You can’t control Mother Nature, but you can prepare for it
Published 5:08 pm Friday, May 12, 2023
Hurricane season traditionally begins every year on June 1. Unless you are a hockey fan… in which case, the Carolina Hurricane season is underway right now!
Hockey jokes aside, however, it’s important to be prepared for these massive storms which can make quite a devastating impact on us each year. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), there’s usually an average of 12 tropical storms that form in the Atlantic Ocean each season, with half of those usually growing strong enough to be classified as hurricanes. In a typical two-year period, the US coastline is hit by an average of three hurricanes, one of which is usually “major.”
Unless you’re new to this part of the United States, you’re probably familiar by now with the hazards that hurricanes (and tropical storms and tropical depressions) can bring. But even if we generally know what to expect, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t prepare ourselves each year in case disaster strikes close to home.
National Hurricane Preparedness Week was Apr. 30 through May 6, but in case you missed it, here are some important things you may need to know (or, at the very least, get a reminder about things you shouldn’t forget), courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Firstly, be aware of what risks you face in your local area. Flooding – caused by storm surge or just heavy rains – almost always comes hand in hand with a hurricane. Strong winds can cause a lot of damage too. It’s good to know ahead of time if you’re in an area prone to flooding and if your home has any structural weaknesses that can be strengthened ahead of time. NOAA’s coastal flood exposure map shows that even people who don’t live right beside a river can still be at risk for flooding.
Figure out evacuation routes too. According to the NCDOT, Highways 158, 13, and 17 all serve as coastal evacuation routes that run through the four-county Roanoke-Chowan area. And if you have to evacuate, you don’t always have to travel hundreds of miles away to safety. NOAA suggests identifying friends and relatives who live outside of flood-prone areas. You should also have multiple routes in mind and account for traveling with pets.
The next thing to do is be prepared with a basic supply kit (no matter whether you’re evacuating or riding out the storm at home).
Things to pack in your kit include water (one gallon per person per day), food (several-day supply of non-perishables), battery-powered radio, flashlight, first aid kit, extra batteries, dust mask, garbage bags and moist towelettes (for personal sanitation), manual can opener, local maps, and a cellphone with a backup battery.
Other items you can add include masks, sanitizer, medications, glasses, cash, copies of important documents, change of clothes, fire extinguisher, matches, personal hygiene supplies, paper plates, and plastic utensils.
It’s important to check your kit every year, especially to replace anything expired or no longer usable. And make sure everyone in your family knows where the kit is and what the plan of action will be in an emergency.
This may sound a bit like overkill, but it’s much easier, of course, to be prepared well ahead of when a disaster may strike instead of scrambling as you run out of time.
FEMA has suggestions on things you can do ahead of time to protect your home against hurricane damage. That includes trimming tree branches that are at risk of falling on your home, installing storm shutters, replacing old garage doors and tracks (to prevent wind damage), and sealing any outside wall openings (to prevent water damage).
And if you’ve moved to a new home recently, it’s also a good idea to identify the safest place to be inside in case of a tornado or other similar dangerous storm activity.
When a hurricane is in the forecast, it’s important to stay informed by updates from the National Hurricane Center and the National Weather Service. Keep a check on alerts, watches, and warnings. Focus on potential impacts, regardless of storm size or category. And remember that you can still experience weather hazards even outside of the forecast cone. (The storms are often bigger in size than the “cone” on forecast screens.)
When the storm itself hits, make sure to avoid travel and stay home, unless there are evacuation orders in place. Never drive through floodwaters. It only takes about a foot of water to sweep a car away, and even if the water isn’t moving, you have no way of knowing if the road underneath is still intact.
Once the storm is over, it’s still prudent to proceed with caution. Check your home for gas leaks and structural damage. Stay away from downed power lines, which can sometimes be hidden in water or dangling overhead. Don’t walk in floodwater which can contain harmful bacteria, chemicals, sharp objects, or other unseen hazards.
If you have to use a portable generator, never use it inside your home or garage. The generator can be a source of deadly carbon monoxide. Run your generator outside at least 20 feet away from doors and windows.
For more detailed information on how to be ready for hurricane season, visit noaa.gov/hurricane-prep
I know a lot of these tips I’ve shared here are common sense, but it’s always helpful to have reminders. In an emergency situation, you’re not always able to think as clearly as usual. So it never hurts to be prepared.
You can’t control Mother Nature, but you can control how you react to what it does.
Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-332-7206.