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Wednesday, September 2, 2020
How to Avoid the Top-10 Hurricane Hazards
By Catherine Powell
If you’ve taken a look at weather.com lately, you’ll notice that not only is there a tropical depression forming off the East coast, but nine tropical storms have already formed in the Atlantic so far this year. Since Hurricane Season doesn’t officially end until November 30, I thought it best that I gave my readers a few helpful hints on what they need to beware of should a named storm head their way.
Gone with the Wind?
While we haven’t had a major storm hit northeast Florida since Hurricane Irma came to town in 2017, this has given many Floridians a false sense of security. Let me remind you that Hurricane Irma didn’t make run up the East coast of Florida until September 11, 2017 and Hurricane Matthew didn’t arrive in the Sunshine State until October 5, 2017. What was worse than having to deal with two storms in two years was the fact that north Florida hadn’t seen a named storm for more than a decade before that. As a result, many people were caught by surprise when both storms hit Florida.
1. Hazard #1: Complacency – While wind, rain and flooding can rack up billions of dollars in damage, what causes a great deal of the damage is people waiting until the last minute to shore up their defenses. By the time a named storm is forecast to hit north Florida, store shelves are quickly stripped of food, water, plywood, batteries and tarps.
2. Hazard #2: Indecision - If you’ve ever evacuated in advance of an approaching hurricane, then you can appreciate the fact that the closer a storm gets, the more congested the roads become, the lower the supply of gasoline gets and the shorter the tempers of other drivers gets. If you don’t want to get trapped on the road in an endless traffic jam with your gas tank hovering on empty, you need to make up your mind to head inland while the getting is good.
4. Hazard #4: Lack of Contingency Planning – While heading for the hills may sound like a good idea, if you and your family should wind up stuck in traffic, failing to pack a bugout bag containing ample food, water, cash, medications, foul-weather gear, games and camping equipment could leave you in the unenviable position of camping wet and miserable in your car overnight.
5. Hazard #5: Poor Preparation – While making tracks either west or north when a hurricane nears can keep your family out of harm’s way, unless you properly prepare your home for the worst that wind and weather can throw at it, then you could come home to a disaster zone. Before you run for the hills, you need to make sure that your windows are boarded up, any yard debris is picked up and your power and water are shut off. Should a pipe break or the power surge, the damage inside your home could be as devastating as the damage outside if you don’t storm-proof it before you leave.
6. Hazard #6: Wind - Driving or even standing in winds that can top 70-MPH is a daunting proposition. Until the winds ease up, you may be forced to hunker down. While the thought of parking under an overpass may seem inviting, those areas are going to be hard to come by once the wind whips up. A better idea is to get off the highway and try to find covered parking. High rise office buildings and many malls have multi-story parking garages that can take the worst a storm has to throw at it. I once read a story about a refugee from Hurricane Katrina who survived the storm by pulling his car onto the sixth floor of a casino parking garage. By the time the storm had abated, the casino barge that had formerly been on the water was tossed across the street that fronted the property, but the parking garage was still standing and his car didn’t have a scratch, since he parked on the lee side of the facility.
7. Hazard #7: Water – While most people dread the high winds that a hurricane packs, more people are killed by the water they bring. That’s because hurricanes can push storm surges ahead of them that quickly flood coastal areas and sometimes sweep cars and people away. Water can also pose an electrocution threat when water levels get high enough to come into contact with a home’s wiring or a downed power-line. That’s why you should avoid going outside while the storm is still raging unless it’s a matter of life or death.
8. Hazard #8: Trees – When the rain comes down for hours on end and the winds whip the branches around during a storm, trees turn from protection against the wind to a dangerous companion of the wind. Not only can property be damaged or destroyed by flying branches and toppled trees, people have been killed by wind blown tree limbs. That’s another reason you want to stay inside your home or vehicle until the wind has died down.
9. Hazard #9: Tornadoes – While most people think that twisters are relegated to the Midwest, hurricanes can spawn them in an instant. Packing winds two to three times higher than the hurricane itself, twisters can turn a home into matchstick and fling a car through the air with ease. If you find yourself in the path of a tornado and can’t get inside a building, leave your car and seek the lowest place you can find. Huddling in a ditch is far better than staying in your vehicle. Never park beneath an underpass, since the wind will be accelerated by the abutment.
10. Hazard #10: The Aftermath – As destructive as a hurricane can be, what can be almost as hard to bear is the aftermath of a storm. Not only can it take weeks or months to repair the damage that a hurricane can cause, what’s even more heartbreaking is to discover that your insurance coverage wasn’t up to the task. If you live in Florida, you need to talk to your insurance agent to make sure that no matter what a hurricane throws at you that you’ll be able to make your property whole again.
Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida. To find out more ways to save on flood insurance, check out her website at http://aplusallfloridainsuranceinc.com/
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