Miami hurricane season lasts half the year…and if you're new, you may not know how to handle that, yet.
You should take preparing for a hurricane seriously, with only one caveat – don't go overboard. In my 31 years in South Florida, I've experienced two hurricanes; Andrew in 1992 and Wilma in 2005. For those who lived in areas south of Miami, Hurricane Andrew was devastating. The Category 5 storm, at the time, was the most destructive hurricane ever in the United States, destroying more than 25,000 homes and seriously damaging 100,000 others. For those who lived north, like me, it was merely inconvenient.
Hurricane Wilma affected a much larger area, knocking out the power to more than 3.2 million people in most of three counties, Miami-Dade to Palm Beach, but it was not as strong a storm as Andrew. And while its damage was widespread, it did not destroy homes. Since then, Wilma has been the last hurricane to hit South Florida.
You will notice that, if a hurricane has even the slightest possibility of hitting Miami, the TV stations will go into crisis mode, broadcasting through all hours of the day but not capturing much. Pay attention, but not too much. The key is to be prepared but not go crazy.
Miami-Dade County has an online hurricane guide that can be downloaded, with information about evacuation, preparation and storm recovery.
Until Hurricane Andrew, we didn't understand some of the preparations we had to make. After all, the last major hurricane to touch South Florida was Hurricane Betsy in 1965. Why fill your bathtub with water? Why stock up on water at all? Why did you need to have enough food to get by for several days?
And then we learned. Hurricane Andrew damaged the water treatment plant in 1992, meaning that those of us who had no trouble with running water were told not to drink what came out of our tap for several days after the storm. If there was no water at all, then the water in the tub was meant for washing items & flushing toilets.
When there is a hurricane, you are most likely to experience a power failure. The power outage could affect your street, neighborhood, town, or the entire county. That's why hurricane preparation includes making sure you have enough necessities to last you more than a few days. That includes food, gasoline & cash.
In the 24 years since Hurricane Andrew, Publix has added generators at many of its stores & gas stations, helping stores stay open during time of need. But transportation could always be disrupted, so not everything will be available.
When it comes to stocking up on food, be sure to keep food around that you actually eat! Think about what you would eat that does not require refrigeration – bottled water, peanut butter, granola bars, canned beans, beef jerky, canned tuna, etc. Once hurricane season is over, eat the stocked goods & replenish the pantry for the next season to ensure the food is as fresh as possible.
How to Prepare for a Hurricane
The key to smart hurricane preparedness is to be ready without over-worrying & overspending money. Here is a list of the top 11 things you should do when preparing for a hurricane:
1. Know where to go if you need to evacuate
If you're near the coast, go inland if a storm is nearby. This is not fool-proof, since the wind goes inland, too, but it does protect you from floods. The county has shelters, but if you can be safe at a family member's or friend's home, you would be more comfortable. Shelters are loud, chaotic and you need to bring your own food and water. They should be a last resort, in my opinion.
2. Protect your home
It’s important to know how to prepare your house for a hurricane. If you don't have impact-resistant windows, do you have shutters for all of them? Is your garage door reinforced? Are your entry doors strong enough? If wind gets into your home, the chance of your roof being lifted off is much greater. If a storm approaches, you'll need to bring in anything that could become an airborne projectile, such as lawn furniture and potted plants.
3. Plan for your pets
That includes having enough crates, food & water for them. The county operates pet-friendly shelters, but you need to reserve ahead of time.
4. Fill prescriptions
If you wait until the last minute to get needed medication, you may find the pharmacy closed. Make plans for medications that need to be kept cold or any medical devices that require electricity.
5. Keep your car filled with gas
Once you hear a storm is coming, there will be long lines at the gas station.
6. Keep a stash of cash
ATMs & banks may not operate after a storm and you may need cash to buy food, necessities, or for assistance around the house.
7. Buy batteries
You will need to power up lanterns, flashlights, portable radios, a portable TV, fans, and other equipment. Make sure you have enough of the correct batteries.
8. Figure out what to eat
Buy non-perishable food that you'll want to eat. If you have a grill, make sure you have charcoal or propane to operate it. Be sure to have a manual can opener to open up the canned food. Also, don't stock your freezer with expensive food during the summer. There is nothing worse than a power failure when you've just bought a freezer full of meat and seafood.
9. Make a stop at storage
If you kept some extra supplies tucked away in storage, it's a good time to take them out before the storm hits.
10. Have a plan to power your phone
Look into auxiliary power supplies for your cell phone and other devices. A car charger is something you can use anytime. Remember that a landline powered by VoIP, such as those provided by cable companies, will not work. Note, the Red Cross and the Weather Channel have free hurricane apps that are helpful & beneficial especially during a time of need.
11. Back-up computer files and gather important documents
If your home is severely damaged, you could lose vital documents such as birth certificates, passports and insurance policies. Keep those together and be ready to grab them if you evacuate.