Maryland and Virginia can experience way too much damage from hurricanes. It’s not just the winds, although those can be quite damaging. Just as much damage comes from the accompanying storm surge, heavy rains, flooding, and even tornadoes.
As just two examples demonstrate, Tropical Storm Hermine hit Virginia and Maryland in September 2016, with winds at Norfolk International Airport of 55 mph and Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel of 59 mph, along with two to six inches of rain. That was followed by Hurricane Mathew in early October with six to 11 inches of rain and 70 to 75-mph winds.
Storm surge is the leading cause of hurricane-related deaths. And it doesn’t affect only the coastline. It also travels inland along rivers, bays, and estuaries. The second leading cause of hurricane fatalities is flooding from heavy rains. Flooding can occur hundreds of miles from the coast and last for days after the storm has moved on.
Hurricane season starts June 1 and runs through November 30. We have time to prepare. Let’s get started.
Prepare Your Home
Your first line of defense is your home. You can shelter in place during all but the worst weather in your area. Here’s a list of preparation tasks as well as those steps to take immediately before a hurricane.
- Review your home insurance coverage. Standard homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover flooding. Check with your insurance agent or the National Flood Insurance Program on the coverage that’s available.
- Set up severe weather notifications. Monitor NOAA weather radio or use a smartphone app to keep up with changing weather conditions. FEMA has a mobile app for keeping up with alerts and for finding open shelters.
- Trim trees and keep gutters clear. You should take care of this every spring. See our Spring Maintenance Checklist to help identify all the necessary tasks to get your home ready.
- Check the foundation and drainage system. Along with gutters and downspouts, make sure your basement or crawl space is waterproof with the necessary drainage systems. A sump pump with battery backup is essential during power outages.
- Maintain your roof. Keep up with roof maintenance by repairing any loose or missing shingles. Damage here can allow rain into your attic and the rest of your home.
- Add an emergency generator. A small propane or gas-fueled generator can keep refrigerators and radios running as well as charge cell phones. Make sure you test it beforehand and have the necessary extension cords. The generator must be kept outdoors when running.
- Have backup fuel on hand. Fuel for the generator as well as propane for a grill can come in awfully handy during extended power outages. Gasoline for a chainsaw can help when cutting downed trees and limbs.
- Move vehicles and secure outdoor items. Move your cars and trucks to the garage or some other safe area. It’s a good idea to fill their gas tanks. Make sure you can open the garage door manually after the power is lost. Pull in patio furniture and other items that could become airborne in high winds and damage your home.
- Cover windows and secure all doors. Tree branches and other debris can break your windows and enter your home along with the rain. Put up approved window coverings and make sure the doors are locked. Consider a wind-load garage door to prevent this vulnerable door from blowing in and lifting your roof.
- Set up an emergency family shelter. Designate an area of your home for an emergency shelter. An interior room without windows is best to protect from high winds. A second-floor area works well for flooding. Stock it with supplies and let your family know where to gather.
- Gather emergency supplies. Once you’re buttoned up in the family shelter, you could be there for several days. Given that, it’s critical that you have food, water, a first-aid kit, flashlight and batteries, charged cell phones, prescription medications, pet food, sleeping bags, personal hygiene items, and more. Ready.gov has a detailed listing of basic disaster supplies kits. It’s also a good idea to have tarps on hand to cover damaged areas as well as hand tools to make simple repairs.
Prepare Your Family
Now that your home is ready, the next task is to prepare your family. The first step is to develop a family emergency plan.
- Develop a family emergency plan. This needs to cover who does what and when. Primarily, it’s about getting to your home shelter and what to do if you’re away from home. Ready.gov has a superb family emergency plan as a starting point.
- Integrate school and work plans. Once you have your family plan pulled together, integrate school and work plans so everyone knows what to expect no matter where they are during an emergency.
- Read the community hurricane response plan. Your community also has a hurricane response plan. Familiarize yourself with its contents. Pay particular attention to shelter locations and evacuation plans as well as notification methods.
- Set up family emergency contact numbers. As part of your emergency plan, make sure you have contact phone numbers for everyone. That should include schools and workplaces.
- Establish an emergency meeting location. It’s also wise to set up one or more emergency meeting locations in case your family is separated during the hurricane’s arrival.
- Review and practice your plan together. All of this will be for naught if you haven’t practiced the plan together. Having it on paper and reading it is all well and good, but you really need to practice the plan together to bring it to life. You may also discover a few problems that can be corrected now, before the hurricane.
Prepare for Evacuation
It feels great when you have prepared your home and your family. However, even the best plans can be overtaken by events. Either your home may be damaged and no longer able to provide the refuge you had planned on, or government authorities may request your evacuation from imminent danger. That means you should be prepared to evacuate.
As outlined above in family preparation, keep tabs on the shelter locations as well as the routes to those shelters. Make sure you have alternate routes available in case of flooding or road closure. It’s also wise to build plans for several shelter locations just in case. Finally, have a subset of your emergency supplies that you can toss in your car and take to the shelter.
We Can Help
Not only that, but we can help identify any issues with your basement or crawl space that should be addressed before a hurricane arrives. For a free inspection and repair estimate, contact the professionals at JES Foundation Repair.