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How To Survive A Hurricane

Updated on September 19, 2013

Hide from wind. Run from water.

People fear hurricanes.

In fact, their fear is often out of proportion of the actual event. People should be cautious, yes. Prepared, yes. Use their heads, yes. Keep safe, yes. But irrational fear causes stress and anxiety and in itself, can cause unnecessary injury.

Did you know that for a 10-year average ending in 1996 there were 117 deaths from hurricanes and 170 deaths from heat in the U.S.? Hurricanes are dangerous. So is intense heat. You need to know the real dangers of a hurricane so you can prepare accordingly and survive. Be smart. Be prepared. Be safe.

Photos copy write by Gillbert Henry

Except for the title photo all other photos were shot by my husband after a hurricane.

What to do well before the storm.

June is the time to prepare for hurricanes.

Here are some things you need to accomplish as soon as possible.

1. Get all your trees trimmed and yard cleared so you don't have all that back breaking work to do when a hurricane is coming and your so excited and exhausted.

2. Get a good portion of your food and other supplies ready as well.

3. Go though your papers to get them in one location.

4. Make arrangements for any medications you may need. Often you can get double prescriptions 72 hours before a hurricane arrives but check with your doctor and pharmacist to be sure.

5. Keep your gas tank at least 1/2 full. If the weather looks a bit promising for a hurricane make sure you keep topping off your tank. Those long lines for gas 2 or 3 days before a hurricane comes can decrease the time you have for additional preparation and add to your stress.

6. Have your plan all thought out and do as much as you can ahead of time. Visualize what you will do. Play it over in your head. This is practice and practice always makes the doing easier. In the time before a hurricane, when everyone is running around trying to get things done and getting all stressed out with long lines and empty shelves all you'll be doing is stopping by the store for some fresh oranges (fruit that stores well and has liquid), picking up a bag or two of ice and putting up your shutters.

7. Don't forget if you work your job will need your assistance to be ready as well and you won't have as much time as you think.

Preparing for the storm

In this article I don't want to rehash information that is already out there for you. The Internet is a great place to find the check lists and other information you need. What I want to do is give you tried and true ideas that have helped me survive hurricanes in relative comfort and safety.

Ready America at http://www.ready.gov/ is a great site that has checklists, brochures, a family emergency planning guide and a section devoted to helping children handle hurricanes. If you know of more great sites let everyone know by adding them to the comments at the end of this article.

To prepare before a storm, get your checklists out and start early. I don't mean 10 days before season starts. I mean months early. January is a good time to buy batteries. The prices are set higher in December for the holidays and drop in January. You can buy batteries in May or June but you'll pay a high price for them. For instance, the square lantern batteries go for .99 cents in January and $5 in June. You also avoid the rush. Avoiding the rush is extremely important before a hurricane because rushing just adds to the stress. The more you do before, the better you'll feel if the time comes to weather a hurricane.

And the word is "if". Most hurricanes miss. You'll get all prepared, ready for anything, and then the hurricane will miss your area. If this happens a couple times you may become complacent. Don't get complacent.

Do The Same Thing For Every Hurricane - Every Time

It might become more like a drill every time but your goal is to be sitting there thinking "I don't have anything to do. I've got everything done". You'll be much more relaxed, stress free and ready.

Make sure you do your tree trimming and yard work early too. You'll avoid heavy, tiring work and possible injuries at a time near to hurricane season. You'll also be able to get the rubbish cleared easier than if the trash haulers are not backed up with work.

But now let me disagree with all the government suggestions on one point. Prepare to be without electricity (or away from your house) for 2 weeks. A lot of the suggested times are for 2 or 3 days and sometimes up to 5 days but this is too short of a time. You might be in that small pocket of people who don't get their electricity back on until the last. You don't want to run out of anything before that time. Always err on the side of safety and caution.

Here are a couple of things you should do that they forget to mention in many preparedness manuals.

1. Wash and iron every stitch of clothing in your house and

2. clean out your refrigerator while you have light to do it and garbage service to haul it away.

Garbage, by the way, becomes an important issue as you'll see a little later in this article.

Remember, the more prepared you are the less you'll have to do when a hurricane starts to head your way. The less you have to do the less stress you'll face. Stress makes people tired and careless.

A few hurricane supplies from Amazon.com

What's your "comfort level"? Do you need to have electricity to feel comfortable? Get a generator and be prepared for it's care and feeding. Or will a handy camp stove for quicker meal preparation be more comfortable? I'm comfortable with cooking on a charcoal grill but my husband likes the convenience of turning on a switch with the camp stove. Some of these items below will help you achieve your "comfort level" for the next hurricane. Some, like the saw and radio, are nearly essential during a hurricane

Stay or Go - What should you do?

The title of this article is "Hide from Wind. Run from Water" and it's a good maxim to follow. Unless you're in a mobile home or other lightly built building that doesn't hold up well to flying debris your best bet is often to just sit tight. If you are in a mobile home you should plan to find another shelter. If you are in a mandatory evacuation zone and are requested to leave, you should leave. Your local governments have been around a long time and know just how far into the coastline the worse of the storm is likely to reach. Though every storm is different, no matter how many storms have been through, and everything is just a calculated guess.

You can hide behind a wall to get out of wind but you can't hide from water. If you watch hurricane coverage you'll notice that a large part of the damage is from storm surge. Not all, but a large part. If you're anywhere near where the storm surge may reach then I'd suggest you leave.

Storm surge and mandatory evacuation zones aside, a lot of people are indecisive about leaving or staying. If you leave it may be quite a while before you are allowed back in and you won't know what happened to anything you've left behind for a while. Then again, if you stay you'll be facing some time without lights, air conditioning, and all the comforts of modern living.

Evacuating to a shelter is another option but it can be very uncomfortable, crowded and there's no privacy. I have never evacuated to a shelter but I've known people who have. You will have to prepare for this as well and remember to pack light but select your items carefully. As I've never evacuated to a shelter I don't know what I'd take. One woman mentioned that she would remember to take her crock pot the next time. You'll need food and entertainment as well as your important information and medicines.

Going to a hotel or motel might be another option but remember, hotels aren't shelters and hurricanes are unpredictable. They can turn and you'll find yourself right back in it's path. Anyone who's camped out for any length of days in a hotel room knows that it's not the most comfortable place to be. But if you decide this is the best plan for you make your plans early. Hotels fill up fast and you'll need a credit card to secure your room. If you have pets be sure to include them in your plan and select a hotel that will accept pets.

What should you do just before the storm?

Don't worry. You've already planned for this well in advance. You have enough food for two weeks tucked away. You have a lot of batteries, flashlights, radios and even a small T.V. You have some games that will help pass the long hours.

And it will be long hours. The fastest hurricane I've ever been through was Wilma in 2005 and she lasted 6 hours. You'll need to be ready to sit it out for an extended time.

Two or three days before you'll want to fill your tank with gas. You'll do this even if the hurricane is just a slim chance of coming near. There's a long line at the gas station filled with people who didn't do this until the last minute.

You'll make a trip to the bank for a little cash. After a hurricane none of the banks are open and the grocery stores don't have access to the card machines. It'll be cash and carry. You can also fill the water bottles a couple days a head of time. The only thing you'll want to wait for is securing your building and bringing all the outside items inside. This is a lot of work and if you have false alarm after false alarm you'll tire yourself out. So what will you do just before the storm? If you've prepared ahead of time, you'll just sit back and enjoy your day off from work.

During the storm

You've done all your preparations and all there is to do at this time is to sit tight. Don't go outside, even if the eye of the storm passes and all seems quiet. Never go out during the quiet of the eye. This is a very dangerous time. Tree limbs can fall and a puddle can turn dangerous if an electrical wire is touching the ground somewhere. Turn the news on to get updates but don't keep it running continuously. It will wear you out listening to hurricane updates without end. Give it a break and turn on some fun music.

After the storm.

This is where experience and knowledge can make the difference between a safe and comfortable recovery and disaster. After the storm is when many people are injured or worse because they believe the danger is over and they get careless.

Always remember: Safety First

You need to keep safety highest on your mind. Even if the kids are running around with pent up excitement and you're about ready to go stir crazy, remember to keep safety your first thought.

Don't go outside until the all clear is given on the news. Be very careful of fallen trees or walking under tress. Limbs can be lose and come down at any time. Don't walk through water and be careful of broken roof tiles and other debris.

Don't use your tap water until you get the all clear from your city. Use your stored water until you are sure that the tap water is safe. This might be for several days.

There's other do's and don't. Don't light candles. They're a major cause of fires and you won't have any fire services either during or right after a hurricane. Be careful of generators if you have one. I have never wanted a generator. For me it's just one more thing that you need to take care of and be careful with. A generator's fuel will also last just so long and I've seen people have them, run out of fuel before any stores opened to refuel, and still end up in the dark.

Tips & Tricks for comfort and safety

Here are some tips for living without electricity after a hurricane.

Get plenty of ice. Put it in a cooler in a room that won't be used. Cover it top and bottom with blankets to keep it insulated. If you freeze a few blocks of ice this will keep longer than ice cubes. Open the cooler no more than four times a day. Use an ice bucket (the kind they have in bars) to keep ice in and use during the day. This way you won't get into the cooler too often. The less you open it the longer your ice will last. Keep the melted ice water in the cooler. The water/ice mix actually does help keep the temperature lower.

Forget the ice. Let it melt.

You don't really need any ice at all. This might surprise you. All the news has after a storm are people lined up somewhere waiting for ice and crying that they need ice to survive. You don't. The reason you don't need ice is because you don't need to keep anything. You consume everything that you cook and don't have any leftovers. You don't even want leftovers in your garbage. Eat it all. Don't store it in your cooler where there's a chance it can spoil. And remember, you want to open your cooler no more than four times a day. Twice is much better.

Heat will keep you safe.

The most important thing you need is a heat source and you need this for more than just a warm cooked dinner. You need it for your safety. You need a grill or camp stove. I have a camp stove because of it's ease of starting. If you get a camp stove be sure to get enough fuel. When you buy your canisters of fuel and you think you have enough, add a couple more cans. It's better to have too much than run out. You need to cook some meals. It is comforting to have a home cooked meal instead of an instant, open the box, snack. You also need to be sure that the food is completely cooked. And you need to wash your utensils well. You will even use the heat source to heat water to wash your hair.

The trick to taking showers.

And how about washing afterwards. Don't forget that you have a lot of water stored in your hot water heater. If it's warm outside this water will stay warm for a couple of days until you use it up. I hear of people after a storm complaining because they've been taking cold water showers. I'm assuming that they got in the shower, turned the water on, took a shower and let all that nice warm water run out. If you have only so much warm water in the heater don't use it all at once. Turn the water on to wet down then turn it off. Soap up then turn the water on to rise. You can get maybe 6 warm water showers over 3 days doing it this way.

Don't waste your heating fuel.

You'll use your camp stove or heat source to heat water. Lots of water. Heat a smaller portion very hot . After that remove it from the heat and increase to the amount of water you need and decrease the temperature to the temperature you need by adding more water from your stored containers. It conserves fuel to heat a little bit of water to a higher degree than it does to heat a huge pot to a lower temperature.

Try not to leave a mess.

Don't use paper plates or other disposable dishes. Try not to generate garbage. You may not have garbage service for up to two weeks. Imagine how that will be after a few days in near 90-degree weather.

Remember to kill the germs and stay healthy

To wash dishes heat a small amount of water very hot. Add water to this and divide. Make sure this water is nearly too hot to put your hand in. It needs to be very hot to be sure you're getting the dishes clean enough. Wash the dishes in one pan. Wipe the soap off and dip in the second pan of very hot water. This won't get very soapy because you've wiped the soap off the dish. You can conserve your water supply by using the now much cooler but still warm rinse water for your personal daily bathing and washing up.

Getting around in the dark.

During the storm put a flashlight in every room of your house next to the door. When someone walks in they can grab the flashlight, use it and return it. That way you won't be hunting around for the flashlights in the dark and you won't forget to take one with you.

Smart calculations and lessons learned.

- A car battery charger will run a small table lamp with a 40w equivalent energy saver bulb for about 90 minutes. Great for washing dishes in the sink when the waters good and the electricity isn't.

- One bottle of camp stove fuel will last 2-3 days when cooking for a family of 4. This includes heating water and cooking food.

- Your new flashlight batteries will last for the time you need them but the batteries in the large table sterio won't. Get extras if you want your music.

- Ice, unprotected and opened often, will last about a day. Covered and opened only a couple times will last about 3 days.

- Water left in the cooler will keep things colder. Ice will melt slower. Don't drain the water from the cooler.

- Yes, your electric coffee pot still works. Of course you can't plug it in but think about it. All coffee needs is hot water and letting the water slowly drip through the grounds. Set your coffee pot up, boil some water, and let it drip through the filter.

Traffic Lights This is very important!

When a traffic light is out it is treated as a 4-way stop. After a hurricane ALL lights could be out, gone, or not working. Many people are injured or killed at intersections that have lost their lights. Stop at all intersections that have lost their lights and take your turn. Be very careful and look far down the road for anyone who might run the intersection.

Don't go driving around after the storm to see what happened. You'll use up precious gasoline and you'll run into all sorts of people who have no idea to stop for the intersections. You will also have trouble getting around downed trees and wires. Stay put for a day or two. Yes, it's a fantastic sight to see but it's not a very safe thing to do.

Footnote's & Links

Be sure to check additional Internet resources on the Hurricane Feed at the end of this article.

(1) www.weather.gov/os/hazstats.shtml

Useful web site links from my personal bookmark page.

Live Radar for Floria

NOAA - National Weather Service / Miami

WXnation

Drop a line to say hello.

Reader Feedback

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    • K Linda profile image

      K Linda 8 years ago

      This lens is a great resource for those of us living in hurricane-prone areas, especially the many newcomers. 5*'s.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      nice work