The Homeowner’s Guide to Hurricane Season
The end of May marks the start of hurricane season, a threat not just to coastal homes, but many inland communities as well. Hurricane-force winds can reach out more than a hundred miles from a storm’s eye, and hurricanes can move over a hundred miles inland before winds slow to tropical storm speeds. Homeowners, like first responders, adjusters, and temporary housing companies, have a responsibility to make a plan before this year’s hurricane season begins, just in case a storm heads their way.
The Colorado State University Department of Atmospheric Science is predicting an above-average hurricane season this year. With the exception of Hurricane Dorian, which did more damage to the Bahamas than the United States, 2019 proved to be a below-average year for Atlantic hurricanes. Colorado State is predicting sixteen named tropical storms, with eight becoming hurricanes, and four becoming major hurricanes of category three or higher.
The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale that gives us our five-category hurricane scale is the most commonly used indicator of the predicted severity of a storm, but it’s being questioned, as it has led some people to take category one and two storms less seriously than they should. Category four hurricanes will almost always cause more immediate property damage than category one or two hurricanes, but the loss of life and total long-term effect on an area is more accurately measured by the amount of water/rainfall and an area's geographic layout.
Hurricane Preparedness Kit
Many people began stocking up on non-perishable food items at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Having a full pantry is important if your family might have to shelter in place for an extended period of time. When preparing for hurricane season you should keep non-perishable food stocked in your pantry, as well as a hurricane kit. Here is a list of some items you should have in your hurricane kit.
- Copies of your Insurance Policy and personal documents like ID or Passport
- At least a three-day supply of drinking water and food that does not need to be refrigerated or cooked
- Matches in a dry box, candles, flashlights, lamps, extra batteries
- Basic tools such as a wrench and screwdriver for minor repairs
- First aid supplies, any necessary prescription drugs
- A portable NOAA weather radio
Securing Your Property
Preventing home damage can often be a matter of checking the trees around your home for signs of decay. You can read our article on tree damage claims here. Thoroughly check the trees and branches around your home. If a tree looks dead, schedule to have it removed. Tree branches are one of the most common projectiles during a powerful hurricane and can break through windows, siding, or puncture a roof.
As soon as you know your home may be affected by an oncoming storm, bring outdoor furniture inside. Anything on your property that is not bolted to the ground should be moved into your garage or basement. Birdfeeders, patio furniture, bicycles, and anything that can be brought inside. If you live on the coast, consider installing storm shutters. Alternatively, you can buy boards from your local hardware store to board up windows and doors. Hurricane-force winds are most likely to enter a home after blowing out a window or door. Then they begin compromising the entire structure of a home.
In the event a storm is imminent and local authorities have issued evacuation orders, it may be hard to decide how to safely evacuate while social distancing. The important thing to note is that evacuation orders from local government officials are not optional. When authorities say it’s time to go, it's time to go. While staying with friends or family who live a safe distance from a hurricane's impact zone, that may not always be an option. Your insurance policy may cover a hotel stay or short-term rental is you have to evacuate. The important thing is to have a plan. You can get more tips on creating an evacuation plan here, and download the FEMA app here.
Emergency Evacuation Procedures
Before you evacuate, be sure to check on neighbors. The elderly and those with disabilities may need assistance in preparing their home or evacuating. When forecasters predict a community may be impacted, local authorities will likely publish evacuation assistance information, so in addition to FEMA, it’s important to pay attention to local news channels and local news websites.
The global coronavirus pandemic has made traveling more stressful and more complicated, but hotel brands are responding with rigorous cleaning procedures. If you evacuate to a friend or family member's home safely away from a storm you can still practice smart social distancing. Evacuees who relocate to friends or family and know they could be contagious with COVID-19 can use personal protective equipment (masks and gloves), when in living, cooking, and common areas, and sanitize spaces after use. It's important for anyone who may be contagious to have their own bedroom and bathroom, but if a home only has one bathroom, PPE and sanitization between use is recommended to lower the risk of infection.
The 2020 Hurricane Season Outlook
The likelihood of a large catastrophe response to this year's hurricane season will not be made easier by COVID-19. Restoration teams in many parts of the country are facing an increased demand in professional building sanitization as employees return to work. Disaster response teams in the south may be particularly important this year. Colorado State University predicts that Florida has more than 30% probability of seeing a major hurricane make landfall in 2020, and both Texas and Louisiana have between 15% and 20% probability of seeing a major hurricane make landfall. Residents in Florida especially need to know evacuation procedures. Temporary housing in Atlanta has become a popular evacuation zone for residents of not only Florida but also North and South Carolina.
It is almost certain that the U.S. will see more than one hurricane in 2020. The chart above from Colorado State Universities Extended Range Forecast of Atlantic Seasonal Hurricane Activity and Landfall Strike Probability shows their 2020 predictions that the number of hurricanes will exceed a given number and the historical average for any given number of hurricanes happening in one year. In 2020, for example, there is more than 60% probability we will see at least seven hurricanes in the Atlantic.