Tropical weather season is upon us. If you live in a Tropical Storm or Hurricane prone area, here is some basic information that will hopefully get you started on developing a plan for you and your family in the event that you are threatened this season. The main key in any severe weather preparedness situation is to have supplies on hand and a plan in place ahead of time - that way you don't have to panic when the event is upon you...
First, here is a brief recap of tropical weather watches and warnings. The key here is that if your area is placed under a watch or warning, that's when you need to spring into action and fine tune (during a watch) and/or execute (during a warning) your preparedness and/or evacuation plans:
Tropical Storm Watch: Tropical storm force winds (sustained at 39-73 mph) are possible within the watch area within 48 hours.
Tropical Storm Warning: Tropical storm force winds are expected within the warning area within 36 hours.
Hurricane Watch: Hurricane force winds (sustained at 74 mph or higher) are possible within the watch area. Because preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, a Hurricane Watch is usually issued 48 hours in advance of the expected onset of tropical storm force winds.
Hurricane Warning: Hurricane force winds are expected within the warning area. Because preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, a Hurricane Warning is usually issued 36 hours in advance of the expected onset of tropical storm force winds.
Part of your preparedness efforts should include identifying and planning an evacuation route for you and your family in the event that a storm approaches and you are ordered to evacuate (or choose to do so on your own - which is even better).
If you are advised to evacuate your area by local officials (mandatory or voluntary), please do so. The days of widespread, often unnecessary evacuations "just because" are largely over. If you are advised to evacuate now days, there is a good reason. Don't become a statistic.
Another critical aspect of being prepared for a tropical storm or hurricane is to prepare a severe weather safety kit in advance of the storm (I suggest doing this in advance of the season - then refreshing and/or restocking if a storm approaches). For more information on building your own severe weather safety kit, see this very popular post.
Some other basic suggestions and/or tips that are easily overlooked during an impending tropical weather situation:
-Fill up the gas tank on your primary evacuation vehicle before the "rush" hits in your area.
-If you take prescription or over the counter medication(s) on a daily or regular basis, it would be a good idea to refill and/or restock them prior to the storm hitting.
-If you don't usually keep cash on hand, take some out of the ATM or at the bank before the storm hits. Remember, if the power is out, the ATMs and other electronic means of sending or receiving money will be unavailable - possibly for days or even weeks after a particularly bad storm.
-Gather important papers like Social Security cards, passports, insurance policies, etc., into a zip lock bag and put it in your severe weather safety kit before the storm strikes. That way these important items will be easily accessible in the event of significant damage in your area.
-In the event of a major hurricane strike, cellular and other communication sources could be severely damage and/or highly stressed. Make plans to notify friends and family of your well being via text message or e-mail and leave voice communication channels open for emergency officials and those with a serious need. Another way to handle this would be to designate one family member outside of your area to make contact with and let them spread the word to others.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) has prepared an excellent Tropical Weather Survival Guide that I highly suggest you review (I'd even print it out and place it in your severe weather safety kit) if you live in a hurricane prone area.
If you'd like to track the activity as it approaches your area, you can print a map at the links below:
Atlantic Track Map
Eastern North Pacific Track Map
Not only is pre-planning your tropical weather preparedness efforts about safety, but it's also about peace of mind. If you know that you have the tools and a plan in place ahead of time, you're more likely to react calmly to an impending threat, which will allow you to better protect yourself and your family.
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