The 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season is here! June 1 was the official beginning date but there have not been any tropical developments yet as June ends. Those who lived in the path of Hurricane Harvey in the North Bay area in 2017 know the devastation caused by the winds, storm surge, tornadoes and flooding and may have adjusted their personal evacuation plans as a result.
John Metz from the National Weather Service said we learn something new following every hurricane season which can help everyone be better prepared.
Metz reminds residents although Texas did not have any storms in 2018, the United States did receive four hurricane hits. Florence hit the Carolinas and Michael hit Florida and both were very deadly storms. The amount of property damage and loss of lives was about the same.
Michael was a Category 5 storm at landfall while Florence was only a Category 1.
“How many people in their hurricane plan say we’re going to stay and ride out a category 1 storm. When it gets to a 3 we are out of here?” ~ John Metz
Metz said a category does not tell the whole story of a storm. It only tells you one part – the wind. Residents must also know what storm surge is expected and the amount of rain predicted to know how flooding could impact property so a hurricane preparedness plan should not be based on the category alone.
Metz said there were a lot of fatalities after these hurricanes’ landfall in 2018. This shows how dangerous it is in an area following a hurricane. Lack of electricity led to more health-related deaths. There were more house fires and electrocutions reported in 2018 as well as an increase in deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Metz said more people are buying and using portable generators without following necessary safety rules. He said generators should never be inside but also they need to be located at least 20 feet from the structure.
Hurricane Michael hit with 160 mph sustained winds and moved quickly, retaining Category 3 winds as far inland as Georgia. All residents should find out what potential wind and water hazards could happen where they reside. Anyone new to the Gulf Coast region needs to remember hurricanes can also impact communities hundreds of miles inland.
The official hurricane season extends from June 1 to November 30, but the peak occurs between mid-August and late October. Too often residents wait until August to begin thinking and planning for the possibility of a storm but there are many things which can be done now. North Bay residents know preparation is part of living on the Texas coast and the 2017 Harvey experience and the 2018 hurricane season proves earlier is better.
If it has not been completed, now is a good time for an insurance check-up. A visit with your insurance company or agent to review your coverage for a home, car and/or boat can avoid surprises following a tropical weather event. You want to be sure the coverage will cover repairs or even replacement. Review the basic policy information including the property address. Any errors can result in claim denials, as at least one local business found out.
Ask the company representative what must be done, step by step, to file a claim in case of losses. I f a written procedure is not provided by the company, make one for yourself. Place it with the copy of the insurance policy. Following an event, the sight of the devastation may cause recall of these important steps difficult.
A quick check now to be sure important documents are all in one, easily carried receptacle can make evacuation a smoother process. Be sure to include titles, insurance policies, personal identification documents, proof of residence such as a utility bill and anything which might be requested following a disaster.
Now is also the time to purchase and construct coverings for windows and doors. Having them ready to install when a warning is issued will allow more time for the last-minute details. If there is a garage door, remember it is the most vulnerable part of a home and protects the entire building from possible structural damage. Before adding a brace, it is recommended to have an inspection by a garage door professional to be sure the additional weight is balanced.
Those living in a storm surge/hurricane evacuation zone need to make one plan, then make another and another. Having alternate ideas thought through in advance provides choices if evacuation is necessary. Make a list of possible friends or family members with suitable shelter and start a discussion now with each one.
Even tropical storms can play havoc with power and communications. Be sure to have an adequate supply of batteries, candles and matches or lighters. Check your flashlights and the battery-powered radio. A portable crank or solar powered USB charger can help to maintain contact with family and for work.
The immediate days before a hurricanes’ landfall, lines in stores are long as people purchased non-perishable food, water and other supplies. Following hurricane Harvey’s landfall, it was over a week before most assistance began to arrive. Those who experienced those days know how important it is to have a minimum of two week’s supply of necessary medicines and other supplies for each person.
One of the final preparations prior to evacuation as a hurricane warning is imminent is withdrawing cash from bank accounts. Damage to the power systems means ATM’s, credit card readers and even cash registers will not be operable. A few merchants may be prepared to do business on a cash basis.
The local Harvey experience demonstrated one of the most important resource available to residents immediately following a severe weather event is neighbors. The spirit of community demonstrated after a disaster is documented by every media outlet.
Now is the time to begin this spirit of community. Check to be sure your neighbors are prepared for this hurricane season.
Tell them what you are doing…ask about their plans…share this for others to read.
Detailed Hurricane Preparedness information can be found online by the National Weather Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U. S. Coast Guard.