The hurricane highseason (August to October) is just around the corner. Time to remember what to do, if a hurricane is about to show up. How we protected ourselves from Hurricane Irma last year and what the forecasts for 2018 are, is explained in this article.
But first I want to provide some facts about these huge storms. Hurricanes are an annual phenomenon, especially in our latitudes, where whole existences are destroyed each time. But what exactly is a hurricane and how does it emerge? A quick throwback to geography class:
WHAT IS A HURRICANE?
To be described as a hurricane, a storm must reach at least wind force 12 (74+ mph). The diameter is a few hundred kilometers.
A hurricane is a tropical cyclone that forms predominantly over the waters of the Atlantic at high water temperatures (above 26.5 °C). The evaporated water rises, from which clouds form and energy is released. Negative pressure is created above the sea surface, with air flowing in with a high water vapor content. Thereupon a high air pressure arises above the hurricane clouds, which lets the air escape into eddies.
Thus, Hurricanes draw their energy from the heat released in the condensation process. You therefore need a constant supply of very humid air. This can only be provided over the warm seas. Hurricanes are therefore weakening rapidly over land. The accompanying high wind speeds, waves and heavy rains of a hurricane are nevertheless able to trigger storm surges, landslides, coastal erosion and floods.
WEATHER FORESEEING IN THE USA
The weather forecasts are generally much more detailed in the USA than in Germany. The National Hurricane Center keeps its eyes open for potential hurricanes. Thus, hurricanes or tropical storms can be predicted quite early. So you usually have enough time to prepare for a storm to stock food, water etc., or avoid the natural event completely. In addition, TV and radio stations keep you updated about the situation constantly, and emergency alerts are sent to all cell phones for the corresponding hazard zones. It is almost impossible not to realize that a storm is imminent.
Although using satellite imagery, weather surveys, radar, and many observation stations to predict the hurricane’s routes pretty well, it is still hard to predict the exact train path. This leads to a delayed evacuation of the coastal regions.
HOPE FOR THE BEST, PREPARE FOR THE WORST
At the beginning of the hurricane season (June 1st) it is recommended to have the most important supplies already in your house. For example, we are always equipped with batteries and canned food. We also have a gas cooker with several gas cartridges. So, you avoid a lot of stress, because the supermarkets and hardware stores are busy as hell, when a hurricane is coming.
What is still missing in our household, however, is a first aid kit. This should always be on hand.
What to do before the hurricane arrives?
- If you do not have hurricane proof windows, you should barricade them.
- Everything that is not nailed down is to be removed from the garden and balcony and trim trees if necessary.
- Withdraw enough cash
- Fill up your car and, if necessary, fill a proper container with gasoline for a generator.
- Tourists should listen carefully to the messages from the hotel, cruise ship or airline. Instructions from local authorities must be followed.
- Have water in stock for at least three days. Even better for a week. Fill bathtub and several buckets with water.
What should be done during the hurricane?
- Follow the news, if possible
- Stay inside, if it is very bad, rather stay in a room without windows.
- In case of power failure, remove all plugs.
- Under no circumstances go outside, when the eye of the storm is right above you. The calm is short lived.
- When the worst case occurs and the dwelling does not withstand the winds, seek shelter in the bathroom in the tub.
What to do after the storm?
- Only go out when the authorities give the green light
- If you have to go outside, pay attention to power lines.
- Check your house/apartment for damages and take pictures for the insurance.
- Clean up
- Report increased gasoline prices. When the emergency has been declared, the gasoline price must not rise.
- Pay attention to mosquitoes. They love the post hurricane conditions.
The ultimate hurricane checklist
- At least one gallon (3.8 liters) of water per person for three to seven days
- Canned food and long-lasting snacks for three to seven days
- Can opener (or Swiss army knife)
- Rainproof clothes and rubber boots
- medication, if necessary
- Hygiene products
- First aid kit
- Phone charger and battery pack
- Flashlight, Battery Operated Radio, Batteries
- Food for your pets
- Store important documents in a water-resistant container
– If necessary, medical documentation
– Insurance information (Social Security, Car Insurance, Health Insurance etc.)
– Bank information
OUR HURRICANE IRMA EXPERIENCE
When the strongest Atlantic hurricane hits the outside of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, you are a bit queasy. Nevertheless, it was immediately clear to us that we will be staying in our apartment. As indicated in the list above, we have stocked the most important supplies.
Since we live in the evacuation zone, we were some of the very few people who stayed in South Beach. In our building, where there are over 400 apartments, I think that about 20 percent of the residents remained here. As a precaution, the air conditioning and water was turned off in the entire building, and elevators were shut down. So it was quite warm in our home. Honestly, if I had children or health problems, I would have left, too. Because if anything happens during the storm, you are on your own. Our home is a big solid building with Hurricane proof windows, so we felt very safe here. In addition, our apartment is located in a fairly well sheltered corner. Actually our biggest problem was: “What do we do with our dog if she has to relieve herself?“ Good question. I bought potty pads on which our doggo can do her business, but she did not quite understand what she was supposed to do. The cat litter box was not an option for her, either. So our last option was our underground parking lot. Equipped with a plastic bag and a bottle of water to clean up, worked out just fine.
It was a strange feeling to see Miami Beach that empty. Like a ghost town. Shops were barricaded and not a single car drove along the normally busy streets. All hotels have been evacuated and the famous colorful Lifeguard huts have also been dismantled. Only Ocean Drive was a little busy. Some news channels were present and reported about the situation on Miami Beach. One bar was actually still open and served some curious or crazy people.
What do you do during the storm of the century?
I spent most of my time in front of the TV (as long as we had a signal) and followed the news. After a while I let it be, it only made me insecure and paranoid. Then I watched “The Day After Tomorrow“.
While Irma was raging outside, we made ourselves comfortable in our apartment. The strong winds of Irma felt like ordinary storm gusts, in my opinion. I did not want to go out, but I imagined it even worse. The unusual thing about Irma, of course, was that the storm was raging for so long. As Irma then progressed further north, we got the backside of the winds. I found those winds much stronger. They also brought a lot of rain and ensured that Downtown was under water. After a while, we lost the TV signal and the internet, but electricity was there all the time. That was the absolute exception as we noticed the next day. We live very close to the harbor and evidently our building is connected to the power supply from the harbor, which is particularly well protected.
Fortunately, South Beach did quite well. But in other regions it looked completely different. Irma hit the Florida Keys very hard in the US. According to the US Department of Emergency Situations, 90 percent of the homes there have been destroyed or severely damaged. According to authorities, at least 39 people in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina died from the effects of Irma.
This is how it looked in the morning after Irma:
Miami Beach was cleaned up and made available to the public relatively quickly. After all, one is dependent on the tourists here. In the less touristy areas, it took some time until the people had electricity and debris was removed. Just recently, the Monkeyjungle reopened in Miami. Almost a year after the hurricane.
Just a few weeks after Irma, the next mighty hurricane rolled over to the Caribbean: Maria. Maria has almost completely destroyed Puerto Rico. During the storm, the entire power supply of the island has failed. The repair took months. More than half of the residents had no access to drinking water. Fuel was also scarce and the mobile network was pretty bad affected. Only eleven of the 69 hospitals were able to maintain their operations. The American government has been struggling to provide adequate assistance. Even two months after the hurricane, only half of Puerto Ricans had electricity and 20 percent still had no access to drinking water. Because of this shortage and lack of drinking water, according to Puerto Rican authorities, 1427 people have died from Maria and her effects.
WHAT ARE THE PREDICTIONS FOR THIS YEAR?
For this year, the researchers predict that it will be an average, or slightly above average Hurricane Season. I’m curious. Personally, I can live without such a natural spectacle.