download a family disaster plan template here.
If you live in a mobile home or temporary structure or you live on the coast, on a flood plain or near a river or inland waterway, prepare to evacuate. Decide in advance the destination of your egress. Make sure that the place you’re headed knows you are coming. Review maps to determine major routes and shelter locations. Develop more than one route. Have road maps with you in case the GPS doesn’t work. Be prepared to spend at least 12 hours on the road. That means bring extra food, drinks, toilet paper, and entertainment for children. Purchase two large gasoline cans before you need them. Have one filled and take both with you. Be sure to shut off all utilities before leaving, secure your home, unplug appliances, take pictures for a last minute inventory. Remember that text messages can get through when phone lines are jammed.
2. W. L. Liebsch, Janet Liebsch, It’s a Disaster! … and what are you gonna’ do about it? (Texas: Fedhealth, 2011), 66 – 71.
Billie Nicholson, Editor