National Hurricane Preparedness Week
By Diane Tait
Image courtesy Pixabay
Did you know last week was National Hurricane Preparedness Week? Most people didn’t give it a second thought. But when you realize last year’s hurricane season was a record breaker with thirty named storms in the Atlantic, maybe it’s time to pay attention. Historically, named storms have caused the most loss of life and property than any other weather-related event. Due to global warming, NOAA has officially moved the start of hurricane season from June 1 to May 15 for the first time. With that in mind, I thought I’d take the time to give you a rundown on what the 2020 season produced, as well as the forecast for 2021, plus what you can do to get prepared.
1. 2020 was one for the record books. Thirty named storms, twelve of which made landfall. The previous record was set in 2005 with twenty-eight named storms, which included Hurricane Katrina that devastated Mississippi and Louisiana. That was also the same year the Hurricane Rita made landfall in Louisiana less than a month later to add to the post-Katrina devastation there before heading into Southeast Texas. All told, the two hurricanes did more than $180 billion in damage. Compare that to the 2020 total of $95 billion in damage and it’s clear that hurricanes are a real and present danger to property. It’s also clear that hundred-billion-dollar hurricanes are becoming more common. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey alone caused more than $125 billion in damage.
2. What’s in store for 2021? – NOAA’s official hurricane forecast for this year is 16-20 named storms, 3-5 of which are expected to make landfall in the continental US. They also predict 7-10 hurricanes, 3-5 of which are expected be major. What’s even more interesting is the fact that the National Hurricane Center has also increased the average number of named storms per year. From 1980-2010, the average number of named storms expected was 12. The average was raised to 14 for the period of 2010-2020. While 2021 is expected to spawn an above average number of named storms and hurricanes, we’ll just have to wait to see what the tally is for property damage when hurricane season ends on November 30.
3. What can you do to prepare for hurricane season? – Other than crossing your fingers and hoping that no named storms head your way, the best way to prepare for hurricane season is to:
a. Stock up on supplies before panic buying sets in. - The time to stock up on hurricane supplies is now. If you wait until a named storm is forecast to hit your area, you will be hard-pressed to find bottled water, canned food, batteries, plywood, and other supplies.
b. Do you plan on leaving should a hurricane head your way? – If so, do you know your evacuation route? Have you located the nearest storm shelter? What do you plan on doing with your pets, your kids, and/or your elderly parents before the storm hits? Have you gathered all your identification and vaccination documentation? How much cash do you have on hand to use if power goes out for an extended period of time?
Image courtesy Pixabay
4. If you plan on staying – Have you made a list of emergency phone numbers? Do you have enough food, water and medicine to get through a week in the dark? Do you have an alternate cooking source like a camp stove or gas grill with fuel enough to last until the lights come back on? How about battery powered lights and flashlights? A hand-cranked or solar-powered portable radio wouldn’t be a bad idea either if the lights go out for a day or more.
5. If you’re ordered to evacuate – After you batten down the hatches, you’ll need to turn off the power, the water and the gas before you hit the road. Not only will you need to pack food, water, and clothing for the trip, you’ll also need to pack important documents including your insurance policies. Make sure you have a full gas tank since gas stations along the way may run dry. If you do run out of fuel, you’d best pack some camping supplies including a tent, so you and your family won’t be stuck in your vehicle for who knows how long. If you have any other vehicles that won’t be coming with you, make sure they’re parked in a garage or under a tarp to keep them from being beaten to pieces by flying debris.
6. Do you know the difference between a hurricane warning and a hurricane watch? A hurricane warning means hurricane-force winds of 74 MPH or greater are expected in your area. On the other hand, a hurricane watch means those same wind speeds are predicted for your area. The difference is significant when it comes to making up your mind as to whether to stay or evacuate your home.
7. What happens if you can’t reenter your property after the storm has passed? – Depending on the severity of the destruction in your area, you may not be allowed to return to your home for days or weeks after a hurricane passes by. Where do you plan on staying if you can’t immediately return home? Do you have the phone number of your insurance agent so you can find out if you’re covered for the added expense of living in a hotel?
8. What should you do if your home is damaged by a named storm? – If you come home only to find that your property has been damaged by a hurricane, the first priority should be the safety of you and your family. Everything from debris and damaged trees to downed power lines and broken gas mains can injure or kill the unwary. Once you’re sure it’s safe to enter your property, if the damage to your home is minor, tarp any roof damage or broken windows to keep the elements out. If the damage is extensive, it’s best if you take photos of the damage and then leave the property until it’s habitable. Call your insurance agent to find out what you need to do to document the damage and file a claim. Don’t do anything that can cause a claim to be denied. Make sure your family is safe and sound. While property can be replaced, lives can’t.
Diane Tait owns and operates A&B Insurance. To find out more about how you can save money on boat insurance, go to her site.