Hurricanes are tropical cyclones with dangerous winds, storm surge and heavy rains. A storm becomes a hurricane once its wind speeds reach 74 miles per hour. Whether a storm is referred to as a “hurricane,” “typhoon” or a “tropical cyclone” varies based on where they form.
Only storms that form on either side of North America in the Pacific or Atlantic are referred to as “Hurricanes.” Storms that form in the Pacific Ocean in Southeast Asia are referred to as Typhoons, while storms in the Indian Ocean and those near Australia or east of Africa are referred to as Tropical Cyclones.
A hurricane’s high winds can endanger your life and cause significant property damage. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina killed over 1,000 people and caused major destruction in Louisiana. Many areas affected by Hurricane Katrina never fully recovered.
Although Florida’s Hurricane Andrew in 1992 had a low fatality rate of just 65 deaths, it still caused $27.3 billion of damages in 1992 dollars. An estimated 1.4 million Floridians lost power during the storm and some parts of the state didn’t have power fully restored for a full month due to infrastructure damage. The ecological toll was also dramatic, with an estimated 70,000 acres of trees being drowned in the Everglades.
Hurricane Andrew was also the start of the Everglade’s invasive Burmese python problem. The snakes escaped into the wild from a facility damaged by the storm.
Hurricanes can have both short-term and long-term consequences, and they should always be taken seriously.
If you live on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Southeast Coast or Southwest Coast – or near any major inland bodies of water – your home may have an elevated risk for hurricane damage. Where in the state you’re located does influence the severity of damage and your risk for injury or death.
Hurricanes do weaken once they are no longer over warm Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico waters, which results in a drop in wind speed. Although storm surge can reach terrifying heights and push many miles inland, its range is not limitless.
However, some homeowners living near inland waterways or lakes in Florida underestimate the reach of flood waters. Even when lakes are dozens of miles from the coast, their water levels can still rise considerably during a hurricane, which may lead to flooding of nearby properties.
An evacuation plan is vital for protecting your family against a hurricane. Although many Florida families do have evacuation plans, they sometimes forget to update or review them each hurricane season. Schools and businesses have fire drills so students and employees know what to do in the event of a real fire. Your family should consider doing something similar for hurricane preparedness.
If you live in a locale where hurricanes are a real potential threat, an evacuation plan will help ensure you aren’t scrambling for shelter if your house floods or you must escape for another reason.
Stock up on water and nonperishable foods that will last your family a few days, whether you shelter at home or evacuate. You should also consider storing flashlights, a radio and a first-aid kit.
Solar-powered chargers can be handy for recharging electronics in the event of long-term power outages.
You can download our hurricane preparedness kit checklist for a detailed list of things to include in your hurricane kit.
Families who shelter in place should be careful with traditional generators. Every year there are hurricane deaths related to CO poisoning from improperly ventilated generators being used during hurricane power outages. If your family does have a generator, never run it inside and make sure it’s operated a safe distance from open windows or doors.
You can protect your home by checking your area’s hurricane building code requirements and upgrading your home to meet relevant criteria. Another way you can protect your home by contacting your insurance company to ensure you have adequate insurance to cover property damaged caused by storms and wind.
Read our blog on hurricane home and business preparation for specific tips on ways to improve your home’s hurricane defenses.
If a hurricane is coming, try to watch the news or keep your weather radio nearby. Emergency procedures are implemented by meteorological and disaster response professionals for your family’s safety. You should think carefully before making risky decisions like sheltering at home and ignoring evacuation orders.
Just because the hurricane is over doesn’t mean everything is safe. After a hurricane, you should avoid flooded areas because there could be pollutants, broken glass, sharp metal or dangerous animals lurking beneath murky waters.
The water may also be electrically charged from fallen power lines. You should practice caution when you return home if your home is badly damaged because there could be dangers like structural damage or mold from water damage.
The first thing you should do is file a claim with your insurance company. The insurance company will be inundated with claims, so the sooner you act the better.
If your property has been damaged by a hurricane and you don’t believe the insurance company is treating your claim fairly, it may be in your best interest to speak with a public adjuster or property damage lawyer.