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Preparing Your Home for Extreme Weather: Hurricanes

There are a lot of things you can do to prepare for extreme weather and protect both your home and family. Check out our Checklist for Preparing Your Home for Extreme Weather for a list of things to keep on hand, packed up and ready at all times for any natural disaster situation. But certain types of storms may call for unique steps to protect your home and family.

In the United States, hurricanes are common on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts during the summer and fall. According to the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, the Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June 1 to November 30, with the peak season from August through October. If you live on the coast or are considering moving to the coast, here are some things you should know about hurricanes and how to prepare for them.

Prepare home for a hurricane.

While tornadoes typically form over land, hurricanes usually form over the ocean. According to National Geographic, hurricanes have "winds of at least 74 miles an hour" and the Atlantic Ocean has 5-6 hurricanes on average each year.

Hurricanes rotate around an "eye", which is the calmest part of the storm. When hurricanes make landfall, the heavy rain, strong winds and large waves can damage your home, cars and property. National Geographic states that when hurricanes reach land, they "often produce a devastating storm surge that can reach 20 feet high and extend nearly 100 miles. Ninety percent of all hurricane deaths result from storm surges."

If we can say anything good about hurricanes, they typically come with a warning. You will likely have time to prepare before a hurricane hits land.

Hurricane Alerts

Just like the other extreme weather situations, hurricanes have their own set of warnings and advisories. The following are the most likely weather alerts when a hurricane is on its way:

  • High Wind Watch - high winds are possible
  • High Wind Warning - when high winds are occurring
  • Hurricane Watch - a hurricane is possible
  • Hurricane Warning - hurricane expected or has been spotted

Other related weather alerts include extreme wind advisories, extreme wind warnings, small craft advisories to stay off the water, gale warnings, storm warnings, hurricane forewind warnings, and special marine warnings. You could also see tropical storm watches, and tropical storm warnings if the storm doesn’t quite measure up to a hurricane status.

Prepare your home for a hurricane

If you live on or near the coast, it is important to get your home ready in the event of a hurricane.

  • Clear your yard. Remove anything that could be thrown around by the high winds and damage your home. Move items such as patio furniture, grills, television antennas, and portable items into the garage. Anchor down big items like trampolines and dog houses with mobile home anchors. These items will become missiles in high wind situations.
  • Board up your windows and secure doors from the outside (including garage doors) with plywood or permanent storm shutters. You may also consider installing steel entry doors in advance of a pending storm.
  • Close all doors - interior and exterior.
  • Move your vehicles to the garage. If you are evacuating, leave any extra vehicles in your garage.
  • Evacuate mobile homes and tall buildings - they are not safe during a hurricane.
  • Maintain your roof. In advance of a storm, make sure your roof is strong and doesn’t need repairs. You can install hurricane straps to your home to secure your roof to the frame of your house. You may need to add extra attic bracing just in case. You can never be too safe.
  • Clear gutters and downspouts and trim trees and shrubs around your home. Take care of anything that can prevent unnecessary damage to your roof, windows, and home during heavy winds. Install a storm shelter or safe room for extra safety. A safe room is a hardened structure designed to provide protection in extreme wind events, including tornadoes and hurricanes.

Just like other natural disasters, it is important to have an emergency plan in place. Listen carefully for sirens and warning signals. Know your home’s elevation level to know if you need to take extra precautions from storm surges.

Hurricane Storm Surge

Hurricane Evacuation Zones

Do you know if you are in a hurricane evacuation zone? If so, know your area’s hurricane evacuation route. Choose an emergency meeting place, have a contact to call to keep accountability of you and your family, and practice this plan so that you know the entire family knows what to do in case of emergency. Always obey evacuation orders.

If staying home, identify an interior room on the lowest level of your home that has no windows, and cover what you can with plastic sheeting. Avoid windows. If you are in a flood zone or your home is not prepared for a hurricane, it is best to evacuate. Do not go outside until you know the storm has passed. Pay close attention to the weather on the radio and listen for the all clear from officials.

After a Hurricane

Before doing anything, assess the situation. Look for gas leaks, downed power lines, structural damage, etc. Be careful drinking tap water until given confirmation that it isn’t contaminated. And know that even once the storm has passed, there are still dangers such as flooding or even storm surges and tornadoes. Roads and bridges may have been washed out and destroyed so venture out very cautiously and only out of necessity.

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