The good news is that weather forecasters aren’t predicting 2019 to be the worst hurricane season ever. That prediction is reassuring after the recent land-storm devastation that has hit the United States over the last couple of months causing flooding at catastrophic levels across the Midwest. However, at the same time, it’s not time to decide against preparation of any kind as hurricanes of any severity can be dangerous and can cause hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to homes and properties. It is important to be prepared for hurricane season as we never truly know what damage a storm will bring until it has already left.
When is hurricane season?
The official Atlantic hurricane season kicked off on June 1, 2019, and is estimated to run through November 30. Globally, May is the calmest month for ocean activity, and September tends to be the most active, and the height of the season is from late August through September, with the highest peak of activity around September 10.
How are hurricanes classified?
The National Hurricane Center leverages the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale to assign a category of one to five for all hurricanes, based on the uninterrupted wind speed. This scale is then used to estimate the potential damage that nearby homes and property can anticipate.
|Category||Sustained Winds||Damage Anticipated|
|1||74-95 mph; 64-82 kt; 119-153 km/h||Very dangerous winds will produce some damage: Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.|
|2||96-110 mph; 83-95 kt; 154-177 km/h||Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage: Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.|
|3||111-129 mph; 96-112 kt; 178-208 km/h||Devastating damage will occur: Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.|
|4||130-156 mph; 113-136 kt; 209-251 km/h||Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.|
|5||157 mph or higher; 137 kt or higher; 252 km/h or higher||Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.|
What cities in the United States are most susceptible to hurricanes?
According to the Hurricane Research Division of the Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory, some cities are at higher risk than others to experience a hurricane that hits land. In general however, the following cities are at highest risk:
- Miami, Florida – Miami’s dense population means that a hurricane can have seriously catastrophic effects. While the last hurricane to cause any substantial damage to the city was Hurricane Andrew in 1992, it is estimated that a hurricane passes within 50 miles of the city every six to eight years.
- Key West, Florida – The elevation of the city makes it highly prone to flooding and storm surges. Statistically speaking, the city has faced direct effects of a hurricane about every six years.
- Cape Hatteras, North Carolina – This town tends to be impacted by hurricanes as they move north up along the Eastern Seaboard. Because of the city’s close proximity to the Gulf Stream, the warm ocean temperatures during the summer months allows hurricanes to gain strength.
- Tampa, Florida – While we don’t hear of hurricane risks to the west side of the Florida state all that often, Tampa and other western cities are also at risk. In fact, it is estimated that the Tampa- St. Petersburg area is subject to an 11% chance of suffering a hurricane.
- New Orleans, Louisiana – Most of us know of the devastating impact that Hurricane Katrina left on New Orleans in 2005. While the city is only expected to experience a hurricane once every seven to 11 years, the sinking ground in the area puts the city in great danger if hit again.
Though, if you live in a coastal town other than one mentioned above, it does not automatically mean that you are at risk. This map provides a visual representation of the regions most at risk for Atlantic hurricanes.
5 Ways For you to Prepare for Hurricane Season
While there is nothing we can do to prevent a hurricane from occurring short of learning to control Mother Nature, we can take actions to protect our homes and families and to allow for as little damage as possible. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages anyone who lives in a high-risk area to begin prepping for hurricane season, before it begins. So, if you indeed live in a high-risk area and haven’t started preparations, the time to act is now.
Follow these steps to ensure you and your loved ones are as prepared as possible for the coming season.
1. Make a plan.
Ensure that you are well stocked on emergency supplies for both your home and your vehicles. Make sure you have access to emergency phone numbers and have them programmed into your mobile phone, and in another protected place (such as the glove compartment of your car, on your refrigerator, etc.) that you can access quickly should your mobile phone not work or be damaged in the storm. Make sure you have a new or recently serviced fire extinguisher in your home (in fact, it is suggested that you have one fire extinguisher on each floor of your home, including in your kitchen and in your garage). Find out where local shelters are, and ensure you have identified more than one route to get there, in the event of a road closure or other road blockage. Make sure that your family knows what to do if they hear sirens, and conduct a test with your family, ensuring you include young children as well.
Be sure to download and become familiar with the content in this reference document that was developed by the CDC, which contains critical information that will be useful in the event of a hurricane, flood, or another similar disaster.
2. Strengthen your home.
While it is always suggested to follow evacuation orders and guidelines directed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and local law enforcement as soon as possible, there are still several steps that you should take to prepare and secure the structure of your home while you are away due to a storm. Preparing at the start of hurricane season will keep you from having to rush in the face of a storm or fret that your home isn’t prepared as well as an oncoming storm would demand.
- Clear your yard of anything that might take flight and blow away during the storm. Not only will this help protect your items, but will also help to lessen damage and injuries caused by flying debris. Make sure these items are secured in a garage, cellar, or other area where they will remain intact.
- Board or cover windows and exterior doors. Storm shutters are a great option as they are designed specifically for seriously inclement weather. If you don’t have storm shutters, invest in plywood and nails and affix the plywood to the window frames around your windows. This will prevent injury and additional damage from flying glass.
- Know how to turn off the power to your home. If you do have to evacuate, turn off the power before you leave.
- Ensure you have enough drinking water to sustain you if you are trapped in your home, or to take with you while you venture to the evacuation route. A rule of thumb is to store one gallon of water per person per day and to maintain at least a three-day supply of water per person (two quarts for drinking, two quarts for each person in your household for food preparation/sanitation).
- Check your CO detector for proper operation. Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when too much carbon monoxide builds up in your bloodstream. Symptoms of CO2 poisoning include a dull headache, weakness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath, confusion, blurred vision, and ultimately, loss of consciousness.
3. Create an emergency kit for each of your vehicles. In the event of an evacuation, be sure that your vehicles are stocked with the essential emergency supplies. As hurricanes are often unpredictable, it is wise to have any vehicle well stocked in the event a vehicle is inoperable for any reason. Include these items in your kit:
- Canned and boxed food
- Jumper/ booster cables
- Maps – do not assume the maps on your mobile device will be active
- Roadside emergency kit (these can be purchased ready-to-go online or in most local hardware or home improvement store)
- A stocked first aid kit with instructions
- A portable fire extinguisher
- Sleeping bags – one for each member of your family. As these items can be bulky, have them packed and ready to go near your front door so that you can grab them when you depart.
- Flashlights (one per person) and enough batteries for each
4. Check your insurance coverage.
In most cases, when we buy home insurance, we purchase the policy, file the paperwork, and put it out of our minds. Unless we have a persistent insurance agent that checks in annually, it is often easy to forget the importance of adjusting your policy annually for inflation or to account for any improvements or significant changes you have made to the home over the previous 12 months. Take the time now to make a call to your agent to review your coverage, and make sure that you are prepared in the event of catastrophic damage to your home. Ensure also that you have coverage for living expenses if you are unable to return to your home for some time due to repairs, extended evacuations, etc.
5. Make copies of important documents
Make copies of important documents or back-up your family’s important files on computers and hard drives that are easy to travel with and can be protected or waterproofed. While less and less of us work off paper these days, it is important to remember that electronics can be damaged too in the event of a storm, especially from water damage. Take advantage of the opportunity to ensure that all important papers including wills, insurance information, etc., is backed up and stored on more than one device. In the case of digital back-ups, use an online service like Dropbox or Google Drive that can be updated repeatedly across hurricane season and can be backed up to a secure server in a safe space.
This recent article from the balance shares that coastal shoreline counties create 40% of America’s jobs, and responsible for 46% of its gross domestic product. It also estimates that government costs for hurricane damage are $28 billion a year, with Florida contributing 55% of that, and Texas and Louisiana at 13% and 9% respectively. These average annual damage costs are expected to increase to $39 billion by 2075. Almost half that gain will come from increased development along U.S. coastlines. The other half will be due to climate change.
Hurricanes cause damage from flooding, tornadic winds, and storm surges. The wind and flooding account for the majority of the structural damage caused. When Mother Nature releases her fury, there is not much we can do to stop her. But we can take control of our own situation to be prepared, to listen to the guidance provided to us by FEMA and local law enforcement, and to protect our homes to the best of our ability.
By understanding and following the information and guidelines shared in this article and by taking the five steps to ensure you and your loved ones are as prepared as possible for the coming season, you will do yourself as well as your friends, family, and neighbors a tremendous favor.
As you prepare for hurricane season, remember to keep Bulldog Adjuster’s contact information as part of your hurricane season preparedness kit. After a storm, you’ll want experts on hand to analyze the damage to your home and help you get the largest possible settlement from your insurance company. Contact us today and save our information somewhere safe so that we can help you and your family get back on track after a storm.