Everyone procrastinates sometimes, but when it comes to being prepared for hurricanes, you don’t want to delay. Make the best use of your time and resources while the weather is nice—it’ll be much more difficult once the harsh winds start blowing, the stores have run out of supplies, and the gas stations have run dry.
Gather your supplies today so you’re prepared when the next hurricane hits. Plus, it’s a great excuse to get your home repairs done and to stock up your pantry. Keep reading to discover the answers to the most common questions about hurricane season preparedness.
Hurricane Season Length
Hurricane season stretches from June 1 to November 30, but these powerful storms most commonly hit in August and September. Throughout each year, an average of twelve storms will form, inching closer toward the Gulf of Mexico and up the coastline.
It’s important to note some hurricanes form outside of this window but the vast majority occur between these dates. Only 3% of all Atlantic hurricanes occur between December and May.
How Soon to Prepare for a Hurricane
The best time to prepare for hurricane season is now. It’s easier to prepare before the nasty weather hits and preparing in advance gives you peace of mind. You will also be in a better position to take care of your family and pets if disaster strikes.
The first step to being prepared for hurricane season is having a hurricane plan. It’s important to know exactly where you can seek shelter and to have an evacuation plan at the ready. Storms have been known to suddenly change directions, so even if you think you’re safe, it’s always better to be prepared.
What’s the Difference Between Tropical Depressions, Tropical Storms, and Hurricanes?
These are the three stages of hurricane formation, beginning with tropical depressions, which can worsen into tropical storms, which can worsen into hurricanes. All three stages should be cause for concern and you must be prepared for sudden changes in direction and intensity.
A tropical depression forms when thunderstorms in low-pressure areas produce a circular wind flow of up to 36 mph. It is important to be prepared before tropical depressions form because they can quickly escalate into tropical storms and hurricanes.
Tropical storms occur when tropical depressions intensify and wind gusts into the range of 36 mph to 74 mph. Tropical storms can wreak havoc on whatever crosses their paths, so be ready to take cover with ample supplies.
Once a tropical depression turns into a tropical storm, it can quickly grow into a full-on hurricane when winds reach 74+ mph, creating a massive, low-pressure thunderstorm that rotates around itself. Hurricanes can be extremely destructive, dangerous, and deadly.
How Are Hurricanes Classified?
Using the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, hurricanes are ranked on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the most intense.
|3 (Major)||111-129 mph|
|4 (Major)||130-156 mph|
|5 (Major)||157+ mph|
Mandatory Hurricane Supplies
To be fully prepared, you need a few different types of supplies: food and water, pet supplies, first aid, means of communication, and a packed emergency bag.
Food and Water
Make sure you have enough food and water to ride out the storm. Don’t wait until the last moment, because food delivery services, restaurants, and grocery stores aren’t usually open or available 24 hours before or after a major hurricane. Keep enough water and non-perishable food on hand, especially if you live in an area that’s expected to receive sustained winds and rain for days at a time.
One person needs at least one gallon of drinking water a day, so calculate how much water you need by multiplying one gallon of water by how many people you have in your household. The best way to stay prepared is to buy several large 3-gallon water jugs to keep in your pantry. Unlike individual water bottles, you won’t be tempted to take them with you on regular days when you’re heading to work or school.
Always keep filling, healthy, non-perishable food on hand in case a hurricane hits. Spending several days trapped in your home without power can be exasperating, so stock up on appetizing non-perishables that will keep morale up. Most canned foods are safe to eat without heating up, so you can eat canned soups and chilli cold. Put some of these on your shopping list and store them in a cool, dry place in your home:
- Boxed nut or seed milk (place in cooler after opening)
- Canned beans
- Canned soups
- Canned tuna
- Canned vegetables
- Dried fruit
- Energy bars
- Jams and fruit preserves
- Peanut or almond butter
- Shelf stable bread
- Trail mix
Hurricane Hack #1: In the days leading up to the storm, pick up fresh fruit like apples, oranges, grapes, and bananas to have fresh alternatives to your non-perishables, which can get boring. Many last-minute shoppers stock up on soup and snacks, so you’ll have plenty of fresh produce to choose from before the storm.
Hurricane Hack #2: Your city may decide to shut off the water supply if the water purification system becomes damaged or contaminated. Be sure to fill your bathtubs with water and keep a bucket in the bathroom to fill the toilet tank with water.
First Aid for Hurricanes
Most first aid kits come with everything you need, but if you’re assembling your own kit, include the following items:
- Adhesive paper tape (for gauze or dressings)
- Alcohol or antiseptic wipes
- Antibacterial ointment
- Bandages, multiple sizes and shapes
- Disposable gloves
- Eye drops
- Gauze pads
- Hand sanitizer
- Hydrocortisone cream
- OTC allergy relief, diphenhydramine tabs or Benadryl
- OTC pain relievers, ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- Small pair of scissors
- Sterile dressings
For those with conditions that require medication, make sure to keep more than enough to make it at least a week without visiting a pharmacy. If you take any medications that require a syringe, such as insulin, set aside a week’s worth of syringes for emergency use only. You don’t want to be caught in the middle of a hurricane without the supplies you need to keep yourself safe, healthy, and alive.
Keep a week’s worth of pet food, water, and any medication Fluffy might need in case of emergency. Also, you need a way to contain your pet to keep them safe if you must evacuate. For dogs, that might just be a leash, but it’s a good idea to keep a crate or carrier within reach. For cats, have a reliable hard or soft carrier for each cat, since traveling and changes in schedule can make pets upset and unpredictable. You’ll also need litter, a litter box, and toys to keep them entertained.
A Way to Send and Receive Communication
It’s extremely important to have a means of communication to be able to receive emergency instructions and alerts from authorities. Don’t completely count on your phone or laptop, you might not have access to power to charge these devices or you could lose Wi-Fi or a reliable signal for your phone. Have backup external batteries ready to go in case the power goes out and the internet goes down. Also, have a battery-powered radio or a hand-crank radio so you can listen to the news if cellular signals fail.
A Bug Out Bag
A “go bag,” or “bug out bag,” is a packed emergency kit that’s ready to go and contains everything you’ll need for at least three days should you need to evacuate. Keep these items together in a box or a packed suitcase so you can just grab it and go. Be sure to include:
- ID for everyone in your household
- Several changes of clothes
- Small first aid kit
- External battery
- Charge cords
- Map of your city or state
- Pet’s vet records
- Pet food and supplies
If your home is in the path of a hurricane or significant flooding, also pack:
- Social security cards
- Health insurance cards
- Car titles
- Birth and marriage certificates
- Health records
- List of local emergency phone numbers
- Hard copy list of your own emergency contacts
Most officials delay mandatory evacuations for as long as possible before natural disasters because it’s often more dangerous for people to be on the roads than at home. If ever there’s a mandatory evacuation for your area, you’ll save yourself a lot of valuable time by keeping a go bag ready for everyone in your household.
Hurricane Hack #3: Fill up your vehicle with gas the moment you hear about a hurricane or tropical storm heading your way. Even better, bring gas cans to the station and stock up before the lines at the pumps get out of control. Gas stations often run dry a day or two before hurricanes hit, so don’t delay.
What Can I Do to Prepare My House?
While some storms are destined to wreak unavoidable havoc, research and safety innovations have come a long way to minimize potential damage to your property. Here are some safety tips to protect your home from the effects of a hurricane:
If you’ve ever personally endured a hurricane or seen news coverage of the aftermath, you’ve likely noticed that most homes protected their windows somehow. Due to high wind speeds, the risk windows being shattered by debris is high. Not only is shattered glass a safety concern, but it also opens your home to the outside elements, including heavy rain, wind, and flying debris.
If you want to avoid broken glass and water damage, you have a few options. One of the most common approaches to safeguarding windows is to protect them with wooden boards like plywood. If you don’t have hurricane-tempered glass, this is the most effective and affordable option.
Hurricane Myth Buster #1: Some people who have hurricane glass windows board their windows anyway. This is unnecessary. You also don’t need to duct tape a large “X” on the window, as a common misconception suggests. People who use this technique do so because they believe the tape will reduce the amount of shattered glass if the window breaks. Not only is this not true, it’s actually dangerous. When taped, glass windows may break into larger shards, which can be even more dangerous than small pieces.
Hurricane Myth Buster #2: Some people believe that keeping a window slightly open helps equalize the pressure inside the home. This is false and you’re safer with closed windows. An open window allows debris to enter the home at high speeds and puts you at greater risk.
Open or Install Your Hurricane Shutters
In some areas where hurricanes are especially common, you might have hurricane shutters that come with the house. Some of these open and close accordion-style while others roll down like a garage door. Hurricane shutters should be permanently installed on your windows so they can be opened quickly and securely. If you bought a house and found a large collection of perforated sheet metal stashed in the garage, those are probably your hurricane shutters. They’re usually numbered and easy to install, but you’ll need a ladder, protective gloves, and a friend to help you to put them up.
Strap Down Roofs Before Hurricane
Roofs may seem like secure structures if you’ve never faced a hurricane before, but you’d be surprised by just how vulnerable they can be to strong winds. Some homes lose large portions or their entire roofs during category 5 hurricanes.
The best way to secure your roof is to use hurricane straps or clips to minimize the risk of roof damage. Both the straps and clips help to fasten the roof to your home, giving it a better chance of making it through the storm.
Caulk Around Windows and Doors
Caulk spaces around windows and doors to avoid water leaking through doorjambs and window crevices. Even if the hurricane gets downgraded by the time it reaches your home, a heavy rain can still cause major flooding and home damage. Caulking the gaps around your home will help minimize any interior damage from rain and floods.
Secure Outside Structures
Many homeowners have pools, outside furniture, and yard décor, but during hurricane season, these items can quickly become a dangerous liability. If you have outside items that can be moved indoors, do so. For items that are too large or dirty to come inside, such as lawn care tools, kayaks, or pool chairs, you’ll need another plan for securing them.
If you have a pool, a creative way of keeping your waterproof belongings safe is to submerge them in the pool. For pools with a liner, you can put tennis balls on the bottom of chairs and chaise lounges to prevent scratching. Once you’ve evaluated your belongings to ensure they are waterproof, you can toss them all into the pool. The furniture will sink and stay safe during even the heaviest wind and rain.
If you don’t have a pool or your item won’t fit in your pool, you’ll need to either secure it or move it to a safe location. You can use rope to keep large items from moving, rent protected storage space, or move items to an area that is outside of the storm’s path.
Fallen trees and branches hitting your home or vehicles can cause some of the worst hurricane damage. Schedule regular tree maintenance to lower your risk. Trim all trees and shrubbery before and during hurricane season and if there’s a particular tree or plant you’re worried about, it’s best to remove it entirely.
Trimming branches not only protects you and your home. It also protects the trees and bushes themselves. Strong, sustained winds can rip trees and shrubs out of the ground and destroy their root systems, causing severe damage or death to the plants.
Purchase Insurance for Hurricanes
Homeowners who live in an area with frequent hurricanes should choose a robust insurance policy to cover serious damage. Consider purchasing wind and flood insurance that can help cover costs if your home has been affected.
How Do I Stay Safe During a Hurricane?
Keeping yourself, your family, and your pets safe during a hurricane is the top priority. Below are some important hurricane safety tips:
Bar the Door
Just because you’re indoors during a hurricane doesn’t mean you’re completely safe. If you have doors that open inward from outdoors into the house, be sure to block the door with a piece of heavy furniture or sandbags if the winds are exceptionally strong. Otherwise, the force of the wind or large flying debris can blow your door in. Even if the weather doesn’t seem too rough, it’s best to secure and lock all doors. Looting can be a problem during evacuations.
Although some people want to go outside and experience the elements, this is a bad idea. Even if you’re able to walk in the winds, you can be hit with debris, knocked over, or carried away by rushing water. Stay safe by staying indoors until the storm has passed and the authorities say you can safely go outside.
Hurricane Hack #4: Make sure you have plenty to do at home to keep your mind occupied. Being trapped in your home for several days can cause cabin fever, so stock up on books, packs of cards, or board games to keep everyone in your household entertained. If you have a generous stash of backup batteries, you can use them to catch up on some of your favorite TV shows or video games.
Beware of Downed Electricity Lines
Downed power lines are very hazardous following hurricanes and violent storms. Never step in puddles near damaged or broken power lines or poles. If you walk your dog after a hurricane, do not let them step in puddles either.
If you see a person unconscious near damaged or leaning power line poles, do not approach. Many well-meaning people have tried to help those who have been electrocuted, only to get electrocuted as well. The most helpful thing you can do it to call for help and stay a safe distance away.
Prepare for Hurricane Season Now
Hurricane season forces us to examine how prepared we are for natural disasters. It’s important to prepare early because if you postpone, stores will be empty when the sky turns grey. Don’t get caught scrambling for supplies at the last moment. Stock up on everything you’ll need today to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
“Hurricane Research Division of AOML/NOAA.” Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory, 2014, www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/.<br?< p=””> </br?<>
“Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.” Glossary of NHC Terms, www.nhc.noaa.gov/aboutsshws.php.
“What Are Hurricanes? What Happens during a Hurricane?” NDBC – Science Education, National Data Buoy Center, 28 June 2016, www.ndbc.noaa.gov/educate/hurr.shtml.
“What’s the Difference Between a Tropical Storm and a Tropical Depression?” Edited by Charles Cosner, NASA, NASA, pmm.nasa.gov/education/content/what-difference-between-tropical-storm-and-tropical-depression.