Hurricane Awareness Week Day One – Plan and Prepare

Archived forecast track for Hurricane Fabian in September 2003, provided by the National Hurricane Center.

The last week of May is the Atlantic’s Hurricane Awareness week. The season runs from June 1st to November 30th each year and is characterized by a period where atmospheric and oceanic conditions are favorable for tropical cyclones  (tropical storms and hurricanes) to form. Although the season peaks in September, tropical cyclones can and have impacted Bermuda throughout the season.

Because these storms can be very difficult to predict it is important to plan and prepare early – well in advance of a storm’s approach. Although some preparations must be done as the storm approaches, here are some planning tips for before the season even begins:

  • Know what your family is going to do in the event of an approaching storm – who needs to be contacted, do you need to evacuate, do you have a “safe room*”? What about the pets?
  • At this time, it is a good idea to run through your plan with family members – is everyone on the same page?
  • Check supplies – do you have working flashlights, batteries, etc? These things may be on short supply if a hurricane is threatening.
  • If you have a generator – is it in proper working condition?
  • Important documentation – is your insurance up to date, are these documents (including identification) in a safe secure dry location?
Hurricane Ophelia's eye appears 140miles to the ESE of Bermuda. A well formed eyewall, weaker on the southern side, containing 120mph winds will miss the island.
The eye of Category 4 Hurricane Ophelia passing safely to the east of Bermuda in October 2011 as seen on Bermuda Weather Service Radar.

However, when a storm is a threat to Bermuda and a tropical storm or hurricane watch is issued this means you have 48hours to make the final preparations. Do not delay these preparations; weather can change quickly and unexpectedly. Here are some preparation tips for the approach of a Tropical Cyclone:

  • If you have a boat, do not forget to secure it or remove it from the water well in advance of the storm. High surf and strong currents may make this difficult or dangerous well before the onset of strong winds.
  • Take in outdoor furniture, potted plants, garden equipment, trashcans, etc. – things that could blow around, but can be taken inside. If they cannot come inside, tie or weight them down.
  • Close in storm shutters or board up windows and glass doors with plywood fittings. Tape is not sufficient protection from flying debris.
  • Block gutters with clean rags to prevent debris from entering your tank.
  • Make sure you have a supply of non-perishable food items (foods that do not spoil without refrigeration) – if electricity is cut, refrigerated food could spoil and you run the risk of food poisoning.
  • Make sure you have a supply of fresh water; fill bath tubs, sinks, pots, water bottles with fresh water. Have a bucket and rope handy to dip water straight from the tank as a last resort. If electricity is cut, running water will likely also be cut. Additionally, debris or salt spray may contaminate tank water making it unsafe to drink.
  • Fill prescriptions and have a supply of medicines and first aid supplies.
  • Do not forget about the pets! Have a supply of food, treats, any medications for your pets.
  • Get gas – fill up vehicles, have some gas stored properly for your generator.
  • Have some cash on hand – you may not be able to access ATM or stores might not be able to accept credit cards if electricity is cut.
  • It may be an idea to have a tarpaulin in case you sustain structural damage during the storm, this will reduce water damage after the storm.

* A safe room is a room on the lowest level of your home (could be a basement), that has no/the fewest exterior windows or doors.

The last hurricane to cause significant damage to Bermuda was Major Hurricane Fabian in 2003. With an active season in the forecast, are you ready for the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season? Remember, it only takes one storm for it to be a bad year.

Stay tuned to these very useful links during hurricane season:
Bermuda Emergency Measures Organization
Bermuda Weather Service

Hurricane Awareness Week
National Hurricane Center


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