Hurricanes are deadly serious weather events that can devastate an entire area. As such, they deserve our attention not only when the weather service advises of an imminent arrival, but well in advance with every preparation effort we can make.
Given that, what are the signs that you’re not prepared? And more importantly, how can you be prepared for the next hurricane?
What is a Hurricane?
Hurricanes are intense tropical storms with sustained winds above 74 mph. That’s a Category 1 hurricane. You can find the five categories of hurricanes listed below along with the type of damage to expect.
|Hurricane Category||Sustained Winds||Expected Damage|
|1||74 to 95 mph||Some damage to roof, vinyl siding, gutters, trees toppled, branches down, power lines and poles down, power loss for a few to several days.|
|2||96 to 110 mph||Extensive damage to frame homes and trees, power poles down, power loss for days to weeks.|
|3||111 to 129 mph||Devastating damage, loss of roof and gable ends, trees and power poles down, loss of both power and water for weeks.|
|4||130 to 156 mph||Catastrophic damage, loss of roof and some walls, most trees and power poles down, loss of power for weeks or months. Area uninhabitable for weeks or months.|
|5||157 mph or higher||High percentage of frame homes destroyed with total roof failure and wall collapse. Power out for weeks or months. Area uninhabitable.|
Source: OSHA Hurricane Preparedness https://www.osha.gov/hurricane/preparedness
Reading through the list of ever-increasing winds, it’s hard to even grasp what that could mean to you and your home. But looking more closely at the expected damage provides more insight along with a fair bit of motivation.
Starting at Category 2 hurricanes, a loss of power can be expected for days to weeks. At Category 3, it ramps up to the loss of power and water for weeks. And it only gets worse from there, moving into months or just plain uninhabitable.
That covers hurricane winds. But it’s the related weather that also does damage. The storm surge, a huge wave of water driven in front of the hurricane, is the leading cause of hurricane-related fatalities. Flooding from heavy rains is the second leading cause. Not only that but the rains and flooding can last for days after the hurricane.
Do Hurricanes Hit Georgia?
Since records have been kept starting in 1851, Georgia ranks seventh among states hit by hurricanes with 22 direct hits and three major hurricanes, rated at Category 3 or higher. For more insight, see our article Worst U.S. Cities for Hurricane Damage where Savannah is rated fourth in cities most frequently hit by hurricanes, with 5.3 per decade.
It may be hard to imagine a hurricane hitting the Atlanta area unless you experienced Hurricane Michael in 2018. Hurricane Michael was only the fourth Category 5 hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. since 1850. It arrived at the Florida Panhandle and quickly moved north into Georgia. Wind gusts of 60 to 75 mph were recorded by NWS Atlanta/Peachtree, with steady winds of 40 to 50 mph. Damage included more than five inches of rain in some areas along with three tornadoes. Power outages lasted for up to a week and longer in some areas.
Signs You’re Not Prepared
Hopefully, that insight into hurricanes, the damage they can deliver, and their likelihood of arriving at our doorstep here in Georgia, has motivated you to consider preparing for the next one.
Here are the signs that you’re not prepared. More importantly, we’ve also included information on what you can do about it.
- No family emergency plan. This should be a written document that guides your family’s actions before, during, and after a hurricane. It should also incorporate key items from workplace and school emergency plans. While it won’t cover every eventuality, it can provide the basis for sound decision-making in the face of changing conditions. Ready.gov offers a family emergency plan that can be an excellent starting point for developing your own plan.
- No emergency home shelter. Your home may well be the best place to shelter. But it needs to be ready for your family. Designate an area for the shelter. It can be in the basement or an interior room without windows to provide protection from high winds. Inform your family when they should gather as the hurricane approaches. Stock it with the supplies you’ll need for days and even weeks.
- No emergency supplies on hand. Without supplies, you won’t be able to stay in your shelter. Yet leaving may be out of the question due to the hurricane. Not only that but few stores are likely to be open, and those that are may have next to nothing on the shelves. All that makes it critical to have sufficient supplies on hand weeks and months before a hurricane. Ready.gov has a suggested list of supplies for a basic disaster supply kit.
- No weather monitoring system. Leaving your shelter without knowing what’s expected from the hurricane is extremely dangerous. Use a smartphone weather app to provide alerts and more detailed information. Of course, if cell phone towers are toppled in hurricane winds, you’ll lose that information. Have a battery-powered NOAA weather radio as a backup. Don’t leave your shelter until the all-clear has been issued.
- No evacuation information. There’s a possibility that you could be ordered to evacuate based on the hurricane’s projected path and severity. In that case, you’ll need information on the shelters and your route to get there. Even with that, changing conditions can close roads and shelters. Have backup shelter and travel information on hand. You’ll also need to take emergency supplies with you to the shelter.
- No home preparation. Your home will need to hold up to severe weather driven by the hurricane. If it isn’t being maintained on a regular basis, it may not hold up, forcing you and your family to leave. We recommend regular maintenance including trimming trees to prevent them from damaging your house, repairing shingles and roof vents, and keeping gutters and downspouts clear. A waterproof basement or crawl space is best practice as is a sump pump with battery backup during power outages. Windows need to be protected with storm shutters or with plywood. Ideally, you’ll have a wind-load garage door that can withstand hurricane winds.
We Can Help
We’re based in greater Atlanta and north Georgia. We’ve helped quite a few people in the area prepare their homes for severe weather, including hurricanes.
We can also help identify any issues with your basement or crawl space that should be addressed before a hurricane arrives. For a free inspection, contact the professionals at AquaGuard Foundation Solutions.