So you’re glued to the TV, watching as the “storm of the century” approaches. What to do?
I’m a big believer in knowledge and education but honestly, I try to tune out big media coverage of the storm. Why? Because they do everything they can to hype the storm. The bigger and scarier they make it seem, the more viewers they attract.
I’m going to take a little different approach than most of these lists. There are hundreds of “hurricane check lists” telling you to fill your bathtub with water and stock up on batteries and food. No, I’m going to give you the practical homeowner tips that nobody else tells you.
Tip #1: Monitor the pure satellite images
My favorite site for no-nonsense satellite images is Unisys weather. Yes, the old-time computer company has the basics. The most informative images are the standard IR (infrared) or the WV (water vapor) image. These images give a great overview of what’s happening on a large scale.
Tip #2: Keep an eye on rivers and streams
The National Weather Service has a great website that few people know about. It has detailed information about projected water levels based on gauges and computations. Here’s a link for the Delaware River gauges in my area. Here’s the national map so you can choose the information for your area.
Tip #3: Put away outdoor items that can blow away
This is an obvious, but often overlooked item. Winds of 50 miles per hour create tremendous force – much more than most people think. Remember when you were a kid and stuck your arm out the car window as your parents drove down the highway? Now multiply that pressure by 100 or 1000 – that gives you an idea of what types of pressure a lawn chair or a trash can feels! So check around your house, and put everything away that might blow around and turn into a missile in the high winds.
Tip #4: Make sure your gutters work
Most people just think about wind, remember that water can lead to more long-term damage to your home. If you have time, clean out your gutters and make sure the downspouts drain five or more feet away from your house.
A hurricane can dump five, ten or even more inches of water. This is a HUGE amount of water. Every inch of rain is equivalent to about a thousand gallons of water on a small home’s roof. Ten inches of rain is like dumping a swimming pool on the ground near your house. This is guaranteed to flood your basement if your gutters aren’t directing water properly away from your foundation.
Tip #5: Stay calm
Easier said than done, I know. But it’s hard to act rationally when you’re panicked about the storm. Just do your best to prepare, then sit back and be safe.
Good luck to all in the storm!
Hurricane preparedness page – national weather service page specifically for preparing for a hurricane
Ready America – U.S. Government page on hurricane preparedness