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Hurricanes can destroy lives as well as damage property. Being prepared for it can help minimize the impact.
What is a hurricane?
A hurricane is a tropical cyclone that can cause torrential rains, high winds, storm surges, and flooding for two weeks or more over open water. Fundamentally determined by its wind speeds, a hurricane must be 74 mph or higher (anything lower is classified as a tropical storm).
A hurricane is on average 500 miles wide and 10 miles high and moves forward like a giant spinning top at a typical speed of 17 knots.
How does a hurricane form?
Hurricanes are powerhouse weather phenomena that engulf heat from tropical waters to fuel their rage. These mighty storms form over the ocean, often beginning as a tropical wave—a low-pressure area that moves through the moisture-rich tropics, possibly enhancing shower and thunderstorm activity.
The following five factors are commonly needed for a hurricane to develop:
- A pre-existing weather disturbance: A hurricane often starts as a tropical wave.
- Warm water: Water at least 26.5 degrees Celsius over a depth of 50 meters, powers the storm.
- Thunderstorm activity: Thunderstorms turn ocean heat into hurricane fuel.
- Low wind shear: A large difference in wind speed and direction around or near the storm can weaken it.
Safety guidelines for hurricane
Hurricanes come swiftly, bringing strong winds, torrential rains, and immediate flooding that can devastate a community. If you live in an area prone to storms, it’s crucial to have a survival guide in place.
To survive a hurricane, follow these survival tips which cover every stage of the storm: before, during, and after.
Before a hurricane
- Even before a warning is declared, coastal dwellers should create evacuation plans. Identify a safe shelter that is possibly out of harm and a route to get there.
- Stock up on emergency stocks such as food, water, medications, flashlights, important documents, road maps, and a full tank of gas.
- Charge electronics and have portable batteries but don’t expect to have a cell or radio signal during the storm. It will be useful to purchase battery-operated radios as backup.
- If you reside in a hurricane zone, buy durable storm shutters for windows. These will give the best protection and reduce the chances of shattering. If you don’t have storm shutters, board up windows with cut-to-fit plywood.
- Install straps or extra clips to fasten your roof to the frame structure securely. This will lessen roof damage.
- Trim trees around your home to reduce the risk of broken branches and ruins.
- Clear clogged drains to prevent misdirected flooding.
- Put any valuables on high shelves or on a higher floor of your house.
- Keep any household chemicals on high shelves and ensure they have secure caps. Chemicals that mix into floodwaters are hazardous and unsafe.
During a hurricane
- As a storm comes, people should listen to local authorities on radio or television. People can also sign up for community alarms.
- Evacuation paths usually close as a hurricane occurs, which is why it is encouraged to take note of all instructions and leave the area before a storm hits. However, if forced to endure the storm, take shelter in the most secure building possible, and stay away from windows.
- Remember that a lull usually means the storm’s eye—not its end. Anyone riding out a hurricane should wait for officials to declare that the hazard has passed.
- Be smart. Dedicated experts and upgraded technology have made hurricane forecasting more precise so do not do anything rash like running out into the storm.
- Don’t use your phone or handle electrical equipment unless required. Because lightning usually follows wires, using a landline or other wired device could increase your chances of getting electrocuted.
- Stay indoors and away from windows and glass doors.
- Take shelter in a small room, closet, or hallway on the lowest level.
- Lie on the floor beneath a table or another heavy object.
After a hurricane
- Experts say it’s best to take things slow after a hurricane, no matter how impatient you are to restart your life.
- If you relocated during the storm, don’t return until authorities say it is safe to do so. This could mean waiting for an extended period.
- Once home, avoid electronic appliances and power lines. (You may even want to have a licensed electrician inspect your home for possible damages)
- Take pictures of any damage to use as documentation for insurance claims later.
- Keep on the look-out for reptiles and rodents that may have reached your place.
- Open windows to help dry the house.
- Do not use electric, generators, or gas appliances, or open flames until you can be sure everything is in good order.
- Do not eat food from the refrigerator or drink tap water until you have examined it for contamination.
- Do NOT drive or walk by floodwaters, which may be electrically-charged and filled with contaminants.
Hurricane Survival Kit
During an emergency, there may be a need to survive on your own for several days. Being prepared means having your food, water, and other supplies to last a few days. A disaster supplies kit is a compilation of essential items your household may need in an emergency.
Basic disaster supplies kit
- Water (one gallon for a person, for each day – at least three days)
- Food (at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food)
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
- First aid kit
- Extra batteries
- Whistle (to signal for help)
- Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air)
- Plastic sheet and duct tape (to shelter in place)
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)
- Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)
- Manual can opener (for food)
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
Additional emergency supplies
- Masks (for everyone ages two and above)
- Soap, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes (To disinfect surfaces)
- Prescription medications
- Non-prescription medications (such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids, or laxatives)
- Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, and diaper rash cream
- Pet food and extra water for your pet
- Cash (small change)
- Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification, and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container
- Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
- Fire extinguisher
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
- Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels, and plastic utensils
- Paper and pencil
- Books, games, puzzles, or other activities for children
A hurricane cannot be predicted. So, being prepared for it and any other life threatening emergencies can save your life. Prepare your survival kits beforehand so that you have peace of mind!