Quantcast

How to Prepare for a Hurricane

Climate
Bela Sebastiao and Jaques Sebastiao (R) begin the process of cleaning up their home after after it was heavily damaged by hurricane Michael on Oct. 17, 2018 in Mexico Beach, Florida. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By Brooke Bauman

As the climate changes and ocean temperatures and sea levels rise, flooding from hurricanes has become more serious. That's why it's important for people who live in places vulnerable to hurricanes to prepare for the dangers associated with flooding and storm surge.


How Climate Change is Influencing Storm Surge

Many people associate hurricanes with high winds, but storm surge — the wall of water pushed ashore by the storm — can be an equal or even greater danger for people and property.

"We want people to know that they can hide from the wind, but they need to run from the water," said Jay Wiggins, who directs the Emergency Management-Homeland Security Agency in Glynn County, Georgia.

Water weighs about 1,700 pounds per cubic yard. As it's pushed by hurricane winds, it can act like a battering ram, pummeling the shore and buildings.

Sea levels are rising in substantial part from warming ocean waters, melting glaciers, and ice sheets. Because of that sea-level rise, storm surges can inundate more coastline than they did in the past. Storm surges are particularly dangerous when they occur during high tide, because they can raise water levels by as much as 20 feet.

Although the overall number of hurricanes isn't known to be increasing, there is evidence that climate change is making some storms worse. For example, several studies have found that climate change increased the odds of the intense precipitation that fell during Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in Texas in 2017. A 2013 study projected a 45-87 percent increase in the frequency of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes — the most dangerous categories — in the Atlantic Basin during this century.

How to Prepare for a Hurricane

Before a hurricane even pops up on the forecast, there are a few steps that you can take to prepare. Consider investing in flood insurance — or if you've already purchased it, familiarize yourself with the policy. Sign up for your community's emergency alert system.

If a hurricane is imminent, it's important to take additional precautions to minimize potential damage and threats to your safety. Here are some key steps that the Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends:

  • Familiarize yourself with evacuation routes and plan to follow local evacuation orders if possible.
  • If you are not ordered or are unable to evacuate, store enough food, water, supplies, and medications for at least three days.
  • Put important documents in a safe, waterproof place.
  • Charge all electronic devices that you might need.
  • Turn your fridge to the coldest setting so that if you lose power, it will stay cooler for longer.
  • Cover windows with plywood boards and place sandbags around doorways to reduce the risk of water damage — note that some flood insurance policies may cover up to $1,000 in avoidance measures to protect your property.
  • Bring lightweight objects indoors.
  • Create a plan to contact family and friends. Save phone calls for emergencies because the lines will likely be busy; rely mostly on text and social media to communicate.

What to Do During a Hurricane

FEMA warns to not walk, swim, or drive through floodwaters. Floods can develop quickly, so stay alert for the potential of flash flooding.

According to the Department of Homeland Security's Ready campaign, six inches of water can knock a person down and one foot of water can be enough to pick up some vehicles.

Avoid flood water. It may contain dangerous debris and be contaminated. Floodwaters also pose the danger of electrocution if electronics or downed power lines are exposed to water.

And creatures like snakes may lurk on or beneath the surface.

What to Do After a Hurricane

Before you begin to clean up, listen to authorities for further instructions. In addition, follow these FEMA guidelines.

  • Stay off the roads unless it's an emergency.
  • Avoid driving in or making contact with floodwaters.
  • Beware of electrocution. Don't touch electrical equipment if it's wet or while you're standing in water.
  • Use a generator or other gasoline-powered machinery only outdoors and away from windows.
  • Always use heavy gloves and boots while cleaning to protect yourself from sharp objects and biting creatures.
  • If your home was exposed to water, it likely contains mold. Consult these EPA guidelines on protecting your safety while cleaning mold after a flood.

ChavoBart Digital Media contributed reporting.

Brooke Bauman is an intern at Yale Climate Connections and a student at UNC-Chapel Hill studying environmental science, geography, and journalism.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who was appointed by President Gerald Ford in 1975, was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama on May 29, 2012. MANDEL NGAN / AFP / GettyImages

John Paul Stevens, the retired Supreme Court Justice who wrote the opinion granting environmental agencies the power to regulate greenhouse gases, died Tuesday at the age of 99. His decision gave the U.S. government important legal tools for fighting the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signs the so-called Affordable Clean Energy rule on June 19, replacing the Obama-era Clean Power Plan that would have reduced coal-fired plant carbon emissions. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency / Twitter

By Elliott Negin

On July 8, President Trump hosted a White House event to unabashedly tout his truly abysmal environmental record. The following day, coincidentally, marked the one-year anniversary of Andrew Wheeler at the helm of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), first as acting administrator and then as administrator after the Senate confirmed him in late February.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less
A timber sale in the Kaibab National Forest. Dyan Bone / Forest Service / Southwestern Region / Kaibab National Forest

By Tara Lohan

If you're a lover of wilderness, wildlife, the American West and the public lands on which they all depend, then journalist Christopher Ketcham's new book is required — if depressing — reading.

Read More Show Less
Somalians fight against hunger and lack of water due to drought as Turkish Ambassador to Somalia, Olgan Bekar (not seen) visits the a camp near the Mogadishu's rural side in Somalia on March 25, 2017. Sadak Mohamed / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

World hunger is on the rise for the third consecutive year after decades of decline, a new United Nations (UN) report says. The climate crisis ranks alongside conflict as the top cause of food shortages that force more than 821 million people worldwide to experience chronic hunger. That number includes more than 150 million children whose growth is stunted due to a lack of food.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Eduardo Velev cools off in the spray of a fire hydrant during a heatwave on July 1, 2018 in Philadelphia. Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images

By Adrienne L. Hollis

Because extreme heat is one of the deadliest weather hazards we currently face, Union of Concerned Scientist's Killer Heat Report for the U.S. is the most important document I have read. It is a veritable wake up call for all of us. It is timely, eye-opening, transparent and factual and it deals with the stark reality of our future if we do not make changes quickly (think yesterday). It is important to ensure that we all understand it. Here are 10 terms that really help drive home the messages in the heat report and help us understand the ramifications of inaction.

Read More Show Less
Senator Graham returns after playing a round of golf with Trump on Oct. 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. Ron Sachs – Pool / Getty Images

Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Senate Republican who has been a close ally of Donald Trump, did not mince words last week on the climate crisis and what he thinks the president needs to do about it.

Read More Show Less
A small Bermuda cedar tree sits atop a rock overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. todaycouldbe / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Marlene Cimons

Kyle Rosenblad was hiking a steep mountain on the island of Maui in the summer of 2015 when he noticed a ruggedly beautiful tree species scattered around the landscape. Curious, and wondering what they were, he took some photographs and showed them to a friend. They were Bermuda cedars, a species native to the island of Bermuda, first planted on Maui in the early 1900s.

Read More Show Less