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How to Prepare For a Hurricane

When Hurricane Ida made landfall this September, it was the second-largest hurricane to hit Louisiana behind Katrina in 2005. At the same time, many more people were able to stay safe with the U.S. death toll at 95 rather than thousands like years before. Ida didn’t stop in the Southern states either, with flooding extending across the Northeastern states contributed to damaged homes and mass power outages. Damages were estimated to be over $60 billion.

Today, repairs and power restoration are still underway. As residents began to return to their homes, some came back to an insurance policy that covered the damage which transpired. At the same time, their preparation and evacuation plan saved them from being lost in the storm. Consider this post your guide to hurricane preparedness and what you will need to ride one out and return to everyday life as soon as possible.

The Types of Hurricanes to Prepare For

The first thought that crosses everyone’s mind when a hurricane shows up is how bad it will be? In order to gauge this, meteorologists assign hurricanes and tropical storms a category based on their intensity. Reactions and safety measures are taken according to the level of severity.

Know your hurricane categories:

  • Category 1 - Will have wind speeds of 74-95 mph and can cause some damage like snapped trees or compromised power lines. Power outages may occur.
  • Category 2 - Will have wind speeds of 96-110 mph and can cause roof damage to even the best-maintained homes. Trees and power lines are expected to go down in some areas with longer power outages.
  • Category 3 - The storm is major at this point, and evacuation will be necessary. Winds speeds are anywhere from 111-129 mp, with homes being damaged beyond the roofs. Roads may be blocked on account of flooding or fallen objects. There will be power and water outages.
  • Category 4 - An evacuation is a must. Serious structural damages can start occurring due to 130-156 mph winds. Power outages can range from weeks to months while the area awaits re-habitation. This is the kind of storm Ida was.
  • Category 5 - At this point, homes can be entirely destroyed as winds reach speeds of 157 mph or higher with severe flooding. Power and habitation could take months to restore. This was the kind of storm Katrina was.

Where to Start Preparing For a Hurricane

It seems like a lot to think about when dealing with an impending hurricane or tropical storm. For some, hurricane preparation is seasonal. For others, it’s an all-year-round process, especially for residents of states like Louisiana, where tropical storms are a regular part of the climate. When it comes to readiness, there are plenty of bases to touch upon -insurance, evacuation, and riding the storm out until it’s safe again. Rather than regurgitate everything out at once, we’ll go over each aspect of hurricane preparation individually. The first thing to think about when a hurricane or tropical storm is heading your way is your evacuation plan.

What is Your Hurricane Evacuation Plan?

Before every major hurricane that has made landfall, residents of the area have evacuation plans and routes planned already. If you do not or are unfamiliar with the evacuation routes, now would be time to familiarize yourself with them. The message to evacuate comes from the Wireless Emergency Alerts you’ll see on your phone. They will let you know that you are in a zone that must leave. The method of evacuation is up to you. If you can get where you need to go faster by train than by car, then there’s no reason not to buy a ticket unless the line is closed.

When planning your hurricane evacuation, you should always think about:

  • Route of evacuation - You should absolutely map out where you are going and how you are getting there, physically on paper or digitally on your phone. Have your method of transportation, like your car, ready to go with a full tank. If you’re using public transportation, be sure to arrive on time.
  • Safe destination - If you’re making a journey, that must mean you have a destination. Presumably, this destination has arrangements for you to stay while the storm runs its course and the damage is assessed or cleared. This can be a family or friend’s place or a hotel.
  • Moving from point A to point B - At this point, the evacuation order has been given, and it’s time to be on your way. Since a lot of other evacuees will be taking similar routes, you may run into some traffic on your way out. That’s alright; that just means you’re headed in the right direction to safety. Be sure to take special care of anyone with you that has a health condition. If you live closer to the coast or where the storm will make landfall, it’s best to leave early. Also, be mindful of weather conditions that could impede driving. This can be avoided by starting your journey early.

What do You Bring With You When Evacuating?

You’re on your way now, but you’re probably wondering if you need any special supplies besides the belongings you want to keep with you. The essential items, on the other hand, can make your displacement easier and perhaps save your life if need be. These items should also be kept readily available if you decide not to evacuate.

These items you should absolutely bring with you are:

  • Batteries
  • Candles or wick lamps
  • Matches or lighter
  • Prescriptions
  • Drinking water
  • Nonperishable food
  • First aid kit or supplies
  • Portable radio if car one fails
  • Flashlight
  • Clothing
  • Cash
  • Family and personal documents
  • Insurance policy information
  • Toiletries
  • Blankets
  • Contact information

How do You Get Your Home Hurricane-Ready Before Leaving?

There are two parts to making sure your home is ready for a hurricane -the physical part and the insurance part. Both are equally important in making sure your home is prepared and insured from physical damage of the present and the financial damage of the future. Let’s start with getting your home physically ready.

In order to prepare for wind and water damage in a hurricane, you should do the following to your home:

  • Move everything that is outside - This includes your grill or any outdoor patio furniture. Not so they don’t get wet or ruined, but so they don’t get hurdled yards away.
  • Remove low-hanging branches over your home - Tree branches and even the trees themselves can fall during the storm and cause some damage.
  • Shut all doors and windows and seal them - Locking them won’t be enough; you may have to seal glass windows with plywood or shutters. Water and wind can seep through nearly anything.
  • Move valuables from upper levels - Residents in hurricane country aren’t permitted to have basement levels to their homes, but they can have a second floor. Because it’s elevated, bring all valuables down to the first floor.
  • Remove car from the open - Move your car to your garage or high ground if you plan to not use it for evacuation.
  • Take photos for insurance purposes - You should document the condition of your property with photos before the hurricane or storm. This can include your home and car. Having this proof can assist your insurance company in providing a payout.
  • Take an inventory - While taking photos or videos, you can also take an inventory of your belongings for insurance reasons. Having an inventory is a great way to keep track of the condition of your property.
  • Unplug all electronics - To prevent and damage to your appliances, you should unplug them before leaving or before the hurricane makes landfall.

What Is The Best Home Insurance For Hurricanes?

Now comes the insurance front of preparing for hurricanes. Those that live in hurricane-affected areas like Louisiana are acquainted with specialized hurricane coverage not offered anywhere else. But for those without specialized hurricane coverage, homeowners’ insurance isn’t enough to fully cover what a hurricane can do to your home.

Home insurance policies that are essential to have against a hurricane are:

  • Homeowners’ insurance - Naturally, standard homeowners coverage is needed because it provides financial protection against structural damage and your belongings inside, especially if something is thrown at your house by fierce winds. Keep your policy updated with any renovations or modifications you have done to your home.
  • Flood insurance - Homeowners’ insurance coverage against water damage is iffy because it only provides assistance if the water is a result of a plumbing malfunction, not mother nature. Flood insurance would have to be added on to provide protection against flooding by hurricanes.
  • Comprehensive car insurance - This type of auto insurance can save your car when a storm hits. Instead of traffic-related damage, comprehensive coverage protects against damage to your car when it isn’t moving. This can include theft, vandalism, and of course, weather-related damages (especially if it is hit by debris).

What if You Choose to Stay Home During a Hurricane?

Sheltering in place is an option for those who can’t leave in the time of a storm, but extra precautions must be taken. Staying at home means you face the brunt of the storm as it passes over. So, you’ll have to make sure your home is secured. All the supplies in the other section should be bought with the addition of an at-home generator. Remember to keep that generator in your garage and out of your main home since it releases carbon dioxide. A death was reported just last month in Louisiana on account of a generator poisoning the air with CO2. It’s not guaranteed that you will have your power, so you’ll also have to buy non-perishable foods.

Follow the previous safety instructions and stock your home with these foods:

  • Cereal (dry)
  • Granola
  • Energy bars
  • Bread (tortillas and bagels work better as they can’t be crushed as easily)
  • Peanut butter
  • Canned meats
  • Canned produce
  • Crackers/chips
  • Nuts or trail mix
  • Tougher fruits like apples, bananas, or oranges
  • Canned soup
  • Powdered milk (for cereal)
  • Baby food (if needed)
  • Pet food (if needed)

What if You Have a Pet With You?

You may face more restrictions from hotels or shelters if you have your cat or dog with you. Many places don’t usually accept pets unless they are service animals. However, that’s not to say that there aren’t places where they are accepted.

At the same time, there are some essentials you will have to gather for your pet(s):

  • Food and water for a week
  • Medication or records if applicable
  • Waste and litter supplies
  • Leash and carrier
  • Recent photos
  • Vet’s information
  • Toys and bed
  • Cleaning supplies

How do You File an Insurance Claim?

After you’ve returned home after a storm, it’s time to survey the damage. You would have to reach out to your insurance provider to start the claims process. At this point, those photos you took of your home prior to the damage will really come in handy. Any holes or damage should be covered with tarps, and receipts for services you need should be kept and turned over to the insurance company. If relocation is necessary, then you may have to find accommodations elsewhere. If you carry additional living expense insurance (ALE), then your provider will reimburse you for any lodging while you’re waiting for your home to be habitable again. At the end of the day, hurricane preparation is a matter of making sure everything falls into place for both the evacuation process and the insurance road to recovery. Make sure that you have all the supplies and coverage necessary.