As Hurricane Florence fast approaches the east coast, with Virginia and the Carolinas directly in its path, David Sadeghi shares five tips to stay safe during an extreme storm.
No meteorologist will tell you anything's 100% certain – whether it be the path, strength or potential destruction of an extreme weather event – but most of them will tell you to seriously heed any and all warnings from the National Weather Service, and your state weather or transportation agency, when a storm is approaching.
Hurricane Florence, which is heading towards Virginia, and North and South Carolina, is no different, with what is currently expected to be a Category 3 hurricane looking likely to affect many millions of residents in the three eastern states.
According to the NWS, 10 million people are under a storm watch warning, while 5.25 million people under hurricane warnings and watches, and 4.89 million people under tropical storm watches and warnings.
So with so many people's lives and property at risk, we compiled five of the most practical tips to help you stay safe during Hurricane Florence or indeed any extreme weather event.
1. Know Your Zone:
Most state weather and transportation agencies will have a dedicated "Know Your Zone" tool available on their official websites, where residents who are potentially in the path of an extreme weather event can enter their zip code and find out what zone they are considered to be in.
Zones are designated from A to D and provide residents with clarity on whether they should evacuate in an emergency or shelter at home, based on their physical street address and the nature of the emergency event.
For anyone currently in the path of Hurricane Florence you can find some helpful links in the below Resources section.
If you are NOT ordered to evacuate, the NWS recommends you do the following:
- Take refuge in a small interior room, closet, or hallway on the lowest level during the storm.
- Put as many walls between you and the outside as you can.
- Stay away from windows, skylights, and glass doors.
- If the eye of the storm passes over your area, there will be a short period of calm, but at the other side of the eye, the wind speed rapidly increases to hurricane force winds coming from the opposite direction.
2. Put Together an Emergency Kit:
The Department of Homeland Security's Ready website is one of the most comprehensive resources for being prepared during a storm. There you can find a full, detailed list of items that should be included in your emergency kit – read the full list here – as well as some tips on storing certain items.
Present on most recommended emergency kit lists, will be the following essential items:
- Water – one gallon per person per day for at least three days
- Food – at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio
- First-aid kit
- Extra batteries
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Moist towelettes
- Garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Can opener for food
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
Make sure to also have an emergency kit in your car.
3. Make a Family Emergency Plan:
According to the NWS, before an emergency happens, you should sit down with your family or close friends and decide how you will get in contact with each other, where you will go and what you will do in an emergency.
Keep a copy of this plan in your emergency supplies kit or another safe place where you can access it in the event of a disaster.
4. Review Your Insurance Policies:
Not so much a safety measure, but vitally important after a storm has passed, the NWS also recommends that you always review your insurance policies to ensure that you have adequate coverage for your home and personal property. This may not seem like the most important thing as the storm approaches, but after the storm, financial devastation is a reality many families will wish they had done more to avoid.
- Check your insurance policies well ahead of the storm to see what is covered.
- Make sure you have flood insurance. Flooding is the leading cause of damage from tropical systems.
- Visit floodsmart.gov to learn about your flood risk and flood insurance options for your area.
- Prepare your home and vehicles according to your specific insurance policies to ensure damages are covered.
- Know where your insurance documents and contact information are located. Take them with you if you evacuate.
5. Don't Delay
Prepare NOW for the impending storm. Take steps to understand your area’s risk of hurricanes (see Know Your Zone). Sign up for your community’s warning system. The Emergency Alert System and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts.
If you are at risk for flash flooding, watch for warning signs such as heavy rain. Practice going to a safe shelter for high winds, such as a FEMA safe room or ICC 500 storm shelter.
- Become familiar with your evacuation zone, the evacuation route, and shelter locations.
- Gather needed supplies for at least three days.
- Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including medication.
- Don’t forget the needs of pets.
- Keep important documents in a safe place or create password-protected digital copies.
Resources for Hurricane Florence
- For up-to-the-minute travel information in South Carolina please visit the state's official 511 service.
- South Carolina residents should also regularly check the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) storm resources page.
- SCDOT also made available an interactive evacuation route map.
- You should also check the South Carolina Emergency Management Division's Know Your Zone map to determine whether or not you are in an evacuation zone.
- For anyone in North Carolina, your evacuation routes can be found on the North Carolina Department of Transportation website.
- Real-time travel information for North Carolinans can be found here.
- Virginia residents are also asked to remain vigilant and make plans to leave if located in an evacuation zone – please check Virginia's official hurricane evacuation zone lookup tool.
- You can also check the Virginia Department of Emergency Management's Know Your Zone map to determine whether or not you are in an evacuation zone.
About the Author:
David Sadeghi is digital marketing manager at Iteris.