Hurricane Evacuation Time: Tips You Need to Know and Follow
It is that time of year again - hurricane evacuation time. If you have ever had to evacuate, you now dread this time of year and even have horrible flashbacks and nightmares of your experience. Having evacuated from numerous approaching storms over the last 13 years that included surviving hurricane Katrina (which resulted in me being displaced from New Orleans for about 6 months and never going back to my pre-storm residence), I am now an expert on what you need to take with you when you evacuate from an approaching storm. Disaster preparation is a not something anybody wants to think about. But, it is a must to make your evacuation as bearable as possible and help ease the pain of the disaster aftermath.
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The List of Must Dos:
- Know when to evacuate. Evacuation traffic is the worst. Last time I had to evacuate from New Orleans, it took me 20 hours to get to my actual destination. It was awful and scary. Some evacuees actually died in a crash on the way to Florida, and the I-10 was closed down. The people must have been exhausted from driving all day and fallen asleep behind the wheel. This was a tragedy that could have been avoided with adequate preparation. Mississippi had cut off access through the state. It was supposed to ease the traffic, but actually made it more congested as everyone was forced to drive north. This situation caused the tremendous traffic that led to the deaths. You can avoid this event by leaving early. Leave earlier than everyone else. Yeah, you might be excused of overreacting and just have to turn around and come back. Believe me, this temporary feeling of foolishness is better than getting stuck in endless traffic and risking your life. Don’t wait for that mandatory evacuation order. Stay informed and get out when you feel the call for evacuation is coming.
- Service your car. Evacuation time is not the time for your car to break down. There will be less people willing and available to assist you. Think about it. Everyone is trying to leave town. Get the basics checked out before you hit the road such as your tires, breaks and fluid levels. If you feel that your car simply cannot handle a long journey, make a plan ahead of time to hitch a ride with a friend. Know and understand that leaving your car means that you might lose it forever. Full insurance is good to have if you will have to replace your car.
- Gasoline. Full your tank up all the way before you leave. Keep you tank full at all times when you notice that a storm is approaching. Gas stations often run low on gas during evacuation time. You might even want to take an extra container of gas for the road. Yes, I have heard it is dangerous to ride around with one of those containers in your car. But, this is an emergency situation. You don’t want to run out of gas along the way. Gasoline stations will have really long lines and some will run out of gas.
- What to take for the road. Bring water and snacks. The roads are packed. At every rest stop and gas station, there will be the longest lines you have ever seen in your life. Every stop delays your arrival to your destination and increases the chances you will get stuck in more traffic. Bring your supplies and bring enough to last the entire day. You never know what will happen, so prepare as if it will take all day to get where you are going. Bring some cash. You don’t know how long you will be gone. Bring cash, credit cards and checks. You might have to stay in a hotel for several days or buy more supplies.
- Essentials. Think of the worse case scenario. Bring your passport, birth certificate, insurance papers, savings bonds, and other vital paperwork. While it might be tempting to take all your clothes, shoes and purses, you need to think of what you really would not be able to replace in the event that your house and city is destroyed. Taking the vital paperwork with you will save you a lot of time and aggravation later. Those are the items you need. Material things can be replaced. If you own a home, get proper insurance well before hurricane season starts. No one will sell you flood insurance during hurricane season. Buy your coverage well beforehand and bring all of your policies with you when you evacuate.
- Pets. Bring your pets with you. If you have to leave, your pet has to go with you. It is not safe for them to stay. Don’t let your pet suffer a cruel death. You don’t know what will happen or how long you will be gone. Bring your pets. Bring their food, water and medications, as well as a few comfort items to make the journey less stressful for your furry friends. Some hotels make exceptions during hurricane evacuations and will change their policies to accept pets. Check ahead just to be sure that your destination accepts pets.
- Make Emergency Plans with Loved Ones and Co-workers. Cell phones stopped working during hurricane Katrina. Make plans for how you are going to check in with those you care about, exchange emergency contact numbers and develop an email chain to keep in touch. The ease of mind of knowing that everyone you care about is safe will help you handle the stress of the entire situation.
- Small Business Owners. Bring all your vital paperwork with you. Insurance polices, emergency contact numbers for all your employees and checks and banking information. These things will all be needed for this displacement period. You can't get coverage for your business after the damage has been done. Nor can you buy flood insurance during hurricane season. So, get prepared before the season starts. It will help save your business.
There is nothing you can do to prevent nature from taking its course. Hurricanes have the capacity to create great havoc and destruction. Lives and communities are forever changed when they suffer a direct hit from a powerful storm. You can’t ever get prepared to lose everything. However, you life is the most important and irreplaceable thing you have. Evacuation saves lives. Yes, it is an expensive and tiring process. Being prepared can help ease your mind and the journey.