Living on the coast, we are used to battening down the hatches and slipping on our rain boots to prepare for rainy weather, so when we hear there is a storm coming we generally just stock up on the essentials: beer, bread, and batteries. Some might even say we are a little too salty when it comes to our outlook on storms. As a fellow coastal dweller, when others scoffed at the lack of evacuations prior to Katrina, I simply shook my head and thought, “Most of us wouldn’t leave either, especially because we would be expected at work the next day”. During my class today, we asked how many of our students had ever experienced a hurricane and the answer was only two out of twenty two. I quickly realized that with so many transplants here, the majority of folks have no idea how to handle this situation. Now that Governor Haley has ordered a mandatory evacuation, people will be scrambling to get ready, especially with the memory of last October’s floods fresh in our minds. You can also sign up for Charleston County Citizen’s Alert if you want current updates and you can find details about the highway reversals here.
With that in mind, here are my top five tips. Please ignore poor formatting- trying to get this to you ASAP!
1. Get documentation.
- Take pictures and video of the inside and outside of your house prior to the storm.
- Farmers need to take pictures of all of your crops, equipment, and infrastructure.
- Gather any and all personal and business receipts, paperwork, and essential documents that you may need for insurance or personal purposes. (including passports, birth certificates, medical records, etc.)
2. Secure your property:
- Make sure you have renters/homeowner’s insurance. For renters, this can often been purchased the same week of a storm and is generally very affordable.
- Buy plastic tubs for all items that could be damaged by water but that you would not be able to evacuate with.
- Make a list of what items you will take with you in case of evacuation.
- If you are in danger of flooding, raise everything off the ground with cinder-blocks, create a sandbag wall around your doors, and duck-tape the bottom seams of the doors from the inside and outside (I have seen more than one case of this actually stopping water from coming in.)
- If you are going to leave your house and evacuate, move valuables away from windows, cover with tarps, hang hurricane protection over your windows, and take what you can.
- Consider parking your vehicle in a parking deck to avoid damage and/or flooding.
- If you evacuate, shut off your water valves and gas line (if you have one), cut-off your main breaker, and unplug everything before you leave.
- Getting contact information from your neighbors so if you evacuate you can find out how your house is.
3. Collect Supplies:
This is a checklist from NOAA. Also consider what you would need to take in case of an evacuation.
- Water– at least 1 gallon daily per person for 3 to 7 days
- Food – at least enough for 3 to 7 days
- non-perishable packaged or canned food / juices
- foods for infants or the elderly
- snack foods
- non-electric can opener
- cooking tools / fuel (propane camping stove and fuel)
- paper plates / plastic utensils
- Blankets / Pillows, etc.
- Clothing – seasonal / rain gear/ sturdy shoes
- First Aid Kit / Medicines / Prescription Drugs
- Special Items – for babies and the elderly
- Toiletries / Hygiene items / Moisture wipes
- Flashlight / Batteries
- Radio – Battery operated and NOAA weather radio
- Telephones – Fully charged cell phone with extra battery and a traditional (not cordless) telephone set
- Cash (with some small bills) and Credit Cards – Banks and ATMs may not be available for extended periods
- Toys, Books and Games
- Important documents – in a waterproof container or watertight resealable plastic bags.
- Tools – keep a set with you during the storm
- Vehicle fuel tanks filled (buy extra gas can and fill as well)
- Pet care items
- proper identification / immunization records / medications
- ample supply of food and water
- a carrier or cage
- muzzle and leash
4. Make a plan for staying AND evacuating.
Obviously, you need to make this decision based on what is most appropriate for you and your situation. That being said, here are some things to consider.
- What category is the storm? Category 3 and above should evacuate but if you are living in an area that could flood, be cut off by flooding of roads, or is isolated- any hurricane can pose a threat. (Check out the map below to get an idea for how bad the storm surge can be.)
- What type of home do you live in? Can your house get flooded? Are their any large trees over your house that could come through the house? Do you have a safe place in the house with no windows that you can safely hide? If flood waters rose, would you be able to climb to higher ground?
- If you were to be cut off from power and water for 7-10 days, would you be able to survive off of the supplies you currently have?
- Do you have somewhere safer to go? Consider asking around with family, friends and co-workers to see if there is an alternative place for you to go, how long you can stay, and if your pets are welcome.
- Will your employer expect you to return the day after the hurricane? You would be surprised.
5. Get ready for a LONG commute.
- Fill up your gas tank and potentially even fill up an extra. Traffic will be extreme and even with highways reversing to accommodate flow, it will be a long journey.
- Pack snacks, drinks, and games for yourself (and the kids) but keep in mind that there may not be a lot of stops for bathroom breaks.
- Make sure your car has plenty of air in the tires and all fluids are topped off (oil, coolant, etc).
Other things people often forget.
- Extra coolers filled with ice-packs to unpack your fridge into if the power goes out.
- Generator and fuel is always a fun item (if you have the money…)
- Fill your bath-tubs and sinks with water the night/day of the hurricane… this way you will have even more potable water.
- Expect excessive evacuation delays and how much gas this could potentially use.
- In addition to filling your car with gas, check all fluids, tire pressure, filters, etc.
- Either own or know someone with a chain-saw and fuel.
- Let other people know your plan so they don’t have to worry!