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Hurricanes

If a big storm is coming and there is even a suggested evacuation, leave. We now usually have several days warning of an approaching storm, but there is a lot to do to prepare. Many of the areas that are at greatest risk are very hard to evacuate. Many islands have only one bridge or ferry. An interstate highway may be the only major road out for thousands of people. The earlier you leave, the easier it will be.

Do not plan to ride out a hurricane on an island, in a low area, or near the beach. There are lots of pictures of places people died when they tried this. And there will be lots of time to look at the damage during the clean-up because it takes months.

To protect the contents of a building or the people inside, windows have to be shuttered or boarded up. Taping may slow down the flying glass if you use strong tape and lots of it, but it is not nearly as good as boards and it is very hard to get off after the storm.

Have a place to go if the water begins to rise. Hurricanes cause flooding by dropping lots of rain in a short period of time and also by pushing the ocean up onto the land. The rain flooding can be swift and unpredictable. I have seen the top of a hill flood from a 6-inch downpour. The storm surge is rising not falling water, but it may raise the level of the whole ocean by 20 feet or more where the storm makes landfall. If you are not more than 20 feet above sea level when this happens, then you are going to be swept away.

The worst part of the storm surge is the waves. Even in a storm, waves break over the land and roll back to the sea. The problem is that this back and forth wave action is happening to the buildings near the coast instead of to the beach. This smashes the buildings and everything in them. The storm surge and wave action is what killed 8,000 people in Galveston in 1900.

If you move into an attic to get away from rising water, be sure you have a way out. If there is no window in the attic, take an ax or a bit and saw so you can break through the roof. During hurricanes in Louisiana, hundreds of people have gotten trapped in their attics for days by floodwaters. You canít swim through the flood water to get out even if the distance is short enough. The water is murky, the flow is unpredictable and it is filled with snakes and alligators.

Stay inside until the hurricane has passed completely. Do not go outside during a lull in the winds. Hurricanes have multiple storm bands so the wind and rain may come and go for hours. If you go out into the eye of the storm, you may be hit by the eye wall where winds can go in seconds from calm to hurricane force.

Stay on the side of the house that is not being hit by the wind at the moment. The wind will change direction as the hurricane moves over. Change location inside the house as the wind direction changes outside. If you have a safe room or an interior hallway or bathroom, stay there during the worst of the storm. Hurricanes spawn tornados in the outer bands of the storm and in the hurricane itself. Remember that you are sheltering from the tornados as well as the hurricane.