Informed and prepared. They're the two things you want to be if you’re in the path of a hurricane.
Some preparations for storms like Hurricane Earl, the Category 2 storm making its way toward the eastern seaboard of the United States and parts of Canada, can begin (ideally) months ahead of time or within hours of its anticipated landfall.
But knowing how to react and whether to evacuate requires that you stay informed of the storm’s progress by tuning into local television and radio stations – preferably, with a battery-powered radio. You can purchase a battery-powered NOAA radio that tunes into special Weather Radio frequencies.
While the power's still on, people can find the most recent information on the storm's movement on the National Hurricane Center's Hurricane Earl advisory page.
Some states keep general information about hurricane preparedness on their websites, including Connecticut, Massachusetts and North Carolina. Some towns and counties keep information on their websites regarding the storm's progress, evacuation procedures, shelters and suspension of services. Others are using Twitter to post real-time updates. Below are just a few that CNN.com has identified, though the list is not exhaustive:
Develop an evacuation plan tailored to your family’s vulnerability to storm surge, flooding and wind. Locate a safe room or the safest areas in your home for each hurricane hazard. If the safest areas are not in your home, locate safe areas or buildings in your community and listen to local news for announcements on schools, shelters or designated safe areas. Determine an escape route from your home and places to meet in case the family members get separated.
If your family hurricane plan includes immediate evacuation due to the location or conditions of your home, the National Hurricane Center recommends that you do not delay your departure. You may want to evacuate ahead of official orders to avoid travel delays or traffic congestion. Pick a location as close to your home as possible. If it’s a motel or hotel, make a reservation before you leave to ensure space. If you have a pet, this may be your best bet, as many shelters do not accept pets.
Before you leave, make sure you have an out-of-state friend as a family contact, so all your family members have a single point of contact.
Securing your home includes putting away anything surrounding the home that the wind can pick up: bicycles, lawn furniture and decorations and branches, to name a few. Seal all your windows and doors, and if you don’t have hurricane shutters, board up windows with plywood. Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure to reduce roof damage.
(A great time to start securing or retrofitting your house is when you are making other improvements or adding an addition. The National Hurricane Center has these tips http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/retrofit/secure_home.shtml for strengthening the exterior of your house outside hurricane season.)
Turn off utilities if instructed to do so. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed. Turn off propane tanks.
Whether you ride out the storm in your home or evacuate, you’ll want to have a disaster supply kit at the ready that include these items, according to the National Hurricane Center:
- Water: At least 1 gallon daily per person for 3 to 7 days
- Food: At least enough for 3 to 7 days non-perishable packaged or canned food and juices, snack foods.
- Eating supplies: Non-electric can opener, cooking tools, disposable plates and utensils.
- Flashlights and extra batteries, radio
- Baby supplies: Bottle, formula, baby food, diapers.
- Toiletries: Hygiene items, moisture wipes, etc.
- Bedding: Blankets and pillows, etc.
- Clothing: Seasonal clothes, rain gear, sturdy shoes.
- First aid/medical: Pain relievers, bandages, splints, insect repellant, sunscreen, 7-day supply of prescription drugs, hearing aids with extra batteries, eyeglasses.
- Modern necessities: Fully charged cell phone with extra battery and a telephone set with a cord, cash in small bills, extra sets of house and car keys,
- Important documents in a waterproof container: Passports, birth certificates, insurance policies, medical records, bank account numbers, Social Security card, etc.