TDEC is a designated Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador, an initiative of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to improve our nation’s readiness, responsiveness, and resiliency to extreme weather events. As part of our commitment, we will share emergency weather preparedness tips with you. First up: Tropical Storms and Hurricanes.
With tropical storm Laura bearing down on the Gulf Coast and predicted to become a Category 3 hurricane when it hits later this week, preparedness is key for those in its path and those well away from its center who will experience storm surge, winds, surf and inland flooding. NOAA advises the following preparations:
- Determine your risk: Find out what types of wind and water hazards could happen where you live and plan accordingly. A hurricane’s impact can be felt hundreds of miles inland and can be significant.
- Develop an evacuation plan: If you live in a hurricane evacuation zone, determine who issues evacuation orders and then plan for multiple options on where you would go and how you would get there. Do not forget to plan for your pets. The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes provides a list of available evacuation zone maps and routes.
- Assemble supplies: Have enough food and for a minimum of 3 days and make sure your prescriptions are filled and OTC medicines are on hand. Replenish batteries and first aid kits. Add battery-operated radio and portable crank or solar-powered phone chargers to your supplies. Fill your car’s gas tank and have extra cash on hand. And, because we are in the midst of a pandemic, bring at least two cloth face coverings for each person and, if available, hand sanitizer. The CDC provides some additional preparations as a result of COVID.
- Check in with your insurance agency: Prepare your home and vehicles according to your insurance policy. Consider flood insurance (well in advance of any hurricane). Gather your insurance documents and, if you evacuate, take them with you.
- Strengthen your home: Well ahead of the storm, protect your windows with approved coverings, trim trees, collect and secure loose outdoor furniture and other items, secure all doors and move your car to a safe location. The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes offers a detailed list of steps to protect your home.
- Help your vulnerable neighbors prepare: Help them collect supplies and evacuate. After the storm passes, check-in with these neighbors.
- Complete a written plan: Having your plan in writing will help to avoid mistakes when faced with an emergency and ensure all that you and your home are prepared for the next storm. Document all valuables in photos. Keep important documents (e.g., insurance, legal, birth certificates) together for quick access. And then share your plan with others. FEMA offers a step-by-step process to make a plan.
TDEC employee and 40+ year Jacksonville, FL resident Lori Milam knows firsthand the impact tropical storms and hurricanes can have. Although Jacksonville is not forecast to be hit by Laura, Lori knows to expect lots of rain and damaging winds and offers her own battle-seasoned advice:
- Prepare for loss of power and water for an indeterminate time. In the aftermath of one tropical storm, Lori lost electricity for two weeks. Florida is a very hot and humid place without air conditioning. If you are considering buying a generator, do so well in advance of the hurricane season. They sell out quickly in the week prior to a storm. Same with gas. The gas stations run dry in the week leading up to the storm. Collect non-potable water in bathtubs for bathing, flushing toilets, etc.
- If you can evacuate early, do so. Most people wait until the last minute and the highways become parking lots.
- Follow reliable news and weather sources. Lori stays away from the sensational news, but tracks the weather using a local weather app.
For more information on hurricane preparedness, please visit the National Weather Service. Be safe. Be a #ForceOfNature.