Posted: May 16, 2018
By Austin American-Statesman
Here are five things the National Weather Service recommends to prepare for hurricane season, which starts June 1:
1. Be aware of risks in your area: Hurricanes can bring flooding and damaging winds, including tornadoes, to the area. Store outdoor objects such as patio furniture, trash cans or grills before they become deadly missiles during high winds. Move outdoor furniture and valuables to higher ground before flooding.
2. Assemble disaster supplies: Think about surviving the storm’s aftermath, too. Disaster supplies should include a week’s worth of nonperishable food, water and medicine for each person in your household, as well as extra cash, a battery-powered radio and flashlights. Consider getting a crank- or solar-powered charger for your cellphone.
3. Get an insurance checkup: See if you have enough homeowners insurance to repair or even replace your home. Standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding, which requires a separate policy. Act now, because flood insurance requires a 30-day waiting period.
4. Check on your neighbors: Because we often rely on neighbors after a disaster, use this week to start a conversation about neighborhood strategies.
5. Complete a written plan: Determine your emergency evacuation plan and assemble your contact list. Take photos of your valuables, including photos of serial numbers. Keep your important documents together for quick access.
If you are in a mandatory evacuation area, you need to leave. If you feel unsafe in your home, you should get out. If you are making a decision to stay, safety in the home should obviously be your No. 1 priority.
For many, a portable generator feels like a guarantee of a semblance of normalcy following a storm. While it can keep refrigerators on and fans or a small air conditioner running, there are dangers associated with using it.
Here are some tips on generators and why you should never use one during a storm.
From the National Safety Council
1. Always read and follow the manufacturer's operating instructions before running generator.
2. Engines emit carbon monoxide. Never use a generator inside your home, garage, crawl space or other enclosed areas. Fatal fumes can build up, and neither a fan nor open doors and windows can provide enough fresh air.
3. Only use your generator outdoors, away from open windows, vents, or doors.
4. Use a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector in the area in which you’re running a generator.
5. Gasoline and its vapors are extremely flammable. Allow the generator engine to cool at least two minutes before refueling, and always use fresh gasoline. If you do not plan to use your generator in 30 days, don’t forget to stabilize the gas with fuel stabilizer.
6. Maintain your generator according to the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule for peak performance and safety.
7. Never operate the generator near combustible materials.
8. If you have to use extension cords, be sure they are of the grounded type and are rated for the application. Coiled cords can get extremely hot; always uncoil cords and lay them in flat, open locations.
9. Never plug your generator directly into your home outlet. That’s known as “backfeeding” and puts people in risk of electrocution – especially utility workers trying to reconnect electric power after the storm.
10. Generators produce powerful voltage. Never operate under wet conditions. Take precautions to protect your generator from exposure to rain.
11. Plug appliances directly into the generator, or use a heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cord that is rated, in watts or amps, at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads.
There’s really no place that’s 100 percent safe in Florida when it comes to hurricanes.
Even Orlando got hit twice in 2004 by hurricanes Charley and Frances.
And, although Florida enjoyed a more than 10-year hurricane drought after 2005’s Hurricane Wilma, Hurricane Hermine made landfall in the Florida Panhandle in 2016.
Still, Homeinsurance.com has ranked Florida’s cities based on their evaluation of NOAA-identified storms from 1965 to October 2014, doling out scores based on the number of storm events, number of storm-related deaths, property damage and storm-related injuries.
The top 10 safest cities in Florida during a hurricane, according to the insurance study, are:
The entire ranking is below.
Read more about the Home Insurance study here.
If you are near the forecasted path of a hurricane and you fear the loss of communications that will come when power and internet service is disrupted, don’t worry.
While there’s not an app for that, there is a workaround, as long as you have cellular service.
During and after the storm, you may find that making phone calls becomes impossible, and that 3G and 4G internet service isn’t working, or at least not working well. The good news is that you may still be receiving text messages.
A story from The Washington Post offers some tips on how to use Twitter in a situation where internet service is spotty. Twitter was originally a text-based service, so it lends itself well to such a use.
Here are a few other ways to keep in touch with the outside world:
Every phone has an email address, and every provider offers something called an email “gateway.” The gateway allows you to send and receive emails via the text message function on your phone.
Here, courtesy of HumanInet, is how to find your phone’s email address:
If you’re on Sprint, it’s email@example.com
If you’re on T-Mobile, it’s firstname.lastname@example.org
Once you have your gateway address, you’ll need to forward your email via SMS to that address.
To do that, go into “settings” in your phone and look for something like “add a forwarding address.” When you find that, type in your phone’s email address.
According to HumanInet, that method may not work on some phones. If you have a problem with your phone, you can use an automated forwarding service like TXTJet, they suggest.
If you want to send an email via text, you can enter you email address instead of a phone number.
If you want to get updates from Twitter accounts when the internet gets spotty, you can set up a SMS “Fast Follow.” You don’t even have to have a Twitter account to get updates from those you choose to follow.
You do this by texting “Follow (username)” to 40404. (Follow@nhc_atlantic to follow the National Hurricane Center, for instance).
You cannot use this function to post on Twitter, only to receive notices.
To post something on Twitter, the social media company says to do this:
Send a text to Twitter code  with the word START.
Twitter will reply and ask you to text YES to the Twitter short code.
Text your username to the same number. Do not use the @ symbol or quotation marks. Send your username only. For example: larrybird
Next, text your password. This is case sensitive, so be sure you are sending your password correctly.
Then you can text messages to go out on your Twitter account.
If you can’t go without Facebook, even during a storm, activate Facebook via SMS by going to Facebook account settings and clicking “Mobile,” it’s on the left side of the page.
Turn on Facebook Message Forwarding and Notifications. After it’s set up, post by texting to 32665 or FBOOK.
You can even search Google by adding 466453 (GOOGLE) to your phonebook, then text to it to search.
Sources: Twitter, The Washington Post; HumanInet; Facebook; Google
Here are some safety tips emergency management and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials are offering that could save your life during a hurricane:Evacuation
1. If you are ordered to evacuate, you need to evacuate. The best way to stay safe is to be away from the storm's landfall. The orders to evacuate are issued based on historical flood maps and the strength of the storm.
2. A Category 5 hurricane will bring “catastrophic damage,” officials with the National Hurricane Center warn, adding that “a high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”
3. If you are in a mobile home, leave. Mobile homes will not survive a Category 5 hurricane.
4. Do not leave your pets at home, especially if they are outside.
If you stay
If you choose not to evacuate, or cannot leave, here are a few things you should do:
1. Get in a more secure room in your home – a closet or a bathroom without a window.
2. Stay on the bottom floor of your home unless water is rising.
3. Do not go into your attic to escape rising water because you could get trapped. If you absolutely have to get in the attic to survive rising water, make sure you take an ax with you so you can cut a hole in the roof to escape.
4. If you are in an area that will flood, turn off electricity at the main breaker before water gets in your home to reduce the risk of electrocution.
5. Of course, do not try to go outside during the storm. Pieces of buildings, roofs, trees and other objects will be flying through the air.
6. Do not use candles as a light source – flashlights are what you need to use.
7. When you lose power, click here to see how you can use the internet.
During or after the storm
1. Do not use a generator during a storm.
2. Never use portable generators inside a home, in your garage, in your basement or in a crawl space.
3. Generators produce carbon monoxide and if they are inside your house, your home can fill up with carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide will kill you if you breathe too much of it. If you are using a portable generator to power appliances in your home following the storm, make sure you have a carbon monoxide alarm. Appliances should be plugged directly into a generator. Do not hook the generator to your household electrical system. You can hurt yourself and kill utility workers when they begin to reconnect electricity to homes.
4. Do not get anywhere near standing water. It could contain live electric wires. If you come in contact with it, you could be electrocuted. If you see wires on the ground after the storm, assume they are live.
The 5 ‘p’s of evacuation
Don’t’ go farther than you have to
If you evacuate because of a storm, here is one thing that you can do to help ensure you and your family members don’t get sick after returning to your home.
You may have seen this post on your Facebook feed. It suggests to putting a quarter on a cup of frozen water in the freezer before you leave. When you return, you can see if the quarter stayed put or if it sank. The sinking will tell you that the water melted. If the water in the cup melted then refroze, the same can be said for the food in the freezer.
But can you believe all of the tips and hacks you see on Facebook and other social media?
In this case, experts said yes, but with a slight change.
The Houston Chronicle reported that instead of a quarter, you’ll want to use a penny.
That’s because pennies contain copper and copper is a better conductor of heat, Don Mercer told the Chronicle. Mercer is an associate professor in Food Science at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.
Mercer said that food will stay frozen in a freezer for about 24 hours, as long as you don’t open the freezer door to check on what is inside.
The coin/cup trick helps when you’re away and are not sure if there’s been an extended power outage. Mercer said if the contents of the freezer thawed and then refroze, you’d have no way of knowing without the hack. If food thaws then refreezes, microorganisms that were there before the first freeze can multiply, posing a threat of food poisoning.
Hurricane season begins every year on June 1. Here are some simple tips to keep your pets safe if you are in the path of a storm.
Prepare ahead for safety and comfort of your pet
Do not leave pets at home, especially if you live in an evacuation area. Even if they survive the storm, they might flee a damaged home and be lost in the chaos.
It might be difficult, if not impossible, to find shelter for your animals in the midst of a disaster, so plan ahead. Here are some options:
Hotels: Contact hotels and motels outside your area in advance to check policies on accepting pets and restrictions on number, size and species. Ask whether “no pet” policies could be waived. Keep a list of “pet-friendly” places, including phone numbers, with other disaster information. For an impending storm, call ahead for reservations. The Humane Society of the United States recommends the following websites to find pet-friendly lodgings.
Friends and relatives: Ask friends, relatives or others outside the area if they can shelter your animals. Make arrangements with neighbors to help evacuate pets in the event you can’t get home.
Pet-friendly shelters: Find out if pets will be permitted at an evacuation shelter.
If you haven’t already done so, get those shots now. Infectious diseases can become a big threat after a disaster.
If a pet becomes lost or escapes during the confusion of an evacuation, proper identification will increase the chances of a safe return home. Tag should include your cell number and, if space allows, the number of an out-of-town contact. Consider having your pet tattooed or having an ID microchip implanted.
You will need a pet carrier or cage for each dog, cat, bird or small animal. Make sure it is large enough for each pet to stand up and turn around comfortably.
Take clear, color photos (frontal, left and right sides) of you with your pet, and store these with your pet’s license, medical records and ownership papers in a waterproof carrier to take with you. Include pictures of the pet with you to help with any challenge to your ownership. Take photos with your cellphone so they’re stored there as well.
Set up a pet disaster kit
Put together a pet disaster kit with medications and medical records in a waterproof container, a leash and collar or harness for each pet, non-spill food and water dishes, a 14-day supply of food, water in non-breakable containers, a manual can opener, grooming supplies, your pet’s blanket and a favorite toy, cleanser and disinfectant to handle waste, newspapers or litter, paper towels and plastic bags.
Hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean begins June 1 and runs until Nov. 30. Officials agree that the best way to avoid catastrophic damage is to be proactive.
"Advance planning and preparation are essential for protecting property, reducing risk and ultimately saving lives," National Weather Service officials said in the introduction the NWS hurricane guide for the Southeast.
Charley English, former director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security said in a news release from 2014: "Learn your flood risk, create a ready kit for your home and car, and develop an evacuation and family communications plan."
GEMA said in that release that research shows "69 percent of Georgians do not know designated evacuation routes from their community, and 67 percent have not arranged a family meeting place or reconnection plan."
Ready Georgia provides a host of tools and information at its website.
It recommends evacuation:
• If you are directed by local authorities to do so. Be sure to follow their instructions.
• If you live in a mobile home or temporary structure – such shelters are particularly hazardous during a hurricane no matter how well fastened to the ground.
• If you live in a high-rise building – hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations.
• If you live on the coast, on a floodplain, near a river, or on an island waterway.
• You should be able to move your valuables within 15 minutes.
Here are more tips to help you prep for the storms, from the NWS guide.
• Elevation matters: Are you in a flood or evacuation zone?
• Mobile homes: Check tie-downs and prepare to evacuate.
• Landscaping: Always trim trees, shrubbery and dead limbs, especially close to your home.
• Roofing: Inspect it for loose tiles, etc., and clear loose or clogged gutters and drainspouts.
• Doors: Reinforce garage doors and tracks or replace with a hurricane-tested door; and reinforce double-entry doors with heavy-duty foot and head bolts. Use security dead bolts with a minimum 1-inch bolt length.
• Windows: If possible, install hurricane shutters. Alternatively, use five-eighths inch (or greater) grade exterior plywood secured by 2 1/2 inch screws and/or special clips.
• Renters need to prepare, too: Review your renter's and flood insurance; prepare to relocate to a lower floor
• For pets: Update their vaccinations and have proof; have a current photo; have properly sized pet carriers; pack enough food and water for the duration of the evacuation; and be sure to have proper ID collars. Read more.
The NWS also recommends preparing emergency evacuation kits for functional and medical needs clients, those clients who either require support to maintain their independence or support of trained medical professionals.
• Contact information, including doctor's contact
• Special equipment, if needed; and a list with style and serial numbers of included medical devices
Water, food, and clean air are important things to have if an emergency happens. Each family or individual's kit should be customized to meet specific needs, such as medications and infant formula. It should also be customized to include important family documents..
Recommended Supplies to Include in a Basic Kit:
Clothing and Bedding:
If you live in a cold weather climate, you must think about warmth. It is possible that the power will be out and you will not have heat. Rethink your clothing and bedding supplies to account for growing children and other family changes. One complete change of warm clothing and shoes per person, including:
Below are some other items for your family to consider adding to its supply kit. Some of these items, especially those marked with a * can be dangerous, so please have an adult collect these supplies.
Hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30, and residents in a storm's path should become familiar with hurricane categories in order to better protect themselves.
The National Hurricane Center uses the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale to measure a storm's strength and potential destruction. The scale analyzes a hurricane's wind speed and assigns it a 1 to 5 rating.Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale
The categories for the hurricanes listed below are determined by the storm's strength when it made landfall in the U.S., according to the National Hurricane Center.Tropical Storm — Winds 39-73 mph Category 1 Hurricane — winds 74-95 mph (64-82 kt)
Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.
- Examples: Irene 1999 and Allison 1995Category 2 Hurricane — winds 96-110 mph (83-95 kt)
Well-constructed frame homes could receive major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected, with outages that could last from several days to weeks.
- Examples: Bonnie 1998, Georges (FL & LA) 1998 and Gloria 1985Category 3 Hurricane — winds 111-129 mph (96-112 kt)
Well-built frame homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.
- Examples: Katrina (LA) 2005, Keith 2000, Fran 1996, Opal 1995, Alicia 1983 and Betsy 1965Category 4 Hurricane — winds 130-156 mph (113-136 kt)
Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
- Examples: Andrew (FL) 1992, Hugo 1989 and Donna 1960Category 5 Hurricane — winds 157 mph and up (137+ kt)
A high percentage of frame homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
- Examples: Camille 1969 and Labor Day storm 1935
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