Hurricane season is upon us. In the Atlantic basin, the season stretches from June 1 to November 30. As a homeowner, that adds up to six whole months of watching and waiting. When a hurricane does strike, you may only have a day or two of notice that you are in the path of the storm. So while the meteorologists are keeping their eyes on the Atlantic, you should use your time to do some simple things to prepare your home and your family for the storm.
How much notice will I get if there’s a hurricane coming my way?
The National Hurricane Center states that a Hurricane Watch, which means hurricane conditions are possible in your area, is typically issued 48 hours before the start of tropical storm-force winds. If the storm is expected to hit your area, a Hurricane Warning is issued just 36 hours before the onset of the tropical storm-force winds.
What kind of winds and weather should I expect with a hurricane?
A storm must reach winds of 74 miles per hour (mph) in order to qualify as a hurricane. From 74-95 mph, the hurricane is considered a Category 1 storm. Category 2 storms have winds from 96-110 mph, Category 3 features 111-130 mph winds, and Category 4 has winds of 131-155. Once winds exceed 155 mph, the hurricane is considered to be a Category 5 storm.
Along with winds that can topple trees and power lines, damage buildings, and move vehicles, hurricanes also produce vast amounts of rainfall. In 1969, Hurricane Camille passed over Virginia and dumped 12 to 31 inches of rain, mostly within a 3-5 hour window. The catastrophic flooding that followed went on for many days. Rainfall totals can vary from 1 to 40 inches, depending on the storm and where you are located within its path.
How can I minimize potential risks before a storm?
One of the best things you can do is to make sure that your home is in good repair before the storm. Ask yourself these questions:
- How does my roof look? Are there any shingles missing or that seem to have popped up? You may want to consider installing hurricane straps, made out of galvanized metal, to help secure your roof to your walls.
- Does any of my siding look loose or damaged?
- Are my gutters clear of debris and securely attached to the house? Do the downspouts lead water away from my foundation adequately?
- Do any of the windows have rotted wood? Consider installing storm shutters to protect all your glass surfaces and replacing your regular window panes with high-impact glass.
- Are any of my exterior doors missing screws or hinges?
- Is my garage door securely mounted? Most experts recommend having a track that is at least 14 gauge in weight. Consider replacing your door with an impact-resistant steel one.
If you find that your home has some problem areas, it’s best to correct them now so that you can avoid the rush, and inflated prices, that you will find when a storm is approaching. Also, contact your insurance agent to see what your coverage is for hurricanes. It’s good to know your deductible for future reference. Your agent will probably advise you to make a home inventory just in case of an emergency. There are free apps out there that can assist you with this, storing pictures and receipts free of charge.
You should also take a walk around your property with these questions in mind:
- What items should be anchored or moved inside when there are damaging winds? Patio furniture, decorations, and debris can all become dangerous projectiles with hurricane-force winds.
- Are any trees or tree limbs dead? Cutting and removing dead parts from your trees will help save your windows and roof during the storm.
- Are there any tall, older trees right up against your home? If so, it might be time to have them removed. Trees present a major toppling hazard during high winds.
How should I protect my home if a hurricane is imminent?
When a Hurricane Watch or Warning has been issued, it’s best to make last-minute preparations for your home.
- Protect your windows. Hurricane film, which you can leave on year-round, is great at preventing shards of glass from flying all over the place. It can’t prevent the wind from blowing in the entire window frame, though, so to protect against that, use 5/8”-thick plywood cover windows. They should be attached to the walls of your home using heavy-duty screws and anchors (for wood) or expansion bolts (for brick).
- Treat any doors with glass just like windows.
- Brace garage doors with vertical and horizontal 2” by 4” boards that are secured into the walls.
- Depending on your geographic location, use sandbags to block water from entering your home.
Keep in mind that the safest course of action may be to evacuate instead of sheltering in place. Listen to the local officials when it comes to evacuation notices and routes.
What should I store in my home in case of an emergency?
If disaster strikes and you lose power and access to water, you should have a supply kit on hand to help you get through at least 72 hours. A basic kit consists of:
- One gallon of water per person, per day
- Non-perishable food
- A battery-powered or hand-crank radio
- A first-aid kit
- A flashlight
- Dust masks, plastic sheeting, and duct tape
- Trash bags and plastic ties (for sanitation)
- A wrench (to turn off utilities)
- A manual can opener
- Cell phone with charger
- Extra batteries
Hurricanes are dangerous and unpredictable. You can prepare yourself by simply inspecting your home for maintenance issues and having a disaster supply kit on hand. Other precautionary measures have to be done last minute, but having supplies accessible will be immensely helpful. Getting ready for the unthinkable now may save your home and your life.