Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

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

A protest against the name of the Washington Redskins in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Nov. 2, 2014. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

The Washington Redskins will retire their controversial name and logo, the National Football League (NFL) team announced Monday.

Read More Show Less
The survival tools northern fish have used for millennia could be a disadvantage as environmental conditions warm and more fast-paced species move in. Istvan Banyai / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 3.0

By Alyssa Murdoch, Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle and Sapna Sharma

Summer has finally arrived in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, liberating hundreds of thousands of northern stream fish from their wintering habitats.

Read More Show Less
A mother walks her children through a fountain on a warm summer day on July 12, 2020 in Hoboken, New Jersey. Gary Hershorn / Getty Images

A heat wave that set in over the South and Southwest left much of the U.S. blanketed in record-breaking triple digit temperatures over the weekend. The widespread and intense heat wave will last for weeks, making the magnitude and duration of its heat impressive, according to The Washington Post.

Read More Show Less
If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus. blackCAT / Getty Images

By Joni Sweet

If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Read More Show Less
Aerial view of burnt areas of the Amazon rainforest, near Porto Velho, Rondonia state, Brazil, on Aug. 24, 2019. CARLOS FABAL / AFP via Getty Images

NASA scientists say that warmer than average surface sea temperatures in the North Atlantic raise the concern for a more active hurricane season, as well as for wildfires in the Amazon thousands of miles away, according to Newsweek.

Read More Show Less
A baby receives limited treatment at a hospital in Yemen on June 27, 2020. Mohammed Hamoud / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

Oxfam International warned Thursday that up to 12,000 people could die each day by the end of the year as a result of hunger linked to the coronavirus pandemic—a daily death toll surpassing the daily mortality rate from Covid-19 itself.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The 2006 oil spill was the largest incident in Philippine history and damaged 1,600 acres of mangrove forests. Shubert Ciencia / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Jun N. Aguirre

An oil spill on July 3 threatens a mangrove forest on the Philippine island of Guimaras, an area only just recovering from the country's largest spill in 2006.

Read More Show Less