Merrill Insurance knows the prospect of preparing for an extreme weather event and an entire season of them can be daunting and overwhelming! That’s why we’ve developed this guide for the 2019 hurricane season covering what to do before, during, and after the storm to keep yourself, your loved ones, and your belongings safe and sound.
Hurricane Terms & Definitions
Some of the terms you’ll hear from weather forecasters and news providers include:
Tropical Storm or Hurricane Watch: Tropical Storm or Hurricane conditions are possible in the area. These are issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of Tropical Storm force winds.
Tropical Storm or Hurricane Warning: Tropical Storm or Hurricane conditions are expected in the area. These are issued 36 hours in advance of Tropical Storm force winds.
Eye: The clear, sometimes well-defined center of the storm with calmer conditions.
Eye Wall: Surrounding the eye, this area contains some of the most severe weather of the storm with the highest wind speed and largest precipitation.
Rain Bands: Bands coming off the cyclone that produce severe weather conditions such as heavy rain, wind and tornadoes.
Storm Surge: An often underestimated and deadly result of ocean water swelling as a storm is making landfall; flooding is likely in coastal areas and sometimes further inland.
Extreme Wind Warning/Advisory: Extreme sustained winds of 115 mph or greater are expected to begin within an hour. Immediately take shelter in the interior portion of a well-built structure.
Hurricane Categories & Damage
The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane’s sustained wind speed. This scale estimates potential property damage. Hurricanes reaching Category 3 and higher are considered major hurricanes because of their potential for significant loss of life and damage. Category 1 and 2 storms are still dangerous, however, and require preventative measures.
Category 1 (74 – 95 mph): Very dangerous winds will produce some damage
Category 2 (96 – 110 mph): Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage
Category 3 (111 – 129 mph): Devastating damage will occur
Category 4 (130 – 156 mph): Catastrophic damage will occur
Category 5 (157+ mph): Catastrophic damage will occur
Hurricane Preparedness Kit
In the hours and days after a storm is announced and predicted to make landfall, many stores will experience shortages of these vital items; have them on hand before a weather system has formed and you’ll save yourself a lot of stress.
Flashlight, batteries, cash, first aid supplies, a battery-powered radio, and copies of your critical information (including your Merrill Insurance documents) in a waterproof place.
3 to 7 days of non-perishable food, bottled water, personal sanitation & hygiene items, necessary medications, changes of clothing.
Have all of your preparations done 6 to 8 hours before the storm is due to arrive. Tropical storms and hurricanes can be incredibly unpredictable, frequently changing speeds and strengths, and you and yours should be safely inside when it arrives.
Know where to go. If you are ordered to evacuate, know the local hurricane evacuation route(s) to take and have a plan for where you can stay. Know where your local shelters are, especially if you have pets, as not all locations will accept animals (with the exception of service pets). Contact your local emergency management agency for more information.
If you have pets, make sure they are current on their vaccinations and have collars with IDs. Have a properly-sized carrier ready for each pet, and as mentioned above, know which public shelters will be pet-friendly.
Check your Hurricane Preparedness Kit and add or replace any needed items.
Fill your car’s gas tank. Gas stations can experience shortages in the days and hours leading up to and following a storm’s arrival. If you have a generator, have approved gas tanks filled and on hand as well.
Make a sweep of your home or business exterior. Cover all windows, bring loose and light objects inside, secure loose gutters, cover any roof damage, and trim trees and bushes of any loose branches.
Fill sanitized containers with fresh drinking water.
Make a family emergency communication plan.
To find out what text and email alerting systems are available in your area, search the Internet with your town, city, or county name and the word “alerts.”
During the Storm
Close all interior doors. Stay away from windows, skylights, and doors.
Set refrigerator controls to the coldest setting, keeping food fresh longer. Freeze water in empty plastic containers to create icepacks that will also keep food cold in the event of a power failure.
Follow evacuation instructions issued by local officials and evacuate immediately if told to do so; leave for public shelters only after hearing announcements that the particular shelter is open.
Notify neighbors and family of your evacuation plans.
Stay tuned to the TV or radio for the latest projections from local weather.
Keep your phone charged for as long as you have power.
After the Storm
Listen to local officials for updates and instructions.
Check in with family and friends by texting or using social media.
If you evacuated, return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
Watch out for debris and downed power lines while walking outside.
Avoid walking or driving through flood waters. Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and fast-moving water can sweep your vehicle away. In addition, it may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines, and may hide dangerous debris or places where the ground is washed away.
Photograph the damage to your property in order to assist in filing an insurance claim. After the photographs are taken, do what you can to prevent further damage to your property, (e.g., putting a tarp on a damaged roof or having a fallen tree removed), as your policy may not cover additional damage that occurs after the storm.
Be safe, be smart, and once the storm is over, get in touch to let us know how we can help you get your life back to normal.