With the start of hurricane season just days away, the week of May 15-21 is Hurricane Preparedness Week. There are a few guarantees which are part of life in South Florida as we approach the end of May: the summer months will be hot, the rain will happen daily like clockwork, and the threat of hurricanes will be front and center on the minds of those who live here.
The Atlantic hurricane season officially lasts six months, and while our area has not been threatened by a major storm since Hurricane Wilma struck in 2005, this knowledge is tempered by the realization that past results are no guarantee of the future. With this in mind, we urge residents to stock up on supplies and prepare their homes for a storm.
Some of the items to keep on hand seem pretty obvious at first glance: three to five days’ worth of nonperishable food items and plenty of bottled water, for a start. Also, be sure to have batteries and flashlights at the ready, because relying on candles and matches in times of power outages can be dangerous. Plasticware, paper plates and emergency cooking supplies (such as a propane camping stove and, of course, propane) are also things many families should consider obtaining, if you have not done so already.
There are a few other items that don’t usually come to mind, but should be considered as well: a first aid kit; extra cash on hand; extra prescription medicine; a manual can opener; a backup supply of baby food and supplies if you have little ones; and a backup supply of pet supplies if you have pets. And if a storm appears headed our way, you’ll want to fill up the tank, but be mindful; there could be long lines at the pumps, and some gas stations might run out of fuel before you pull up to the pump.
To be better prepared, you should also contact your insurance agency to ensure that you have enough homeowners’, renters’ and/or flood insurance in case disaster strikes. According to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association, since 1963, storm surge has caused nearly half of the hurricane-related deaths in the United States. Water, not wind, has accounted for nearly 90 percent of all tropical cyclone deaths in the U.S. during that time.
Should a storm be on track for landfall, you’ll want to make sure to bring items such as patio furniture into storage from outside. In high winds, these can become high-velocity missiles capable of destroying windows of cars and homes.
Keep a list of emergency numbers with you, and mark important numbers in your cell phone with “ICE” (in case of emergency) designations. Also, it’s not a bad idea to download important hurricane-related applications to your cell phone, such as those of the Weather Channel (www.weather.com/apps) and the American Red Cross (www.redcross.org/mobile-apps/hurricane-app).
If you need to evacuate, where will you go? Both Palm Beach Central and Seminole Ridge high schools are American Red Cross shelters in our area. If you have a pet, make sure the shelter you are considering is pet-friendly.
The storm experts are predicting an “average” number of named storms this season. While that might sound like good news to those who have not lived through a deadly hurricane season, remember: it only takes one well-aimed storm to deliver a powerful wallop of misery and destruction.