Hurricane season officially begins June 1 each year and ends November 30. The peak of the season, when most storms occur, runs from mid-August to mid October.
Weather experts have become much better at predicting storm paths and intensities in recent years. Still, there is a large measure of unpredictability associated with these storms, so it pays to keep abreast of storm development and to be prepared in the event you end up in the path of a storm.
Hurricanes are characterized by high winds and heavy rainfall. Hurricanes are defined according to their wind speed into five categories. What these categories do not capture is the rainfall that can accompany these storms. Rainfall rates can sometimes exceed 30 inches in a 24 hour period. The rain can accompany the wind or may fall after the most extreme winds have passed. As these storms move inland they usually weaken but can continue to dump large amounts of rain in their path. Because of the rainfall, as well as storm surge, much hurricane damage results from flood.
Hurricanes are frequently accompanied by tornadoes. These unpredictable storms typically affect a much smaller area than a hurricane. Because of this, there are some additional things you need to know about tornado safety.
Before Storm Season
Be prepared for storm season by knowing where to tune for weather updates when a hurricane watch or hurricane warning has been posted. Local television and radio are a good be as well as on line resources like www.weather.com, www.nhc.noaa.gov and www.wunderground.com.
Review and update your Hurricane Disaster Supply Kit, Hurricane Property Preparation Checklist and Personal Evacuation Plan. It can be difficult or impossible to get necessary supplies at the last minute. Store shelves can quickly empty of batteries, candles, water and other essential items when a storm is predicted.
During a Hurricane Watch
Go over your Hurricane Property Preparation Checklist to make sure you have time to complete all necessary preparations. Even in high hurricane winds, preparation can mean the difference between minor damage and devastation.
During a Hurricane Warning or During Severe Weather
- If you are advised to evacuate, don't wait; the longer you do the more snarled traffic becomes and the greater the risk spending hour after unpleasant hour stuck in a miles long line of cars inching up the interstate. Avoid flooded roads; six inches of water is all it takes to float a car. Keep an eye out for flood compromised or washed out bridges. Make sure someone outside the storm area knows where you will be and how to reach you.
- If you do not evacuate, stay in doors and off the roads. Stay away from windows and doors. If power is lost, unplug all electrical appliances to prevent damage from power surge when service resumes. Keep emergency supplies at hand. Listen to local radio for changes in the weather situation and instructions.
- If flooding occurs, move valuable property to higher locations in your home, if time permits. Move yourself and your pets to higher ground or shelter. Be sure to lock your home and take emergency supplies, clothing and bedding with you.
After a Storm
- Continue to monitor local radio for information. Return home only after authorities have announced it is safe to do so. When you reenter your home, do so cautiously. Check for displaced wildlife such as snakes. If necessary, open doors and windows to ventilate and help dry your home.
- Give first aid where necessary. Do not move a seriously injured person unless they are in imminent danger. Call for emergency help.
- Watch for and avoid downed power lines.
- Avoid using the phone except in emergency. This will keep the phones free for authorities and those in more dire straits.
- Check for damaged electrical wiring. Look for sparks or frayed wires. Hot or melting wiring insulation cause an acrid smell. If you notice any damage, cut off the power at the fuse or circuit breaker box but do not touch the box if you have to stand in water. In the latter case you should check with an electrician.
- Avoid using candles, kerosene lamps or other open flame sources for heat or light. Candles cause more fires after a disaster than any other source. If you must use a candle or open flame lamp take extreme care to keep pets, children and combustibles away from the flame.
- If you smell or hear the hiss of leaking gas, leave the house. If you can, turn off the gas line at the cut off valve outside your home. Call the utility company from your cell or from another location.
- Inspect your water lines and other plumbing. If you think there has been any damage, avoid using toilets and do not drink the tap water.
- Check your freezer and refrigerator for spoiled food.
- Take photos of the house and contents for insurance purposes.
- Don't burn charcoal in an enclosed area. Doing so can cause the build up of deadly carbon monoxide.
- Take photos of any damaged items. Place them outside if they cannot be salvaged but try to avoid discarding them until they have been looked at by an insurance adjuster.