August 24th, 2011
10:36 PM ET

How to prepare for a hurricane

Tuesday's earthquake on the U.S. East Coast shows what can happen when a big event happens with no warning. The cell phone network was overwhelmed, people poured into the streets and social media exploded. I think an earthquake has to be the scariest natural disaster to encounter, because you don't know it is coming.

Hurricanes are a whole different story. With all the sophisticated satellite, radars and computers the world has at its disposal, we know days in advance that Hurricane Irene - churning near the Bahamas on Wednesday - is heading toward the Carolinas and will likely pound the Northeast over the weekend. While you can't stop a hurricane from damaging things, you can protect yourself and your family by preparing.
Some tips:

Have a portable disaster supply kit - It's important to gather some things before a storm, because supplies may be gone after the storm hits. This to-go bag should be portable, and it should contain:

-Bottled water
-Food
-Blankets and pillows
-First-aid kit and any medicine you need

-Toiletries
-Flashlight and extra batteries
-Radio or NOAA weather radio
-Cash (ATMs may not be available for several days)
-Pet care items

Have a plan

-Know if your home is vulnerable to storm surges, flooding and wind.
-Have a safe room/area. The safest area may not be in your home, but may be a shelter in your community.
-Know the route away from danger. Some communities have hurricane evacuation zones. Have a primary and alternative route.
-Plan places where your family can meet in and out of your neighborhood
-Have an emergency contact who everyone in your family knows and can contact.
-Secure your home. Forget about taping your windows (This will not stop any objects hurled through the air by 90 mph winds). Have plywood custom-cut to fit your windows and pre-drill holes in the plywood for screws. Custom shutters can also be made ahead of time. Also, remove all dead or loose limbs from trees and shrubs on your property.

Stay informed

-CNN Hurricane tracker (http://www.cnn.com/hurricane)

-Local television and radio stations

-National Hurricane Center: Website / mobile site / Twitter

-Your local National Weather Service forecast office

-FEMA: Website / Twitter

-The American Red Cross Online Disaster Newsroom

-Ready America

soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. Jack

    I've got my zombie-pokalypse kit!

    August 25, 2011 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Beth

      CDC's Zombie Preparedness site is the best! Clever way to get folks to pay attention to this stuff. 🙂

      http://emergency.cdc.gov/socialmedia/zombies_blog.asp?s_cid=emergency_004

      August 25, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  2. joann

    After the fact.Invest,in either Hurricane or Earthquake insurance.Get,your homes ready,because God is coming,when you least expect it. JoAnn Bartholomew

    August 25, 2011 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
    • yeahalright

      Your god is kind of a psycho.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • RexCraigo

      There is no god and you're a goofball.

      August 25, 2011 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Laurie

      If God is coming you don't need insurance, only a prayer.

      August 25, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • jrc

      Don't worry JoAnn. there is a God. Some people need to see to believe. Something made all of this and the Universe and I can tell you that it just didn't pop out of nothing. Something made all this, don't look for a man's face like a lot of people are looking for who don't believe. Its a force we cannot understand or see. If nothing existed before, then nothing can exist period, so something had to be there to make us exist, God always was. Simple and not complex to understand. simple not for the most intelligent but simple for the one with the least intelligence.

      August 25, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • God

      @RexCraigo: you say i don't exist. you are a goofball.

      August 25, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • us1776

      Sorry, there's no "Invisible Being" to blame things on.

      .

      August 25, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • WrshipWarior

      @us1776: How are you so certain there is no "Invisible Being"? Tell me, can you see gravity? Can you see radio waves? Microwaves? Sound waves? None of these are "visible" yet they certainly do exist don't they?

      August 25, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Logic

      no we can't see gravity, but we can measure it.
      GO SCIENCE!

      August 25, 2011 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Alex

    Well, I live in NYC and one half of my apartment is glass. If the hurricane strikes I'm pretty much screwed though I should have a nice cross breeze in my apartment afterward. 🙂

    August 25, 2011 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
    • nimrod

      Well, I live in South Texas within about 25 miles of the gulf of Mexico and have been through several hurricanes without covering my windows completely with plywood and have never lost even one pane of glass so don't get too exercised over this. Glass is mostly vulnerable to blowing debris so if there isn't a bunch of junk laying around to blow, the risk of getting hit by debris is not that severe. I'm not saying that you shouldn't take precautions, just don't freak. Just because I have never had a window broken in a hurricane doesn't mean that I don'tI move anything that would be ruined by water away from places where blowing water might get to it though.

      August 25, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. AHite

    Dave,
    Nice piece on the "cone of uncertainty." Living on the coast, I've been following the computer forecasts of hurricane paths for several years. It didn't take long to notice that those forcasted paths almost always predict a landfall south and west of where the hurricanes actually land. You would think that the error around the forecasts would be normally distributed. It is not. As the hurricanes approach, the forecasts are almost always adjusted to the north and east. Hurricane Irene is a typical example. A few days ago the computer models had it hitting in Florida or in the gulf. As the days went by, the forecasts moved the landing point up the east coast.
    I understand that forecasting is difficult. I should expect lots of error. What I don't understand is this seemly consistent bias.

    August 25, 2011 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
  5. Purple Dragon

    When you loose power and the lights go out you need to realize that everything that you could easily find when you could turn the lights on will not be easy to locate. Keep your wallet, ID, copies of utility statements (to prove where you live if you have to leave and then return) proof of auto, health insurance, etc., handy where you can find them in the dark. The clothes you'll need on a day to day basis may be the ones at the far end of the closet where it's completely dark. So BEFORE you loose the lights move them to where you can easily find them. It's too late to be trying find your tennis shoes in the dark because you need to leave. Flip-flops are okay when you're inside and there is no debris but not if you have to walk through areas with debris from a storm! You can never have enought bottled water! You can never have enough non-perishable canned goods! I found battery-operated fans (ten in diameter) by O2 Cool that were life savers when Hurricane Ike came through Houston. They use 8 side D batteries but were worth it. I found solar-powered lamps that you use outside in the yard to light pathways – guess what they're great for bringing into the house. They stay lit when it's dark and they can also use regular disposable batteries. REMEMBER – NO CANDLES! That's just how to burn your home down around you. Purple Dragon from Houston.

    August 25, 2011 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • RexCraigo

      lose

      August 25, 2011 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Arch Blake

      Thank you very much. This is useful information.

      August 25, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • WD

      Or you could just keep some flashlights in fixed locations before the power goes out. Then you can find whatever you need.

      August 25, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Geeshgirl

      Nice job, Purple Dragon. I'd like you to guard my castle!

      August 25, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. bobcat2u

    How to prepare for a hurricane. Lesson # 1 If the storm happens to be a very strong cat 5 and you decide to stay. Step 1- Bend kees slightly and bend over. Step 2 - Reach from behind through your legs. Step 3 - Grab your ears and proceed to pull your head between your legs. Step 4 - Kiss your sweet butt goodbye.
    Just a little levity people. But to all you people on the east coast, good luck and prayers for your safety.

    August 25, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Purple Dragon

    Okay. One more posting on hurricane preparedness. I know that some of you know all this but then you and I have learned these lessons the hard way and we need to share. Assume you will be without electricity after the storm – so if all your clothing and linens and towels are in the dirty clothes hamper get them washed and dryed a day or so ahead of 'predicted' landfall. If you have a dishwasher you won't be able to run it so wash all the dirty dishes as you dirty them and then at some point (when you are obviously the target) switch to using paper plates, etc. In case you want or need to leave pack some of your now clean clothing. Pack like you will not be able to get back for several days. Possibly you want to include your go-to-work clothing and shoes. Maybe you can't get back into your area (if you left) but you can go to work if your place of employment is up and running. If all of your contacts' (family and friends) phone numbers, addresses, etc., are on your computer and nowhere else then print them out. Oh, if you leave don't forget to take the charger for your cell phone!

    August 25, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  8. mark in nyc

    you forgot a fully-stocked bar.

    August 25, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Purple Dragon

      ...forgive me....how could I be so forgetful! (grin)

      August 25, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  9. merecat

    Remember Your PETS!!! They can't prepare.. only you can help them too.. Everyone take care.. and try to stay safe..

    August 25, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Emmanuel

    We should all follow these rules or we don't know what to do.

    August 25, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. WD

    The most practical advice for everyone: Have supplies on hand in case the power goes out. Don't drive through standing flood waters on the roadway. Most of us will survive this just fine if we follow those two rules.

    August 25, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Sally in Oregon

    Take care dear East Coast ~

    August 25, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kris

    In a nutshell, get the hell out!

    August 25, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kris

      Went through Hugo in Charleston and vowed never to stick around for another hurricane again. If this storm hits th coast with the strength they are predicting, watch out. Weeks without water or power. Just leave...take what you can and just go somewhere safe. If you lose your house or a tree falls on it, at least you will be safe...which is more important than sticking it out! You can always go back.

      August 25, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. phreddy

    I live on the Texas Gulf Coast. The best things to do in the envent of a hurricane:
    1. Leave.
    2. Leave.
    3. Leave.
    Take your cash, your important papers and a few sentimental items and leave. Don't 'stay to fight off the looters." You are more important than anything in the house.

    August 25, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
  15. us1776

    What to do: RUN, RUN, RUN !!!

    .

    August 25, 2011 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
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