We live in the South, so come September, we know that hurricane season is around the corner — and it’s not just about hockey! While North Carolina often stays out of the path of the worst of the damage, we’re not always so lucky. Some hurricanes head right for us, and some have been known to turn at the last minute, catching us unaware. (Remember Hurricane Fran? We sure do.)
So it’s a smart move to get and stay prepared for hurricane season. All households should follow hurricane preparedness guidelines that can help them weather the worst of the storms. You can’t control Mother Nature, but you can do as much as possible to minimize your risk of damage or injury.
PREPARING BEFORE A HURRICANE
1) Have an evacuation plan.
If you have time before a hurricane makes landfall and it’s recommended that you evacuate — then do! Everything will run smoothly if you have an evacuation plan in place beforehand. Each family member should know exactly what he or she is responsible for bringing. If you have many children, teach the older ones to get the younger ones ready.
You should also think about where you can go. Do you have out-of-state relatives? Is there a favorite inn out of the storm’s path? Evacuation doesn’t have to be chaos; a little forethought goes a long way.
2) Have an emergency plan.
Sometimes there’s just not time to evacuate. If that’s the case, everyone in your family needs to know what to do. Find a place on the ground floor of your house, or in your basement if you have one. Make sure the location is as far as possible from any windows — hall bathrooms or master bedroom closets are often ideal. Know the location of flashlights, candles, and matches, and take them with you when you get into your emergency location. You should bring any necessary supplies or medications because leaving the shelter while the storm is going on is not a good idea.
If the storm is expected to be particularly bad, you may want to have a mattress nearby. If it looks like your roof is going to be damaged or destroyed, get under the mattress for protection from debris.
3) Keep your trees well trimmed.
It’s easy to let calling the arborist slip off your to-do list again and again, because those sagging tree limbs don’t do you much harm for most of the year. But if a hurricane happens upon your house, you’ll regret your ragged foliage. It’s far too easy for overhanging limbs to snap and fall straight on — or through — your roof or onto cars in the driveway. This can cause tremendous damage to your property, and if you’re still in your home during the storm, it puts every person in your home at risk.
4) Get a portable generator and stock supplies.
If your family is affected by a hurricane, your whole area may be without power, water, or telephone service for quite some time. Public service personnel work hard after natural disasters to get everything up and running, but it can take some time. If you have a portable generator you can power your house enough to keep food from spoiling and to cook for your family — and your neighbors! Stocking gallons of water and lots of canned goods ensures that you’ll have enough food to last you through the disaster if it becomes impossible to leave your neighborhood. Think ahead.
PREPARING FOR AN IMMINENT HURRICANE
5) Cover your windows with storm shutters or plywood.
What’s the most vulnerable point of entry in your home? Your windows. Glass often doesn’t stand a chance against hurricane-strength winds or flying objects, and once your windows are open to the elements, water damage to your floors and drywall is almost certain. Flying glass is also a danger to your family if you’re still in your home during the storm, as are any projectiles that happen through them. And, worst of all, the pressure change inside your homecan lift your roof off or collapse your walls.
If you don’t have storm shutters, nail or screw sheets of plywood to the outside of your house (not your window frames!). Use thick plywood (⅝” should do the trick) and secure the boards to an area several inches wider than your windows on all sides. If you know you live in storm country, it’s a good idea to have pre-drilled holes and correctly sized sheets of plywood on hand at all times. No one wants to be stuck racing to the hardware store the day before a hurricane makes landfall.
6) Secure loose shingles, gutters, downspouts, and the garage door.
The more you can do to secure potential flying objects before a bad storm, the better. Hurricane winds are at least 75 miles per hour, and depending on the severity of the storm can reach as more than 150 miles per hour. Shingles, tree branches, stray yard toys, loose gutters, and even your garage door could become weaponized in winds of that speed, shattering windows and doing tremendous damage to your home. Worse, the breach of an attached garage will cause air pressure changes that can blow your roof off or create cracks in your siding. Nail down or collect any loose objects, on your roof or otherwise, and secure garage doors.
Garage doors in storm-prone areas are required to meet building code requirements in order to stand up to most hurricanes. However, you also need to make sure your mounting area and track are secure with heavy-gauge brackets. If your garage door isn’t up to snuff, secure it with a bracing system — you’ll be able to find a good one at your local hardware store. Likewise, make sure your gutters and downspouts are attached to the house properly.
7) Fill your gas tank.
If a hurricane is headed your way, you may need to get out of town quickly. In the flurry of other preparations, it’s easy to forget that you’ll need gas to get there! Though it’s a good idea in general to keep your gas tank above the halfway-full line, it’s especially important before a storm to top off the tank. Make a stop at the gas station a priority as soon as you hear that a bad storm is on its way.
8) Keep a (paper!) map in your car.
We know — it’s the digital age. Who needs maps when we’ve got smartphones? But in a hurricane, you never know what public utilities may be down. If cell phone towers are offline and you’re trying to get out of town in a hurry, especially if you’re driving to shelter in another state, you need a good old-fashioned paper map in your glovebox.
YOU CAN COUNT ON NEWCOMB AND COMPANY
Once the dust has settled and the trees are cleared off the roads, remember: you can contact Newcomb and Company for help with any damage to your A/C and heating system or your plumbing. In the more than 60 years we’ve been in operation in North Carolina, Newcomb and Company has seen our fair share of bad hurricanes. We know what it takes to get your home back up and running, and we’ll work hard to do it — not just because you’re our customers, but because you’re our neighbors.
In a disaster, a community needs to pull together and get each other through. Newcomb and Company takes our commitment to our community seriously. After the storm ends, our work begins.