Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Whether evacuating or sheltering in-place, be prepared

VIRGINIA BEACH — Hurricane season is always a little unpredictable and 2018 is sure to be no different.

Over the last 30 years there have been an average of 12 named storms, six of them reaching hurricane strength, with two considered “major” hurricanes.

There will be hurricanes. That’s a fact.

The unpredictability comes with how many there will be, how severe they might be, and what paths they will take.

“We focus more on preparing (than predicting),” said Erin Sutton, director of Emergency Management in Virginia Beach. “The National Weather Service is calling for an above-normal season, but it only takes one.”

If an evacuation is ordered, Sutton said it’s important to be ready to go.

A “to-go” kit is the place to start. The kit should be packed and ready to grab as you head out the door.

It can include a first-aid kit, flashlight with extra batteries, perhaps a little bit of water and non-perishable food items, and copies of important papers. Needed medications should also be part of a to-go kit, and pet supplies might also be needed.

In the chaos, there won’t be a lot of time to pack.

“For us here in Hampton Roads where we have to cross a bridge or a tunnel, you can expect 60 hours of notice,” Sutton said.

She said a family communication plan is also important.

The plan includes things like how emergency alerts are received; a shelter plan; outline of the evacuation route; and how family members will communicate in the event of an emergency. It can also identify places where the family might meet should they lose track of each other.

It’s also important to have cash, not simply credit cards, she said.

Preparing your home

Knowing what a hurricane “watch” and “warning” mean is also important. A hurricane watch is issued when conditions make it possible for a hurricane to hit within 48 hours.

A hurricane warning means a hurricane will strike within 36 hours.

You can also prepare your home for a storm:

  • Trim or remove damaged trees and limbs from around your home.
  • Check downspouts to ensure they’re attached correctly and are not clogged.
  • Reinforce doors and windows when possible and ensure roofing is in good condition.
  • Secure belongings that are outside to ensure they don’t become projectiles in the high winds.
  • Ensure the necessary insurance coverage is in place.
Hurricane risks
Things to know about hurricane hazards (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of The National Weather Service)

If you choose to shelter at home (or are forced to), there are steps to take:

  • Shelter on the ground floor of your home, in a closet or other room in the interior of your home.
  • Move to a higher floor if there is flooding or a flood warning.
  • Close shutters and stay away from windows and glass doors.
  • Keep refrigerators and freezers cold as possible and if power is lost, open them only when necessary to help food stay cold.
  • Use a TV or radio to stay updated on weather alerts and emergency instructions.

“Know your risk and know your surroundings,” Sutton said. “Have one gallon of water per-person per-day and enough non-perishable food for three to five days.”

FEMA has comprehensive preparedness documents and checklists online.

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