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Of all natural disasters, hurricanes are the most damaging. They may go by different names depending on locality but they are all tropical cyclones. In the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific they are called “hurricanes”, “typhoons” in the Western Pacific, and “cyclones” in the Indian. The most powerful of all tropical cyclones ever recorded have happened in the Pacific.
There are two ways in which a tropical cyclones strength is recorded. The first being the maximum wind speed with the second being barometric pressure readings.
The most powerful tropical cyclone on record as measured by barometric pressure was Hurricane Patricia which formed in the eastern Pacific off Guatemala in 2015. At its peak, Hurricane Patricia blew winds at a whopping 215 miles per hour or over 346kph.
But it is the Atlantic hurricanes that are most damaging due to the fact that they have a greater chance of striking populated areas. Some of the strongest and most damaging Atlantic hurricanes can be seen below:
- Hurricane Wilma in 2005 had wind speeds of 185mph causing $34.4 billion in damage.
- Hurricane Katrina in 2005 had wind speeds of 175mph causing $161.6 billion in damage.
- Hurricane Maria in 2017 had wind speeds of 175mph causing $91.6 billion in damage.
So what can we do to not only prepare for a hurricane but also give ourselves a better chance of surviving a hurricane?
- 1 How to Survive a Hurricane: Preparation
- 2 How to Survive a Hurricane: During the Storm
- 3 How to Survive a Hurricane: After the Storm
- 4 How to Survive a Hurricane: Your Car
How to Survive a Hurricane: Preparation
In order to increase your chance of survival, you need to first prepare. Make sure that you have each of the following steps completed before moving onto the next.
Hurricane Survival Kit
The idea of your hurricane survival kit is to make sure that you have all essential items at hand that can help you to survive the storm. If you need to go without assistance for a few days, what are the most important items that you personally need? This will differ between households and circumstances but you must ensure that you have the following items:
- Hand crank radio
- Flashlight and spare batteries
- First Aid kit
- Means of filtering water
- Floatation device
Your aim is to pack enough supplies that can get you through a bare minimum of 72 hours but the more the better as you won’t know when help can arrive.
Understand the Strength and Scale
Half the battle of survival is already won if you can understand what it is that you are up against. Hurricanes are not a one-size deal and so you need to understand the Saffir Simpson Scale.
This scale rates the storms on a scale of 1-5 with 1 being minimal damage and 5 being catastrophic.
Secure Your Home
Once you are aware of the scale of the incoming storm, you will have a better understanding as to the steps you will need to secure your home from the hurricane. As a starting point, consider taking the following steps before the storm hits:
- Install storm shutters and secure them in place. If this is not an option, board up your windows with marine plywood cut beforehand and ready to fit.
- Install roof clips to keep your roof securely fastened to its frame structure
- Prune bushes and trees to minimize the risk of airborne debris or falling branches
- Clear out rain gutters and downspouts to prevent misdirected flooding
- Consider building a safe room
- If you have a basement, keep everything elevated so as to minimize damage from any flooding.
Understand How to Turn Off Utilities
Before the storm hits you need to take the time to learn what needs to be done in order to turn off your utilities in case you are told that you need to evacuate. In most cases, these are just simple switches and valves but locate them now to avoid any hazards once the storm arrives.
At all times during the storm, it is important to stay tuned into your radio to keep up-to-date on what is happening. If you are unaware of any changing conditions, how can you expect to survive?
It is a good idea to have proof of your home’s condition before disaster strikes, for personal and possible insurance purposes. So, you may want to consider taking pictures of your home’s interior and exterior as you make your hurricane preparations well before a hurricane hits.
If you are told by the authorities that you need to evacuate, it is important that you listen and do exactly as they say. Have a pre-planned route set out in your mind, keep your vehicle fully fueled and find somewhere safe to stay such as a hurricane shelter that may have been set up for those affected. Don’t forget to take your hurricane survival kit with you.
How to Survive a Hurricane: During the Storm
When the hurricane hits, you are going to be faced with strong winds and flooding, both of which add extra dangers.
What to Do
Be sure to keep the following in mind to protect yourself during this time:
- If you are told to evacuate, do so immediately.
- If you can’t evacuate in time, secure any external doors, close all internal doors and take refuge in a small interior room or closet on the lowest level of the building.
- Secure your home
- Switch off your utilities
- Lie under something sturdy such as a strong table.
- Keep your emergency radio tuned in
- The ATM machines may not be working so always have a small amount of cash on you
- Keep away from any windows and glass doors
- Don’t use any electrical appliances and keep them unplugged until the storm is over
- If there is a lull in wind, stay put as you may only be in the eye of the storm. Only leave when the authorities deem that it is safe to do so.
- Do not walk or drive through flood waters. Just six inches of fast-moving water can knock a person down, while one foot of moving water can sweep a vehicle away.
How to Survive a Hurricane: After the Storm
Even after a storm has passed, there will still be hazards and so you must remain alert.
What to Do
- Stay put until you hear further instructions from the authorities
- Perform any necessary first aid
- Report any hazards such as fallen trees, power lines, broken water pipes, etc
- Come together as a community
- Wear protective clothing as you assist with cleanup
- Avoid flood waters
How to Survive a Hurricane: Your Car
When it comes to preparing for a hurricane, we must not forget about our vehicles.
What to Do Before the Hurricane
If you know that you are in the path of a hurricane, take the following steps to protect your vehicle.
- Take photos of your vehicle before a hurricane hits for insurance purposes
- Keep all important documents such as registration and insurance documentation in a dry place like a zip-top plastic bag.
- Have two emergency meeting areas pre-planned: one close by your home and another further away in case of an evacuation.
- Keep your gas tank filled
- Park your vehicle in a sheltered spot away from high winds and water. Consider parking close to a building which can offer at least partial protection from high winds. Another way to protect your vehicle is to avoid parking under trees or power lines that can be blown down.
- Cover your vehicle and tape the windows. Salt water damage can wreak havoc on the interior of your vehicle, so just covering the vehicle is not enough. You have to take steps to keep the water from seeping in through the windows. Use masking tape in a criss cross pattern to offer the best protection. The best bet would be to put the vehicle in a garage.
- Remove any exterior fixtures that are not permanent or you might not still have them once the storm passes.
- Deflating your tires reduces the risk that the car will be whisked away by rising waters. Inflated tires are buoyant and make your care more susceptible to being carried away.
What to Do After the Hurricane
- Once the storm has passed, check over your car thoroughly to evaluate its condition.
- Take pictures of any damage
- If you must drive, avoid flooded roads and bridges and watch out for fallen objects, downed power lines and weakened walls, bridges, roads and sidewalks.
Experiencing a hurricane can be a difficult ordeal — but planning ahead can help give you some peace of mind about yourself, your home, and your car.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this guide and any extra tips that you can provide in the comments below.