Holidaying in the hurricane season: how to keep calm before, during and after a storm

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Be ready if a hurricane hits with CD Traveller’s Hurricane Preparedness guide

Hurricane IkeOver the past decade, the number of Britons travelling to the Caribbean during the “off peak” hurricane prone months of July and August has risen sharply – and understandably so. Go at the ‘wrong time’ and you can still enjoy the sun, sand and sea plus popular sights free of crowds and savings of up to 50 per cent on accommodation.
Nonetheless, anyone travelling to a hurricane hotspot (the season runs from June 1-Nov 30) needs to be prepared in the event that a hurricane hits – or else be prepared to suffer. With wind speeds that reach more than 100 mph, hurricanes are without a doubt Mother Nature’s most powerful storms and can cause untold danger and damage when they make landfall – as we learnt last year. Indeed the 2008 hurricane season was the third most costly on record with over US$41 billion in damage. Here are some handy hints to see you safely through the storm.

Before
Don’t wait for a hurricane to hit – have your hurricane preparations down to a science…

Keep a radio or TV tuned to local news so as to stay informed about disaster sirens and other publicly broadcasted warning signals.

Inspect your holiday home or hotel for potential hazards and secure or put away any objects that can be blown about by powerful winds. Close storm shutters and know where and how to shut off your home’s gas and power supplies in case you have to evacuate.

Speaking of which, have an evacuation plan. Decide where you will go should dangerous conditions force you and your family out of your abode. Be sure to share your plan of action with family and friends so that they will know of your whereabouts.

Do your homework; learn the storm surge history and flood potential of your area. Check your insurance policies to ensure they are up-to-date and provide adequate coverage.

Make a written inventory of all your belongings. Secure important documents. Vital papers, passports, driving licenses, wills, stocks, property deeds and insurance policies should be put away in waterproof containers.
Medicines are an important part of your planning; pack all essential medications and refill prescriptions at the start of the season so you have plenty of supplies on hand.

Hired a car? Be sure to fill the gas tank: if local authorities issue an evacuation notice for your area, you want to make sure you have enough fuel for your journey. If you do not have a vehicle, make arrangements ahead of time for transportation out of the danger zone.

Stockpile enough supplies to last without outside assistance (hurricanes can interrupt normal services causing shops to be shut for days or even weeks on end).

During
Make no mistake; riding out a hurricane can be a scary ordeal. Read on for how to stay safe during a storm…

Stay inside at all times and away from windows and glass doors.

Close all interior doors—secure and brace external doors.

Find a ‘safe’ area in your home or hotel (ideally an interior room, a wardrobe, bathroom or hallway on the lowest level) and hole up here.

Continue to listen to your radio or television to ensure you are aware of any changes in the direction, intensity, or path of the hurricane

Set your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting; this will provide an added bit of protection for food should the power go out during the storm.

If you are ordered to evacuate, do so at once – your property can be replaced, you can’t.
If evacuating, unplug all appliances and turn off gas and electricity at the main points.

After
The winds and rains of a violent hurricane may have passed but danger still exists; indeed more deaths occur after a storm than during. Keep safe and sound by observing the following:

Hurricane Kate - Image Courtesy of NASADo not go back to your home or venture outside until an official “all clear” is given.

Do not light candles or attempt to turn on utilities.

Watch for snakes, animals, and insects; they travel inland to higher ground to escape flood waters.

Listen to announcements in the local media to discover if it is safe to use tap water. If in doubt, boil water before you use it for anything – including brushing teeth, cooking, drinking, or bathing. In addition, eat only foods you are absolutely sure are safe. If power has been out, food that was refrigerated or frozen may not be safe to eat.

Report hazards such as downed power lines, broken gas or water mains, overturned gas tanks and the like.

Do not drive. Roads should be left clear for emergency vehicles and debris removal equipment. If you do have to drive, watch for weakened roads, bridges, tree limbs or porches which could collapse unexpectedly.

In short, while plenty of preparation can’t prevent a hurricane hitting, it can help minimise the impact a storm could have.

Hurricane terms
Want to know the difference between a warning and a watch? CD Traveller gives you the low-down on the lingo used by weather forecasters during hurricane season

Advisory: a formal message issued every six hours advising on where the storm is located, how intense it is, where it is moving, and what precautions should be taken

Eye: center of a hurricane with light winds and partly cloudy to clear skies

Eye Wall: the eye wall surrounds the eye of a hurricane and is where the most damaging winds and intense rainfall are found

Gale Warning: sustained winds of 35-54 mph and strong wave action are expected

Hurricane Watch: there is a threat of hurricane conditions within 24-36 hours

Hurricane Warning: a hurricane is expected to strike in under 24 hours with sustained winds of 74 mph or more and dangerously high water

Storm Warning: sustained winds of 55 mph or greater are expected

Tropical Depression: an organized system of clouds and thunderstorms in which the maximum sustained windspeed is 38 mph

Tropical Disturbance: a moving area of thunderstorms is in the tropics

Tropical Storm: an organized system of strong thunderstorms in which the maximum sustained windspeed ranges from 39- 73 mph (34-63 knots)

HURRICANE SCALE:

Category 1: 74-95 mph winds with 4-5 ft. storm surge and minimal damage
Category II: 96-110 mph winds with 6-8 ft. storm surge and moderate damage
Category III: 111-130 mph winds with 9-12 ft. storm surge and major damage
Category IV: 131-155 mph winds with 13-18 ft. storm surge and severe damage

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