Tropical storms are powerful weather systems that can bring heavy rain, strong winds, storm surges, and flooding to coastal and inland areas. They can cause significant damage to homes, businesses, infrastructure, and the environment. If you live in a region that is prone to tropical storms, you need to be prepared for the potential impacts and hazards. In this article, we will share some tips and tricks on how to prepare for a tropical storm, from making an emergency plan and kit, to securing your property and staying safe during and after the storm. By following these steps, you can reduce the risk of injury, loss, and stress, and cope better with the aftermath of a tropical storm.
One of the most important things to do when preparing for a tropical storm is to know the difference between a tropical storm watch and a tropical storm warning. These are the terms that the National Hurricane Center (NHC) uses to alert the public about the potential dangers and impacts of a tropical storm.
A tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are possible within the specified area, generally within 48 hours. These winds may be accompanied by storm surge, coastal flooding, and/or river flooding. A tropical storm watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds in an area. During a tropical storm watch, you should prepare your home and review your plan for evacuation in case a tropical storm warning is issued. Listen closely to instructions from local officials.
A tropical storm warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the specified area, generally within 36 hours. These winds may be accompanied by storm surge, coastal flooding, and/or river flooding. A tropical storm warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds in an area. During a tropical storm warning, you should complete your preparations and immediately leave the threatened area if directed by local officials. If you cannot evacuate, you should shelter in place in a safe location away from windows and doors.
Making an emergency plan with your family or household is a key step to prepare for a tropical storm. You should discuss how you will communicate, where you will meet, and what you will do in case of a storm. You should also identify a safe location to shelter in place, such as an interior room, closet, or bathroom, away from windows and doors. If you live in a flood-prone or storm surge area, you should plan to evacuate to higher ground or a designated shelter.
To make an effective emergency plan, you should write down emergency phone numbers and keep them on the refrigerator or near every phone in your house. You should also program them into your cell phone. You should review your insurance coverage and take photos of your valuables. You should pre-identify shelters, a pet-friendly hotel, or an out-of-town friend or relative where you can take your pets in an evacuation. You should also check the evacuation routes and the nearest shelter locations in your area.
Preparing an emergency kit with essential items is a vital step to be ready for a tropical storm. You may need supplies to keep your family safe and healthy during and after the storm, especially if the power and water supply are cut off or if you cannot access stores or services. You should store your emergency kit in a waterproof container and keep it in an accessible place.
Your emergency kit should include enough supplies to last at least three days or 72 hours per person. The most important items are water and food. You should have at least one gallon of water per person per day for drinking and sanitation, and non-perishable and easy-to-prepare food items, such as canned goods, granola bars, and peanut butter. You should also have a manual can opener for food.
Other essential items for your emergency kit are: flashlight, battery-powered or hand crank radio and/or NOAA weather radio, extra batteries, cell phone with charger, first aid kit and first aid book, medications (7-day supply) and medical items, sanitation and personal hygiene items, such as toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, diapers, etc., copies of personal documents, such as medical documents, wills, passports, insurance policies, etc., family and emergency contact information, extra cash, and a fire extinguisher. You should also have emergency power sources, such as a generator or a solar charger, if possible.
One of the ways to protect your home and possessions from a tropical storm is to secure them from potential damage. You should cover all of your home’s windows with permanent storm shutters or plywood boards to prevent them from breaking due to flying debris. You should also collect and store loose outdoor items, such as patio furniture, bicycles, trash cans, and gardening tools, that could become projectiles in strong winds. You should clear out any clogged rain gutters and downspouts and secure any loose fencing, deck boards, or mailboxes. You should also move your valuables to the top floor of your house or to a safe location if you live in a flood-prone area.
Another way to prepare for a tropical storm is to review your insurance policies and make sure you have adequate coverage for your home and personal property. You should check if your policy covers wind damage, water damage, or flood damage, which are common causes of loss in a tropical storm. You should also check the amount of your deductible and the limits of your coverage. You may want to consider purchasing additional insurance, such as flood insurance or windstorm insurance, if you live in a high-risk area. You should also take photos or videos of your valuables and keep copies of your important documents, such as receipts, appraisals, or warranties, in a safe place. This will help you document your losses and file a claim more easily after the storm.
A tropical storm can disrupt the normal functioning of gas stations, banks, ATMs, and other services that you may need in an emergency. That’s why it’s a good idea to fill up your gas tank and withdraw some cash before the storm hits. You may need gas to evacuate or to run a generator if the power goes out. You may need cash to buy supplies or pay for lodging if you cannot use credit cards or electronic payments. Having enough gas and cash on hand can help you avoid long lines, shortages, or price gouging during or after the storm.
Another way to prepare for a tropical storm is to charge your devices and backup your data. You may need your phone, laptop, tablet, or other devices to communicate, access information, or work remotely during or after the storm. You may also want to protect your important files, photos, videos, or other data from being lost or damaged by water or power surges. You should charge your devices fully and keep them plugged in until the storm arrives. You should also backup your data to an external hard drive, a cloud service, or another secure location. You may also want to invest in a portable charger or a solar charger to keep your devices running if the power goes out.
Stock up on non-perishable food and water: A tropical storm can affect your access to food and water, especially if the power and water supply are cut off or if you cannot reach stores or services. That’s why it’s important to stock up on non-perishable food and water before the storm arrives. You should have enough supplies to last at least three days or 72 hours per person. The most essential items are water and food.
You should have at least one gallon of water per person per day for drinking and sanitation. You should store your water in clean, sealed containers and keep them in a cool, dark place. You should also have a manual can opener and a method to disinfect water, such as boiling or using bleach, in case your bottled water runs out or is contaminated. You should have non-perishable and easy-to-prepare food items, such as canned goods, granola bars, peanut butter, bread, crackers, nuts, and dried fruits. You should avoid foods that are high in salt, fat, or sugar, as they can make you thirsty or dehydrated. You should also avoid foods that require refrigeration, cooking, or a lot of water.
A tropical storm can change quickly and bring various hazards, such as high winds, heavy rain, storm surge, flooding, and tornadoes. That’s why it’s crucial to stay informed and alert during the storm. You should listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to get the latest forecasts and alerts from the National Weather Service. You should also sign up for free emergency alerts from your local government or download a weather app on your phone. You should follow the instructions of local officials and leave immediately if ordered to evacuate. You should also be aware of the signs of a tornado, such as a dark, greenish sky, a loud roar, or a funnel cloud.
A tropical storm can pose a serious threat to your life and property, especially if you live in a storm surge risk area or a flood-prone area. That’s why you should always listen to local officials and follow their instructions regarding whether you should evacuate or stay at home. If you hear an order to evacuate, do not ignore it or delay your departure. Leave immediately and go to a safe place, such as a designated shelter or a friend’s or relative’s house on higher ground. Follow the posted evacuation routes and avoid flooded roads and bridges. Take your emergency kit, important documents, and medications with you. Let your family and friends know where you are going.
Shelter in place if you cannot evacuate: Sometimes, you may not be able to evacuate before a tropical storm, either because it is too late, too dangerous, or not ordered by local officials. In that case, you should shelter in place in a safe location until the storm passes. You should stay indoors and away from windows and doors. You should also avoid flooded areas and downed power lines.
The best place to shelter in place is a designated storm shelter or a safe room that is built to withstand high winds and flying debris. If you do not have access to such a shelter, you should go to a small, interior, windowless room in a sturdy building on the lowest level that is not likely to flood. This could be a closet, a bathroom, or a hallway. You should put as many walls between you and the outside as you can. You should also bring your emergency kit, important documents, and medications with you.
If you are trapped by flooding, you should go to the highest level of the building or onto the roof if necessary. Do not climb into a closed attic—you may become trapped by rising flood water. Call 911 if you need help. If you are in a car and encounter flood water, turn around and go another way. If your car is caught in rapidly moving water, stay inside. If the water is rising inside the car, seek refuge on the roof.
A tropical storm can bring strong winds that can break windows and doors, sending glass and debris flying into your home. This can cause serious injuries or even death. That’s why you should stay away from windows and doors during the storm, even if they are covered with shutters or plywood. You should also avoid skylights, sliding glass doors, and French doors. You should seek shelter in a small, interior, windowless room on the lowest level that is not likely to flood. You should also cover yourself with blankets, pillows, or a mattress to protect yourself from flying objects.
A tropical storm can cause flooding in roads, bridges, and low-lying areas. Flood water can be deeper and faster than it appears, and it can hide hazards such as debris, holes, or downed power lines. Driving or walking through flooded areas can put you at risk of drowning, injury, or electrocution. It can also damage your car or other vehicles.
If you encounter flood water on the road, turn around and go another way. Do not attempt to cross or drive through it. Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away. If your car is caught in rapidly moving water, stay inside. If the water is rising inside the car, seek refuge on the roof. If you are walking and come across flood water, stop, turn around, and go back the way you came. Do not walk or swim through it.
A tropical storm can knock down power lines and cause electrical hazards. Downed power lines can be live and carry high voltage electricity. They can also energize other nearby objects, such as fences, trees, or water. Touching or approaching a downed power line or anything in contact with it can cause serious injury or death. You should also watch out for debris, such as broken glass, nails, or metal, that can be scattered by the storm.
If you see a downed power line, move away from it and anything touching it. Stay at least 10 feet away from the power line and the surrounding area. Do not touch, drive over, or try to move a downed power line or anything else in contact with it. Do not walk or swim through flood water near a downed power line. Call 911 or your utility company to report the hazard. If you are in a car that comes in contact with a downed power line, stay inside the car unless it is on fire. If you must exit the car, jump out with both feet together and avoid touching the car and the ground at the same time. Shuffle away from the car with small steps until you are at least 35 feet away.
A tropical storm can affect not only you and your family, but also your neighbors and community members. Some people may need extra help or support after the storm, such as older adults, people with disabilities, people with chronic health conditions, or people who live alone. You can check on them and offer assistance if it is safe to do so. You can also share information, resources, or supplies with them. By checking on your neighbors and community members, you can help them recover faster and build a stronger sense of community.
Tropical storms are powerful weather systems that can bring various hazards and impacts to coastal and inland areas. They can cause damage to homes, businesses, infrastructure, and the environment. They can also pose a serious threat to your life and health. That’s why it is important to be prepared for a tropical storm, from making an emergency plan and kit, to securing your property and staying safe during and after the storm. By following these tips and tricks, you can reduce the risk of injury, loss, and stress, and cope better with the aftermath of a tropical storm. Remember to stay informed, alert, and ready for any tropical storm situation.