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Preparing For A Storm
by Ruby Bayan

Palm trees on a windy day June to November -- the time of year when residents of the eastern coastal areas of the American continent stay awake at night wondering how much of their property will once again be devastated by Mother Nature. Major tropical weather disturbances can last for weeks, affecting hundreds of miles of populated areas -- what should residents do to minimize the damage to their homes and property?

The Wrath of a Hurricane

Known as the Atlantic Hurricane Season, the six months from June 1 to November 30 usher in tropical storms from the North Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea.

Starting off as a "low pressure" trough riding the trade winds, a "tropical disturbance" marked by showers, thunderstorms and gusty winds often escalates into a "tropical depression" with winds of up to 38 miles per hour. Picking up strength, it develops into a "tropical storm" with winds up to 73 miles per hour. Unhampered, the storm's intensity can continue to rise and swell into what is then referred to as a "hurricane".

Hurricanes are classified, based on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, into five "damage-potential" categories:

  • Category 1 (Minimal) - 74-95 mph winds; damage restricted to trees and unanchored mobile homes.

  • Category 2 (Moderate) - 96-110 mph winds; major damage to exposed mobile homes; some damage to windows, doors and roofing materials.

  • Category 3 (Extensive) - 111-130 mph winds; large trees blown down; some structural damage to small buildings; mobile homes and coastal structures destroyed; serious flooding along the coast; flooding of flat terrain 8 or more miles inland; evacuation may be required.

  • Category 4 (Extreme) - 131-155 mph winds; mobile homes demolished; extensive damage to roofs, windows, and doors; flooding and battering by tidal waves; major erosion of beaches; evacuation of residences within 500 yards of the shore may be required.

  • Category 5 (Catastrophic) - greater than 155 mph winds; complete buildings destroyed; small buildings overturned or blown away; major erosion of beaches; massive evacuation of residential areas on low ground within 5 to 10 miles of the shore may be required.
Preparing for the Worst

According to the Weather Channel, there are six hurricane-vulnerable cities in the US: Long Island, NY, Tampa Bay, FL, Miami, FL, New Orleans, LA, Galveston, TX, and Wilmington, NC. But if your home is not located in any of these cities, it doesn't mean that you will forever be spared from the destructive forces of a tropical storm.

How can you protect your property from the torrential rains, forceful winds, and storm surges that accompany a potentially catastrophic hurricane? Here are the steps you need to take even before a hurricane watch is announced:

  1. Teach all the members of the family how and when to call 911, the police, or the fire department, and how and when to shut off the electricity, gas, and water.

  2. Make sure your property is covered by adequate insurance against damage by floods and high winds.

  3. Inspect your home for weak spots in the windows, doors, skylights, and roofing -- repair or reinforce as necessary.

  4. Attend to clogged or loose rain gutters and downspouts.

  5. Reinforce or protect glass windows with adhesive tape or window film (an adhesive film that holds together shattered glass).

  6. Purchase plywood, hurricane shutters, or storm panels to protect windows and doors. If using plywood, cut them to fit, and pre-drill holes for quick installation.

  7. Trim trees and shrubs so that weak or dead branches don't smash or fall onto the house.

  8. Bring in or anchor outdoor furniture, toys, and garden tools.

  9. Find a safe place to park your vehicles during an emergency. Fuel vehicles.

  10. Tie down trailers to the ground or to the house.

  11. Remove all outside antennas.

  12. If flooding is imminent, elevate furniture or move them to a higher floor.

  13. If an evacuation is ordered, unplug all appliances, turn off the electricity, water, and gas, and lock up and leave.

During the tropical season, monitor weather conditions closely. Be sure that all the members of the family are aware of what needs to be done to stay safe before, during, and after a storm. Be ready with emergency supplies, a safe room, and an evacuation route. Protecting your property is a major concern but may not be as important as protecting the lives of your loved ones. Be prepared.

For more information on storm preparation:

FEMA: Hurricane Fact Sheet: Before, During, and After a Storm
Safeside: Keeping You Ahead of the Storm
National Weather Service: Hurricane Awareness
American Red Cross - Hurricane Disaster Services
Hurricanes, Storm Surges, Floods and Winds

[First published at, 2000]


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