NOAA lists all the hurricanes that have hit the U.S. coastline from 1851 to 2020. Alabama ranks sixth on that list with 24 hurricanes in total and five major hurricanes. Hurricanes Sally and Zeta in 2020 are the most recent examples. Zeta had wind gusts up to 91 mph in Mobile.
Georgia ranks seventh with 22 total hurricanes and three major hurricanes. Mississippi ranks eighth with 19 total and three major hurricanes. Tennessee doesn’t make their list of direct coastal hits, of course, but Hurricane Laura made it to Nashville and caused quite a few tornadoes.
Damage from hurricanes is not only from wind, but also from storm surge and heavy rains, as well as flooding and tornadoes caused by the hurricane. It’s also important to note that hurricanes spread their damage far wider than a direct hit.
Hurricane season starts June 1 and runs through November 30. We have time to prepare. Let’s get started.
Prepare Your Home
Ideally, you’re able to shelter in your home during a hurricane or tropical storm. We’ve developed a list of preparation tasks to take well before any severe weather as well as what to do immediately before a hurricane.
- Review home insurance coverage. Check your homeowner’s insurance coverage for flooding. They typically don’t cover flooding from severe weather. Check with your insurance agent or the National Flood Insurance Program on the coverage that’s available.
- Set up severe weather notifications. Use a smartphone app to provide severe weather alerts or monitor NOAA weather radio. FEMA also has a mobile app for keeping up with alerts and for finding open shelters.
- Trim trees and keep gutters clear. Tree limbs and toppled trees can do major damage to your home. Trim back branches every spring and fall. Gutters and downspouts also need to be clear so they can route rainwater off your roof and away from the foundation to prevent basement or crawl space flooding.
- Check the foundation and drainage system. Make sure your basement or crawl space is waterproof with the necessary drainage systems. A sump pump with battery backup is essential during power outages.
- Maintain your roof. Repair any loose or missing shingles, as well as roof vents. Any damage here can cause leaks into the attic and the rest of your home.
- Add an emergency generator. A small generator can power appliances, a radio, and a few lights during power outages. Test it well in advance to make sure you know how to start it up and that you have any needed extension cords. The generator must be kept outdoors when running.
- Have backup fuel on hand. Fuel for generators, gas grills, and even chainsaws for clearing downed trees and limbs can come in very handy. Make sure you have plenty on hand, as stores will be shut down and roads may not be open after a hurricane.
- Move vehicles and secure outdoor items. Fill the gas tanks and move your cars to the garage or other covered area. Note that you may need to open the garage door manually if the power is lost. Move patio furniture into storage or secure it. It can slam into your home in high winds.
- Cover windows and secure all doors. Use hurricane shutters or plywood to cover your windows. Any breakage can bring in not only rain but also wind that can lift your roof more easily from inside than outside. Add a wind-load garage door to prevent this vulnerable door from blowing in.
- Set up an emergency family shelter. Designate a part of our home as an emergency shelter. This can be your basement or an interior room without windows. Stock it with supplies and let your family know where to gather.
- Gather emergency supplies. Stock your emergency shelter with food, water, a first aid kit, a flashlight and batteries, charged cell phones, sleeping bags, personal hygiene items, and more. Ready.gov has a detailed listing of basic disaster supplies kits.
Prepare Your Family
Now that your home is ready, the next task is to prepare your family. The first step is a family emergency plan.
- Develop a family emergency plan. You may have some ideas on what to do before, during, and after a hurricane, but it’s best to write it all down. Then share it with your family. Ready.gov has a superb family emergency plan as a starting point.
- Integrate school and work plans. Consult plans from school and the workplace to make sure their important details are added to your family plan.
- Read the community hurricane response plan. Your community’s hurricane response plan will contain details about shelter locations, evacuation plans, and notification methods. Make sure all those details are a part of your planning.
- Set up family emergency contact numbers. It’s critical to keep in touch with any family members that can’t make it home before the hurricane hits. Make sure you have contact phone numbers for everyone. That should include schools and workplaces.
- Establish an emergency meeting location. In the hectic aftermath of a hurricane, it’s easy to lose touch with family members, particularly with downed cell phone towers. Set up an emergency meeting location along with an alternative just in case.
- Review and practice your plan together. A written plan can certainly help. But you need to put it into practice in real time to understand how it really works. This can also be a great help in identifying any problems you can correct now before a hurricane.
Prepare for Evacuation
Even the best-laid plans can go awry once they are in contact with reality. For example, storm damage to your home may make it impossible to shelter there. Or evacuation orders may dictate that you leave your home. You should be prepared to evacuate.
As outlined above in our family preparation list, keep tabs on the shelter locations as well as the routes to those shelters. Make sure you have alternate routes available in case of flooding or road closure. It’s also wise to build plans for several shelter locations just in case. Finally, have a subset of your emergency supplies that you can toss in your car and take to the shelter.
We Can Help
We can help identify any issues with your basement or crawl space that should be addressed before a hurricane arrives. For a free inspection and repair estimate, contact the professionals at AFS Foundation and Waterproofing Specialists.