A pandemic and a hurricane? Yes, it could happen.

Imaging self-isolating at home, and being without power, running water, or access to food for days, if not weeks. It’s a reality we hope never materializes, but one we can’t be certain of. Therefore, attempting to stock up on everyday essentials now will make surviving a storm much easier, and it could possibly save your life.

The 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season is only weeks away, and experts say it could be more active than normal. Like most of us recently, mitigation experts are adjusting to a new normal in how we prepare.

“This year, because of the coronavirus, we are focused on things we can do at home, items that are affordable, and tasks that are simple."

Leslie Chapman-Henderson is the CEO and founder of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH). She was a bit surprised to find out, based on a recent survey, that more people are taking preparation seriously.

“Seven percent more plan to prepare this year over last, likely because they know they might not be able to get what they need if they wait until the last minute,” she added.

Leslies also suggested to sign up for online notifications on items that may be out of stock.

VIEW OUR COMPLETE HURRICANE GUIDE

According to the Florida Division of Emergency Management, emergency kits should hold at least seven days worth of food, water and clothing per person. If that seems out of reach for you now, starting with just three days worth can go a long way.

If you’re in a hurry, we’ve provided a few ready-made lists from our various partners below.

The supplies don’t all have to be purchased at once, unless you and everyone else wait until the last minute. And we all know how much stress that can cause. To help you formulate your own list, we’ve outlined things you might want to consider the next time you find yourself at the store or doing some online shopping.

Food and Water

Water and non-perishable food items should be essential to any emergency kit. Make sure that there is one gallon per person per day of water, for a total of at least 7 days. Avoid stocking up on fresh food items, such as vegetables, fruits and meats. Instead, stock up on non-perishable items such as canned soups, dried fruits and vegetables, bread, crackers, cereal, and protein pouches. Additionally, do not forget to buy a hand-operated can opener. And finally, don’t forget the supplies for your infants, including boxed or powdered milk, baby formula, and diapers.

Your Pets

You will need to plan for your pets just as you would humans. Be aware that many evacuation shelter do not accept animals, so preparing a safe place for them ahead of the storm is vital. Check with your local veterinarian on shelters that will keep your animals safe during and after the storm, until you can safely return to retrieve them.

If you shelter in place with your pet, or will be staying at a pet-friendly shelter, you’ll need to have an emergency kit to fit their needs. Similar to humans, your pet will need a gallon of water per day, enough food, and any medications needed for up to 2 weeks. Pack up their water and food bowls along with paper pads for your dogs and litter boxes for your cats. M

You’ll also want to bring a copy of your pets’s documentation, which includes their vaccine information, phone number and location of their veterinarian, ownership documentation, and ID tags. You will need these items for when you bring them to a shelter and when you return to retrieve them.

Clothing and Linens

If you are sheltering in place, you’ll need to have clothing that will keep you dry and comfortable. It is usually very warm after a hurricane departs. Be sure to have one full change of clothes, protective rain gear, and sturdy waterproof shoes.

Consider the types of clothing you will pack when ordered to evacuate. You may not be able to return to your home for days or even weeks after a hurricane. Make sure that you and your family each have clean clothes for up to a week after the storm has passed. Bring items that will keep you comfortable at night, including blankets, sleeping bags, and pillows.

Medical Supplies

Toilet paper, paper towels, and sanitary wipes are often forgotten. Shelters may not always provide these essentials. Disinfectant soap, dry shampoo, face masks and basic hygienic products are also good ideas to keep clean and healthy, especially with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, remember to call your doctor and pharmacy ahead of the storm to acquire essential medication. Make sure you have enough medication to last through the event and in the weeks after. This includes insulin, inhalers, epi-pens, and other vital medications. Have a medical kit on hand which includes bandages, disinfectant, instant cold packs, face masks, aspirin, and ibuprofen.

Household Items

If you ride the storm out at home, you may need to perform some basic repairs to keep your space dry and safe. A basic tool kit which includes a hammer, nails and screws, a saw, wrench, tarp, and screwdriver is recommended. These tools will also come in handy if you need to manually turn off utilities, like gas or water pipes, that may be damaged.

Flashlights, battery operated radios, power banks, and spare batteries are essential to keep devices running. Communication and cell phone towers may be down from the storm. Having a battery operated radio may be the fastest way to receive information in the coming days after the storm.

Important Documents

In addition to paper copies, save virtual copies of important documents onto a USB memory stick, in addition to your cloud drive, and place it securely in the kit. Make sure you pack personal identification cards, including copies of your driver’s license, passport, social security, state issued ID and birth certificates, to name a few.

Copies of insurance information should also be taken with you if you are evacuating, such as health and dental, home, renters, life, automobile, and flood policies.

Emergency personnel will often not allow you to return to your neighborhood after the storm if you do not provide documentation, including a housing deed, lease and mortgage information.

Make copies of your banking information and any legal documents which may include, but are not limited to: wills, power of attorney, marriage and divorce certificates, adoption papers, and custody documents.

In the days following the passage of the hurricane, ATM machines and banks will likely be closed. Make sure you bring enough cash with you to buy essential supplies after the storm. Gas pumps will likely be shut down stranding many residents on roadways. Fill up your tank before the storm arrives.

Finally, write out a list of family and emergency contact information which can include phone numbers, emails and addresses. Do not depend on technology alone to store contact information. Power may be out for days or weeks after the event.

Entertainment

As you ride out the storm in your home or in a shelter, you will have a good deal of time on your hands. To alleviate boredom, stress, and anxiety, you’ll want to have ways to distract you and your family. Pack a few toys, board games, crayons, and books to help relieve the pressure of the situation. Do not rely on video games or electronic entertainment as power is likely to go out.

Hurricane season officially begins June 1 and lasts through November 30. The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) has a newly designed website with many great resources for continuing your storm season preparations. You can also find helpful information in the Florida Storms app under the “Get Ready” section.

Not everyone needs to evacuate from a hurricane, but if you do, knowing your zone will make it much easier to know when to go.

As a hurricane approaches, emergency managers will tell residents when to leave based on the zone they live in. Even if you can’t see the water, it may still be necessary to evacuate depending on your proximity to nearby waterways and points of access. Conversely, if you don’t need to evacuate, you may be asked to ride out the storm at home to prevent unnecessary traffic on evacuation routes.

There are several different ways to find out your evacuation zone. The Florida Division of Emergency Management outlines the counties that have evacuation zones in this interactive desktop map.

The Florida Storms app is a free service of the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network. The “Evacuate” button near the bottom of the home screen will find your location and show you if which zone you’re in. When a storm is approaching, public radio stations throughout the state will provide the latest storm and evacuation information which can be live streamed from the app.

There are also counties in the state that are not vulnerable to surge flooding, but may experience freshwater flooding from heavy rain, high winds, and tornadoes. These counties may not be in a particular surge zone, but at the discretion of emergency managers, evacuation orders may be issued depending on the greatest threats a storm poses. Local media and county emergency managers will provide this information in the event of an emergency.

Once you’ve determined your evacuation zone, it’s a good idea to map out an evacuation route. Knowing the designated routes allow you to map out the best location to safety, depending on the storm’s track. It’s important to move perpendicular to the storm’s track. For example, if the storm is moving east to west, your best option is to travel north.

During an emergency, the Florida Division of Emergency Management says your local emergency management offices should always be consulted for evacuation orders related to your hometown or county.

GO TO NEXT STEPS

Hurricanes are not just a coastal problem. Life and property can also be at risk hundreds of miles inland. The hazards, however, are not the same for all locations.

Most residents in hurricane prone areas understand how intense the winds can be. However, many may not realize -- or prepare for -- other hazards a storm presents, several of which that are far more deadly than the wind.

Understanding your risk is the first step to preparing for the possible life-altering effects from a storm.

First, tap where you live...
On the coast
Near the coast
Well inland

When you live on the coast, you are at risk from ALL hazards of a hurricane.

When you live close to the coast, you are most at risk from extreme wind, power outages and flooding. However, depending on your elevation and proximity to water, you could also be at risk from a storm surge.

Inland residents are at risk of tornadoes, wind damage, power outages, and flooding from hurricanes.

Storm Surge

Storm surge is often misunderstood, extremely complex to forecast, and even more difficult to visualize.

Nearly half of all hurricane-related fatalities have come from the surge, according to a National Hurricane Center study that looked at direct deaths from tropical cyclones between 1963 and 2012.

According to the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH), creators of the #HurricaneStrong initiative, the first step to understanding your storm surge risk is to know your evacuation zone. You can find your zone in the Florida Storms app by tapping the menu item “Evacuate”.

Storm surge can be best described as water that is pushed over the shoreline by the force of the winds. It takes the shape of a broad, rolling hill of water. It can move inland at the rate of up to one mile every three or four minutes. The surge height can be up to two stories tall along the coast and can flood communities and neighborhoods several miles inland. The water is often driven by hurricane force winds, moving at a rate of up to one mile every four minutes. It can also be filled with dangerous debris, sewage, and electrical currents from fallen power lines.

Storm surge damage from Hurricane Michael in 2018 (NHC).

The height of storm surge in a particular area also depends on the slope of the continental shelf. A shallow slope near the coast will allow a greater surge to inundate coastal communities, such as Gulf Coast states. Communities along a steeper continental shelf will generally not see as much surge inundation.

In 2010, 39% of the nation’s population lived in counties that were directly on a shoreline. That population is projected to increase by an additional 8% in 2020. Much of the United State’s densely populated coastlines lie less than 10 feet above mean sea level. The city of New Orleans, for example, is built below sea level, a factor which contributed to significant loss of life when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.

Storm Surge

Storm surge is often misunderstood, extremely complex to forecast, and even more difficult to visualize.

Nearly half of all hurricane-related fatalities have come from the surge, according to a National Hurricane Center study that looked at direct deaths from tropical cyclones between 1963 and 2012.

According to the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH), creators of the #HurricaneStrong initiative, the first step to understanding your storm surge risk is to know your evacuation zone. You can find your zone in the Florida Storms app by tapping the menu item “Evacuate”.

Storm surge can be best described as water that is pushed over the shoreline by the force of the winds. It takes the shape of a broad, rolling hill of water. It can move inland at the rate of up to one mile every three or four minutes. The surge height can be up to two stories tall along the coast and can flood communities and neighborhoods several miles inland. The water is often driven by hurricane force winds, moving at a rate of up to one mile every four minutes. It can also be filled with dangerous debris, sewage, and electrical currents from fallen power lines.

Storm surge damage from Hurricane Michael in 2018 (NHC).

The height of storm surge in a particular area also depends on the slope of the continental shelf. A shallow slope near the coast will allow a greater surge to inundate coastal communities, such as Gulf Coast states. Communities along a steeper continental shelf will generally not see as much surge inundation.

In 2010, 39% of the nation’s population lived in counties that were directly on a shoreline. That population is projected to increase by an additional 8% in 2020. Much of the United State’s densely populated coastlines lie less than 10 feet above mean sea level. The city of New Orleans, for example, is built below sea level, a factor which contributed to significant loss of life when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.

Extreme Wind and Power Outages

Tropical cyclones are known for their powerful winds, and they are not just confined to coastal areas. Hurricane-force winds can travel dozens of miles inland after a hurricane makes landfall, causing considerable structural damage and power outages that can last days, maybe even weeks.

The two most important steps to prepare for the wind is to strengthen your home and build a supply kit. If you’re on a budget or short on time, FLASH says damage prevention is easy as learning your “ABC’s”. Supply kit checklists, such as this printable one from FEMA, are a great resource to have in hand while shopping.

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale categorizes a storm from 1 to 5 based on the intensity of the winds. However, when the National Hurricane Center issues a statement to the public concerning the wind and category, that value is for sustained winds only. The hurricane scale does not include gusts or squalls.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration based on data from Florida Division of Emergency Management and NOAA National Hurricane Center

The highest wind speeds are typically found in the eye wall of the hurricane and generally in the area to right of the eye, known as the right-front quadrant. This section of the storm tends to also have the most damaging storm surge. Areas that are forecast to go through this quadrant typically experience the heaviest damage. This powerful quadrant can sustain its strength over land for some time before the tropical cyclone begins to weaken.

Power outages from Hurricane Irma in 2017 were reported in every Florida county except five. In fact, some of the most widespread outages occurred more than 200 miles from where it made landfall in portions of northeast Florida. Wind speeds in these areas only reached tropical storm force (39 to 73 mph), but that was still strong enough to knock down trees and bring down power lines.

In 2018, Category 5 Hurricane Michael came ashore near Mexico Beach, Florida. Areas along the shoreline experienced catastrophic damage from winds up to 160 mph. The storm maintained its major hurricane strength as it pushed into Georgia, more than 60 miles from where it came ashore, continuing to flatten homes and topple trees. The strong winds from Michael also caused extensive power outages as far north as Virginia, more than 24 hours after landfall.

Extreme Wind and Power Outages

Tropical cyclones are known for their powerful winds, and they are not just confined to coastal areas. Hurricane-force winds can travel dozens of miles inland after a hurricane makes landfall, causing considerable structural damage and power outages that can last days, maybe even weeks.

The two most important steps to prepare for the wind is to strengthen your home and build a supply kit. If you’re on a budget or short on time, FLASH says damage prevention is easy as learning your “ABC’s”. Supply kit checklists, such as this printable one from FEMA, are a great resource to have in hand while shopping.

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale categorizes a storm from 1 to 5 based on the intensity of the winds. However, when the National Hurricane Center issues a statement to the public concerning the wind and category, that value is for sustained winds only. The hurricane scale does not include gusts or squalls.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration based on data from Florida Division of Emergency Management and NOAA National Hurricane Center

The highest wind speeds are typically found in the eye wall of the hurricane and generally in the area to right of the eye, known as the right-front quadrant. This section of the storm tends to also have the most damaging storm surge. Areas that are forecast to go through this quadrant typically experience the heaviest damage. This powerful quadrant can sustain its strength over land for some time before the tropical cyclone begins to weaken.

Power outages from Hurricane Irma in 2017 were reported in every Florida county except five. In fact, some of the most widespread outages occurred more than 200 miles from where it made landfall in portions of northeast Florida. Wind speeds in these areas only reached tropical storm force (39 to 73 mph), but that was still strong enough to knock down trees and bring down power lines.

In 2018, Category 5 Hurricane Michael came ashore near Mexico Beach, Florida. Areas along the shoreline experienced catastrophic damage from winds up to 160 mph. The storm maintained its major hurricane strength as it pushed into Georgia, more than 60 miles from where it came ashore, continuing to flatten homes and topple trees. The strong winds from Michael also caused extensive power outages as far north as Virginia, more than 24 hours after landfall.

Extreme Wind and Power Outages

Tropical cyclones are known for their powerful winds, and they are not just confined to coastal areas. Hurricane-force winds can travel dozens of miles inland after a hurricane makes landfall, causing considerable structural damage and power outages that can last days, maybe even weeks.

The two most important steps to prepare for the wind is to strengthen your home and build a supply kit. If you’re on a budget or short on time, FLASH says damage prevention is easy as learning your “ABC’s”. Supply kit checklists, such as this printable one from FEMA, are a great resource to have in hand while shopping.

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale categorizes a storm from 1 to 5 based on the intensity of the winds. However, when the National Hurricane Center issues a statement to the public concerning the wind and category, that value is for sustained winds only. The hurricane scale does not include gusts or squalls.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration based on data from Florida Division of Emergency Management and NOAA National Hurricane Center

The highest wind speeds are typically found in the eye wall of the hurricane and generally in the area to right of the eye, known as the right-front quadrant. This section of the storm tends to also have the most damaging storm surge. Areas that are forecast to go through this quadrant typically experience the heaviest damage. This powerful quadrant can sustain its strength over land for some time before the tropical cyclone begins to weaken.

Power outages from Hurricane Irma in 2017 were reported in every Florida county except five. In fact, some of the most widespread outages occurred more than 200 miles from where it made landfall in portions of northeast Florida. Wind speeds in these areas only reached tropical storm force (39 to 73 mph), but that was still strong enough to knock down trees and bring down power lines.

In 2018, Category 5 Hurricane Michael came ashore near Mexico Beach, Florida. Areas along the shoreline experienced catastrophic damage from winds up to 160 mph. The storm maintained its major hurricane strength as it pushed into Georgia, more than 60 miles from where it came ashore, continuing to flatten homes and topple trees. The strong winds from Michael also caused extensive power outages as far north as Virginia, more than 24 hours after landfall.

Flooding

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Tropical storms and hurricanes also threaten the United States with torrential rains and flooding. Even after the strong winds have diminished, the flooding potential of these storms can remain for several days.

A common misperception is that homeowner's insurance covers a loss from flooding. This is not true with most policies. It’s also widely believed that the federal government can pay for your damages after a flood. While some agencies do provide assistance after a major event, the amount typically comes up far short of what it actually costs to fully restore your property or livelihood. When preparing for the season ahead, consider purchasing flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) as soon as possible.

Since 1970, nearly 60% of the 600 deaths due to floods associated with tropical cyclones occurred inland from the storm’s landfall. Of that 60%, almost a fourth (23%) of U.S. tropical cyclone deaths occur to people who drown in, or attempting to abandon, their cars.

It is a common misconception to think that the stronger the storm is, the greater the potential for flooding. This is not always the case. In fact, large and slow moving tropical cyclones, regardless of strength, are the ones that usually produce the most flooding. This was evident with Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 which devastated portions of Southeast Texas with severe flooding, despite only having maximum winds of 60 mph.

Sixteen years later it would happen again, in the same area. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey came ashore as a major Category 4 hurricane before quickly weakening over southeast Texas. Although Harvey quickly weakened to a Tropical Storm, the system became almost stationary over the region for days. Southeast Texas saw the worst of the flooding as heavy rains delivered more than 40 inches of rain to some areas in less than 48 hours.

Flooding

Tropical storms and hurricanes also threaten the United States with torrential rains and flooding. Even after the strong winds have diminished, the flooding potential of these storms can remain for several days.

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A common misperception is that homeowner's insurance covers a loss from flooding. This is not true with most policies. It’s also widely believed that the federal government can pay for your damages after a flood. While some agencies do provide assistance after a major event, the amount typically comes up far short of what it actually costs to fully restore your property or livelihood. When preparing for the season ahead, consider purchasing flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) as soon as possible.

Since 1970, nearly 60% of the 600 deaths due to floods associated with tropical cyclones occurred inland from the storm’s landfall. Of that 60%, almost a fourth (23%) of U.S. tropical cyclone deaths occur to people who drown in, or attempting to abandon, their cars.

It is a common misconception to think that the stronger the storm is, the greater the potential for flooding. This is not always the case. In fact, large and slow moving tropical cyclones, regardless of strength, are the ones that usually produce the most flooding. This was evident with Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 which devastated portions of Southeast Texas with severe flooding, despite only having maximum winds of 60 mph.

Sixteen years later it would happen again, in the same area. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey came ashore as a major Category 4 hurricane before quickly weakening over southeast Texas. Although Harvey quickly weakened to a Tropical Storm, the system became almost stationary over the region for days. Southeast Texas saw the worst of the flooding as heavy rains delivered more than 40 inches of rain to some areas in less than 48 hours.

Tornadoes

Tropical cyclones often produce tornadoes, which can contribute to the overall destructive power of a storm. Similar to storm surge and extreme wind, tornadoes are more likely to occur in the right-front quadrant of the hurricane relative to its motion. However, they can also be found throughout the storm.

A tornado spawned by a tropical storm or hurricane usually develops quickly, sometimes with little warning. It is critical to have multiple ways of receiving alerts during a hurricane, such as tornado warnings, should there be a loss of power. We encourage the use of a battery-powered NOAA weather radio or a mobile app with push notifications.

Tornadoes associated with tropical cyclones are usually less intense than those that occur in Tornado Alley and Dixie Alley. They can occur for days after landfall, even when a hurricane dissipates to a remnant low. Although these tornadoes are generally weak, the effects of tornadoes can produce substantial damage for anyone in the path of an approaching hurricane.

Tornadoes

Tropical cyclones often produce tornadoes, which can contribute to the overall destructive power of a storm. Similar to storm surge and extreme wind, tornadoes are more likely to occur in the right-front quadrant of the hurricane relative to its motion. However, they can also be found throughout the storm.

A tornado spawned by a tropical storm or hurricane usually develops quickly, sometimes with little warning. It is critical to have multiple ways of receiving alerts during a hurricane, such as tornado warnings, should there be a loss of power. We encourage the use of a battery-powered NOAA weather radio or a mobile app with push notifications.

Tornadoes associated with tropical cyclones are usually less intense than those that occur in Tornado Alley and Dixie Alley. They can occur for days after landfall, even when a hurricane dissipates to a remnant low. Although these tornadoes are generally weak, the effects of tornadoes can produce substantial damage for anyone in the path of an approaching hurricane.

Tornadoes

Tropical cyclones often produce tornadoes, which can contribute to the overall destructive power of a storm. Similar to storm surge and extreme wind, tornadoes are more likely to occur in the right-front quadrant of the hurricane relative to its motion. However, they can also be found throughout the storm.

A tornado spawned by a tropical storm or hurricane usually develops quickly, sometimes with little warning. It is critical to have multiple ways of receiving alerts during a hurricane, such as tornado warnings, should there be a loss of power. We encourage the use of a battery-powered NOAA weather radio or a mobile app with push notifications.

Tornadoes associated with tropical cyclones are usually less intense than those that occur in Tornado Alley and Dixie Alley. They can occur for days after landfall, even when a hurricane dissipates to a remnant low. Although these tornadoes are generally weak, the effects of tornadoes can produce substantial damage for anyone in the path of an approaching hurricane.

Now is the time

The official start to the North Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1 and lasts through Nov. 30.

Developing and reviewing an evacuation plan is crucial as hurricane season draws near. Learn your evacuation zone, and know where to go in the event of an evacuation order.

Collect and assemble a disaster supply which includes food, water, medication, important documents, and sentimental items.

Strengthen your home and check on family, friends and neighbors. Help individuals collect supplies before the storm and assist them with evacuation if ordered to do so. Check in on them, especially the elderly, after the storm has passed and it is safe to do so.

Hurricane season is approaching, and with the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery ongoing, it is now more important than ever to be prepared for the next storm.

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