Monday, July 7, 2008

Be Prepared: Hurricanes

What is a hurricane many people ask…it’s actually quite simple; a hurricane is a rotating weather system that forms over water that has winds that reach a minimum speed of 74 miles per hour. Hurricanes are most dangerous because of wind but they also bring torrential rains and the danger of storm surge. Wind and water damage are what best categorize the worst of what hurricanes can do. Hurricanes are classified using a scale called the Saffir Simpson Scale. The scale applies a category (number) to the storm based on some minimum criteria:

Category 1 – Wind speeds 74-95 mph.
Category 2 – Wind speeds 96-110 mph.
Category 3 – Winds speeds 111-130 mph.
Category 4 – Wind speeds 131-155 mph.
Category 5 – Wind speed over 155 mph.

Unlike the tornados of the mid-west, hurricanes usually are tracked well in advance of their arrival in an area. This issue is usually whether or not the storm will stay on a projected track or veer into another direction. If a hurricane is projected to hit your area make sure to keep your eyes on the TV weather reports and listen to your emergency radio to get up to the minute updates.

Hurricane damage can be severe when you get to category 3 storms and higher. They can produce flooding, cause massive wind damage and spawn tornados. The key to riding out a hurricane if you choose to do so is proper preparation.

I need to make a few points before I go any further…

If you have children, especially younger ones, I would recommend evacuating if it appears it will be a severe storm. If you are given mandatory evacuation orders, PLEASE follow the direction of local officials and evacuate. If you live on the coastline where you have to worry about storm surge I would evacuate as well. Evaluate your situation and decide what the best and SAFEST course of action to follow for you and your family.

Planning is the key to riding out a hurricane in your home. Have a plan, have the supplies and tools needed and be ready to put that plan into action. There are several items you should have available in the event of a hurricane striking your area:

--You should have at a minimum --
Full tank of gas in vehicle (in case evacuation order is given)
Stored food
Plenty of stored water
First-aid kit
Plywood (for covering windows)
A few tarps (maybe needed to cover broken windows or roof damage)
Plenty of batteries
NOAA radio
Fuel for generator
Chainsaw (for afterwards if there are trees in your area)

Some important tips:
Do not go outside in the middle of the storm.
When the storm dies down, that was round one and you are most likely in the eye of the storm, be prepared for round two.
Stay away from windows and doors during hurricane.
Once the storm is over be careful of downed power lines.
Once the storm is over be careful of water from the tap; it could be contaminated from flooding and may need to be boiled.

Preparation before the storm is important. Prior to any storm even approaching there are things you could do to help your house survive a hurricane. One of the easiest is to install a hurricane kit on your garage door. The garage door is one of the real weak points of the house; kits are available from Lowe’s and Home Depot that can be put on a garage door to better help it withstand the high winds and pressures created by a hurricane. Measure all of your windows and either have storm shutters installed or pre cut plywood sheets and number them for each window, so they can be installed quickly.

The most important thing to remember when riding out a storm is to stay calm, stay together and stay safe. Don’t do anything crazy or stupid for that matter; everyone’s safety is your first priority. Try to keep busy with card games or reading a book, try to keep your mind occupied and off the crazy weather formation outside your door.

Hurricanes are one of the more common severe weather systems and we experience a few major ones every year. Some years are worse than other but the worst thing that can happen is becoming complacent. When a big one hits, they hit hard and are merciless, lessons can be learned from storms like Katrina; government response on all levels can be delayed for hours or days. Please count on being on your own for at LEAST 72 hours AFTER the storm ends. Make sure you have enough food and clean water to last at least that long. Items like the generator and chainsaw can help with life after the storm and the ensuing cleanup. Please don’t wait for the warning that a hurricane is coming to start preparing. DO IT NOW! You are responsible for your safety as well as your families, so take the threat seriously!

...that is all.

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  1. Great post for those of us who live in hurricane zones. Another thing to consider when evacuating AFTER the event - flat tires. Be a lot of debris on the road, many with sharp edges, nails and that sort of thing.

    Compounded when driving through water, and the driver can't see whats in the road - be careful, or wait until road is cleared. Four flats, and every tire shop closed for the duration - not good, not good at all. Keep at least several spares, just to be safe if possible.

  2. I've got just one problem with this post. After Katrina, the local boobs in charge have gotten a bit trigger happy with the evac orders, and they can kiss off as far as I'm concerned. This ain't my first rodeo, I've lived on the coast most of my life, and I can interperet the hurricane information that's available myself quite well, thank you. I think half the time I savvy it more than the MO-ron "meteorologists". A case in point: Rita was hot on Katrina's heels, and the city dim wits called for a mandatory evac of Corpus Christi a full 24 hours before I would have even thought to board up! That storm was no where near Corpus! And she went ashore well over 200 miles north of here. So I wasted a trip, wasted my time, and wasted my money for nothing. Next time, I'll make my own call as to when I bug out.

  3. Mayberry everyone needs to evaluate their own situation and act accordingly. Me and my wife would most likely stay unless it's the "big one" (in this area that would be like Hugo for instance). Most people are sheep and haven't prepared those cases they will need to do a gut check.

  4. Don't forget that sometimes you get tornado activity with a hurricane, along with the high winds and torrential rains (aka, Hurricane Beulah,1965).