Few things in life can have as strong an impact on your safety, health, and well-being as a hurricane.
I know firsthand about the damage a hurricane can cause because we’ve been through quite a few of them over the years in both Florida and New England.
And since we’ve entered hurricane season along the East Coast, I thought I’d spend a little time today sharing some personal tips to help you prepare for the possibility of a hurricane—especially if you reside in “Hurricane Alley.”
But first, let me recount some stories about the most brutal hurricanes I’ve witnessed over the years…
No one is spared—from Florida to New England
We spend most of the year in Florida. And without doubt, Floridians are seasoned veterans in facing down hurricanes—most recently with Hurricane Michael last year.
Hurricanes can also hit much farther north in New England, where we still spend much of the summer. In fact, many people who live in the region are still rattled by the 1991 hurricane season…
That year we were hit with a double-whammy. First, there was “Hurricane Bob” in late August 1991, which swept up the eastern seaboard, across Cape Cod, into Massachusetts Bay, across Cape Ann (the “north shore” of Boston), and back out to sea. It made final landfall near Kennebunkport, Maine—where President George H.W. Bush was in residence at his “summer White House,” which sustained significant damage.
Then, in October, we were hit again with “The Perfect Storm.” This event was the confluence of three different storm systems colliding in the Atlantic late in the hurricane season. The storm hammered my old hometown of Gloucester, MA and continued its path of destruction up and down the eastern seaboard.
I remember the storm hit land on October 31 (Halloween), making trick-or-treating quite a calamity. I lost more than one umbrella taking my daughter and her friend Sandra around the neighborhood!
Of course, Hurricane Sandy struck New England—as well as New Jersey and New York—on Halloween again in 2012, right before the presidential election. It made for some memorable, political “photo ops.”
Without a doubt, these late-season hurricanes can pack a lot of punch since the ocean waters accumulate heat during the summer months and retain that heat energy long after the land has started to cool.
So, with this year’s season upon us, here are some tips to help you prepare…
1.) Determine where you’ll stay and how you’ll get there
Don’t wait. Plan now.
Start making an emergency plan, before there is any emergency.
Below are some specific preparations to think about and plan for:
- Make an evacuation plan, should you have to leave your home (i.e. where will you shelter; mapped evacuation routes; etc.).
- Check in ahead of time with assistance organizations, if you’re an older resident.
- If you or loved ones have special needs, register with shelters that can accommodate you.
- If you receive routine medical treatments, such as dialysis, inquire about your clinic’s emergency plans.
- Share your evacuation plan with a support network of family and friends.
- Safeguard important documents, such as insurance policies, in a large, waterproof container or safe. You want to be able to take them with you at a moment’s notice.
- Speaking of insurance policies, check on the status of your property and flood insurance. (Sometimes homeowner’s property insurance will not protect you for damage caused by floods. But you can get flood insurance even if you don’t live in a designated flood zone.)
2.) Make a list of medications—and don’t leave home without them
Make a list of key medications and dietary supplements that you need to manage chronic medical conditions—such as high blood pressure or Type II diabetes.
Then, make sure you don’t leave home without them, in case you’re forced to evacuate!
(Remember those credit card commercials featuring one famous celebrity or another with the catch-line, “Don’t leave home without it”? I recently had a waitress in stitches when it came time to pay the dinner bill, channeling the Karl Malden version.)
3.) Consider purchasing a back-up generator for power outages
If you live in “Hurricane Alley,” you may want to consider investing now in a generator to use if/when you lose power.
In Florida, advocacy groups are also pushing to make it mandatory for assisted living facilities and nursing homes to comply with state laws requiring back-up energy sources in the event of power loss. The mandate followed Hurricane Irma in 2017 when 14 people died in a nursing home that lost power in Hollywood Hills, Florida.
4.) Stockpile emergency supplies
Begin to buy and store critical supplies, while they’re still in stock. Prepare for an emergency, when there is NOT an emergency.
Also, make sure to keep critical supplies on hand in case you lose electricity. Florida state officials recommend putting together emergency stores that can last you three to seven days without electricity.
First, think about water. You can fill a bath tub for all non-drinking water needs. You’ll also need your own supply of drinking water so you don’t end up like Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, “Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.”
Specifically, you’ll need one gallon of drinking water per person, per day.
You’ll also want to stockpile:
- Plenty of non-perishable food items
- A manual can opener
- At least one heavy-study flashlight per person (with additional emergency lighting for each room and stairs)
- Extra batteries
- A large first aid kit
5.) Don’t forget about your pets
Animal shelters are often inundated with animals during hurricanes, as many evacuation shelters don’t allow cats and dogs. And sadly, pets often just get lost in the confusion.
So, make a plan now for your pets. (And if you follow step one, you’ll know ahead of time if your local evacuation shelter allows them or not.)
After Hurricane Florence, which hit the Carolinas last fall, our daughter worked to identify lost or abandoned pets who were being transported by the SPCA and other rescue organizations out of danger. Some were taken south to Florida and others went north to New England. We ended up adopting a beautiful harlequin half-Great Dane that was abandoned during the storm. We named her “Loblolly,” a distinctly nautical name.
Ultimately, there’s no time like the present to prepare. This weekend sounds like a good time to get ready, just in case.
P.S. It’s important to take care of yourself year-round, whether or not you’re preparing for hurricane season.
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