Hurricane Preparedness 101

It’s very sad that a destructive event such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was responsible for reminding people that they need to prepare. The vast majority of them weren’t prepared at all and the ones that made it out alive regret being unprepared to this day.

hurricane in Florida, US
a hurricane off the coast of Florida, US

Before get to the “how to”, let’s spend a moment reviewing some of the most devastating hurricanes in U.S. history.

If we count the death toll, Katrina wasn’t even remotely the most destructive. However, it was by far the most costly, over $100 billion dollars were spent to slowly bring things back to normal.

The most destructive U.S. hurricane took place in Galveston, Texas. It claimed over 8,000 souls. Of course, that was in 1900, when people were a lot less informed and less prepared for a storm of this magnitude.

In recent history, hurricane Sandy (October 2012) was the worst. It killed 72 people in the U.S. alone. There were 75 indirect deaths, meaning deaths that occurred after the actual storm has passed.

It was a category 2 storm when it hit the U.S. Wind speeds of 115 mph (or 185 km/h) affected most of the eastern region of the country.

Hurricane Statistics

  • the costliest hurricanes in U.S. history were Katrina ($105bn), Sandy ($60bn) and Andrew ($45bn)
  • the deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history were Galveston, TX (8,000 deaths in 1900), Southeastern Florida (over 2500 deaths in 1982) and Katrina (1200 deaths in 2005)
  • hurricanes have a diameter between 100km and 400km (that’s between 62mi and 2485mi)
  • in order to be considered a hurricane, one must have wind speeds of at least 75 mph (or 33 meters per second or 120 km/hour)

Definition, Classifications and More

Hurricanes, also known as tropical cyclones, are rotating storm systems that have a low pressure system and span from hundreds to even thousands of kilometers.

The Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale categorizes these cyclones into 5, depending on the wind speeds. Category 1 hurricanes start from 75 mph while category 5 (the strongest) start with winds at 157 miles per hour.

Hurricane Category Chart

Category 174 – 95 mph
Category 2 96 – 110 mph
Category 3 111 – 130 mph
Category 4 131 – 155 mph
Category 5 155+ mph

Obviously, category 5 storms are pretty rare. A few examples include the one in 1959 in Mexico, Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, and hurricane Andre in 1992. Katrina was indeed a cat. 5 when it reached the Gulf of Mexico but descended to a category 3 by the time it made landfall.

How to Prepare for a Hurricane

There are a lot of things you can do to prepare for such an event. There are things you can and need to do before there’s even an indication that it will happen and there are things that need to be done when you know it will hit within hours.

Here’s what you should do before any hurricane is on the horizon:

  • Cut up plywood to fit each of your exterior windows. Label them to quickly determine which one belongs to which window. Do NOT tape windows, that’s the worst idea ever.
  • Create a safe-room inside the house, somewhere as close to the center of the house as possible, with few or no windows.
  • Have a portable radio readily available (plus extra batteries) so you can be aware of the latest developments.
  • Stock up on rubber boots, not just for you, but for everyone in your household. Hurricanes bring flood waters with them and you never know when you might need them.
  • Have a bug-out bag ready. I’m not gonna cover everything that should go in it here, but I have to remind you of the first aid kit, a 3-day supply of fresh water, food, a flashlight + extra batteries, and so on.
  • Prepare your pets. You know those people that would risk their own life to rescue one of their pets? Make sure it doesn’t come to that by planning ahead.
  • Make a plan, then practice it. In case of emergency, you should have a location where you will all meet in case the communication systems are down. Keep in mind that you may not all be at home when disaster strikes.
  • Have a bug-out location where you all go to either together or separately and make sure every one knows all the different routes to take to get there.
  • Don’t forget tools that will be indispensable in an emergency, such as a can opener and a Swiss army knife.
  • Consider trimming or removing any dead limbs or trees that could collapse onto your house during a hurricane.
  • Seal up as much of your house as much as you can. The last thing you want is to have winds get inside your attic – your roof will come right off!
  • Make sure you have a chainsaw, enough fuel for it, and extra chains.
  • Stock up on disposable plates, forks, spoons, and knives. This will reduce the need to wash dishes when water might be limited.
  • Buy several plastic tarps or tents. If the roof is torn off or damaged, you’ll need them to repair or use as shelter.
  • Keep an ax in your attic, just in case you get stranded there and it gets flooded with water. A lot of people have drowned in their attics.

Hurricane Preparedness Right When It’s About to Hit

If you have plenty of time, the obvious choice would be to bug out. I know sticking around to defend your turf might be your first thought, but it may also put your life in danger. Yes, you do need to prepare your home for what’s coming but you also need to abandon it temporarily.

Speaking of which, preparing your home for a hurricane shouldn’t take too long provided you know what you’re doing. The first thing you want to do is install the plywood you prepared ahead for situations like these.

Next, make sure everyone has on them a piece of paper with all their contact information, INCLUDING that of the emergency contact. This way, if one of them is knocked unconscious, the person who finds them will know who to call to alert someone in your group.

In fact, why not call your emergency contact, this should be someone outside of the immediate danger area, and let him or her know what’s about to happen and to be on alert. You just never know…

Some other tips:

  • Secure important papers to prevent the from getting lost.
  • Fill your freeze with as much food and water as possible. A full fridge or freezer will stay cold longer than one that is only half full.
  • If you have time, cook any raw food you stocked up on and prepare it to take it with you. You’ll want to start eating this food first and then to switch to canned food.
  • Make large ice blocks by filling containers about 3 quarters with water. They will help prolong the food.
  • Take all your valuables into the safe room, even if you’re not planning to sit there. You can’t take everything with you when you’re bugging out.
  • If you’re leaving your second car behind, make sure it’s not parked under a tree or near a house that has a Spanish style roof. If you can, have someone drive it and get both your cars out of there.
  • Gather all your medication to take with you, as you don’t know how long you may have to be gone.
  • Fill the bathtub with water. Just in case you get stuck and the bathroom doesn’t get damaged.
  • Start doing your laundry. You’re gonna need clean clothes whether you’re bugging in or out.
  • Pay your phone bill. You don’t want to get your subscription suspended and not be able to call people.
  • Stay informed about traffic jams in your area. Find a route that allows you to get the heck out of there as fast as possible.

Here’s what to do AFTER the hurricane

Recovering from a hurricane can be a long and painful process. Here are but a few of the things you should do after the dust has settled:

  • Talk to your neighbors to start a neighborhood watch group to help prevent looting.
  • Watch out for power lines that are down and could electrocute anyone who touches them.
  • Don’t spend hours on the phone. The phone lines are going to be clogged because other people are trying to talk with their families. Plus, the authorities need the phone lines open in order to take calls from people in distress.
  • Eat perishable food first, then your canned foods.
  • Be nice to everyone. You will all be stressed and that’s when arguments and fights are most likely to happen.

Well, that’s about it. If you do everything you read in this article, the chances of you getting injured or worse in hurricane are next to nothing. It’s impossible to get hurt if you’re 100% prepared.

At the end, the best advice I can give you is to get out of danger quickly. Don’t try to ride the hurricane, your life is more important!

P.S. If You’re Living in New York City…

… then this hurricane evacuation map might help. You can get it here.

3 thoughts on “Hurricane Preparedness 101”

  1. good article with lots of important information.

    my parents were preppers when I was growing up in florida and later in Galveston, tx. mama would tell everyone to take a bath then bring all dirty clothes to the laundry room for washing. she would then bleach the bathtub and fill it with water. routines that kept us busy and helping prepare. I did the same with my own family. having the whole family onboard for these emergencies is essential for safety.

    im retired now and living in a small apartment. I specifically moved here because of the location and storage space for all my preps. my BOB is packed, my bike is maintained, and my kitties have their carrier with all their documents and supplies ready to go. I hope to bug in because my building is older and well built with interior hallways for safety, but I will leave if ordered to do so.

    I talk to people frequently about prepping for hurricanes because so many new people move here to florida and are completely unaware of how powerful and destructive these storms really are. I don’t talk much about my own preps, just let people know that they need to have food, water and emergency supplies to tide them over for at least a week or two.

    thanks for this info and I hope it helps.

    1. Dan F. Sullivan

      It definitely helps, maggi. Yeah, bugging in would mean a lot less hassle but you never know… most preppers agree that there are higher chances for us to bug out rather than bug in. We’ll just have to wait and see…

  2. I like all of your information. I am printing each item , read it and would like to go back and watch the videos.
    Do you have a search feature on this site or a master list that would tell me what category it is stored in?

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