A hurricane is one of the scariest events that Texas residents are forced to endure, bringing hundred-plus mph winds and endless sheets of rain to our shores. Typically, the state’s hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30, peaking in mid-August through mid-September.
The memories of 2017’s Hurricane Harvey are still fresh in our minds, emphasizing how critical it is to exercise the proper steps to protect yourself, your home and your family from high winds and heavy rains.
Follow these tips to ensure that you are prepared for an emergency and well-equipped to safely weather the storm:
How to Prepare Your Home Before a Hurricane
- Close all outdoor structures. Make sure shed doors are closed tightly. Otherwise, they could end up blowing off their hinges and becoming dangerous projectiles. The same goes for fence gates, screen doors and anything else that could swing around.
- Prevent flying objects. Check around your house for objects liable to come loose in high winds. Flags, awnings, and anything else that’s only loosely attached to your walls or roof need to come in. Don’t forget decorative house ornaments like wreaths and wind chimes.
- Secure your windows with storm shutters (or plywood if you have them), and don’t forget to lock all doors and windows securely as the storm approaches.
- Clean up around your yard, bringing in any garden tools and potted pants while removing debris that could blow around and cause damage. The clearer you can leave the immediate premises, the less likely your home is to sustain serious damage.
- Don’t leave cars parked under trees (especially if you may be in the car when the storm strikes!).
- Trim your trees. If there is time in advance, have your trees inspected and remove any dying or dangerous limbs. In the immediate advance of a storm you might not have an opportunity for serious tree-trimming, so just try to make sure anything valuable is as far away and protected from potential impact as you can.
- Check pool covers to ensure that they are secure. Turn off the power to the pool and stash any equipment or loose items in a protected area. It’s also a good idea to add extra chlorine to the pool to help battle off pollutants that accompany the incoming hurricane.
- Leave the coast. Storm surge flooding causes high waves that can be more deadly than hurricane winds. Take Hurricane Florence, which brought massive flooding to the Carolinas in 2018, as a cautionary tale, to say nothing of the deluge that Harvey dumped on Houston and other areas, as we remember all too well. Leave the coast and stay away from low-lying areas.
- Stay away from floodwaters. Whatever you do, don’t attempt to walk or drive through floodwaters, as you could quickly become stuck or swept away, even if you think there is just a few inches of water in your path.
- Prepare for a power outage. If you experience a major hurricane, it’s more likely than not that you will lose power. Make sure you’re prepared with an alternative source of light, but avoid the use of candles, which could become a fire hazard if any gusts infiltrate your home. Better to stick with battery-operated flashlights to help navigate around inside.
- Charge up all your electronic devices so you can use them for as long as possible during a blackout. This means your phone in particular, but laptops or tablets could also provide important channels of communication, provided that cell service or internet remains available.
- Have spare batteries and a portable radio on-hand. If all else fails, the radio can bring you news about the storm, including what could be life-saving missives from local authorities regarding evacuations or rescue plans.
- Fill your bathtub with water, to supplement whatever bottled water you can stash away to use for drinking, cooking and cleaning in the event you lose your municipal supply.
- Keep a few days’ worth of food and water since you could get holed up for days with no ability to go shopping. Maintain a supply of goods that don’t require cooking in case you lose electricity or gas and can’t power your stove.
- Keep a list of important contact information on-hand. This includes friends and relatives, emergency services, utility companies and insurance agents.
- Stay away from windows during the storm to lessen your chance of injury.
- Have duct tape and plastic sheeting at the ready in case the storm breaches a window or your home otherwise becomes damaged. A strip of plastic may not seem like much when 120 mph winds are shrieking outside, but it’s better than facing total exposure to the storm.
- Seek shelter. Most crucially of all, seek shelter. Getting caught outside in a hurricane is an immediately life-threatening situation, from large objects propelled by the wind as well as flooding and storm surges. We typically have several days’ warning when a hurricane is on the way, so there’s little excuse for not preparing your shelter in advance.
- Evacuate if directed. That said, if authorities issue an evacuation order, it’s for good reason, and you need to leave town and seek shelter somewhere safer, away from the brunt of the storm. No damage to your home that you might be able to prevent by staying is worth the risk to your life. If possible, get out well in advance of the storm so you don’t get caught in endless traffic of other families seeking refuge.
Although by December we are likely to enjoy a respite from hurricanes in Texas until next summer, bear in mind that other high-wind events could strike any time of year. While there’s no need to stay on hurricane-level alert at all times, many of the tips above are valid for any type of wind storm. Perhaps most importantly, you need to have an emergency disaster kit on-hand so you are prepared no matter what kind of weather comes your way. In addition to the food, water, flashlights, battery, and radio already mentioned, keep a hurricane prep kit with items like a first aid kit, basic tools, personal sanitation items and prescription medications.