The Common Sense Hurricane Guide Series has three posts: “BEFORE the Hurricane”, “DURING the Hurricane” and “AFTER the Hurricane”. This post assumes you have read through the Before the Hurricane post. This post focuses on what to do as the hurricane approaches and during the hurricane itself. We'll walk through a timeline starting roughly a week before landfall and continuing through the hurricane, covering food, water, shelter, communications and other hurricane preparations.
If you have not prepared for a hurricane, we strongly recommend that you EVACUATE when a hurricane is likely. If you cannot evacuate, there are sizable risks. Seriously consider evacuation before you choose to shelter in place.
When is Hurricane Season?
The National Hurricane Center states that the official hurricane season for the Atlantic Basin (the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico) is from 1 June to 30 November. The peak of the season is from mid-August to late October.
During the Hurricane – As the Storm Approaches and Hits
The timeline covered in this post (During the Hurricane), starts at roughly one week from landfall and goes through the time during the storm. (Click on text to jump to the that point in the timeline.)
Review Your Plans – Hurricane One Week From Landfall
A hurricane or tropical storm is in the news, out in the ocean a week or so away. Once you see news that the possible hurricane may head your way, review your plans. You need to review and update your Hurricane Plans because things change.
Make Decision to Evacuate or Shelter in Place
Even if you plan to shelter in place, review your decision as you learn more about the hurricane. When in doubt, you should evacuate.
If you have the funds, plan on leaving before the evacuation order is given and know your routes and destinations. (You should have researched three different destinations in your pre-planning). You need to pack and get your home ready, prepare your yard, and eliminate debris that could be blown into your home or other homes. Prepare inside your house, and prepare utilities. Lock up or prepare valuables for transport.
If you choose to shelter in place during the hurricane, begin final preparations of your supplies, yard and home. Check in with your out of state Point of Contact use your pre-arranged phone text (SMS) or social media.
Print a hard copy of emergency and recovery numbers. Make sure everyone knows where to go and who to contact if you are separated. Make sure younger kids know their name, your name, address, your number, and separate emergency contact. If the children are young, be prepared to write this information on the child or on the child’s clothing.
Locate and prepare your document sets. Make sure you have extra secure copies of: birth, marriage, divorce, adoption, child custody certificate(s), Social Security Card(s), passports, driver’s licenses, green cards, car titles, rental agreements, mortgage papers and/or military service identification. Keeping an extra copy in a safe deposit box is a good plan. There is a large list of critical documents in the preparation post.
Take Current Photos
Update pictures of children on electronic devices and print pictures of everyone in the family, including pets. Place the photos into two or more zippered plastic bags. If possible, leave a set in the house, have one for each vehicle and an extra of pictures and personal documents in case the family must split up. Prepare a lanyard for each adult and child. The lanyard with medical info, ID, proof of residence and photo, can be used to re-enter a closed evacuation area, and also helps with medical emergencies. Date the photos and email a copy of photos to self or family/friend.
Take pictures of the inside and exterior of your home, cars, trucks and other vehicles.
Don't forget pets! Use emergency waterproof ID tags to help identify your pet if you become separated. The tags should contain, contact info, vet info and any medical issues your pet may have.
Review your Medical Supplies
Check your First Aid Kit is fully stocked. Refill any items you have used. Check your Prescription Medicine (for a minimum of 2 weeks). Make sure you have EpiPen, Diabetic Items, Puffers and other necessary medical items. Make sure you have a stock up on Non-Prescription Medicine and Vitamins (Advil, Excedrin, Allergy meds, anti-diarrhea meds and so on). If possible, this should occur a week or more before the hurricane predicted landfall.
For more information on first aid kits and OTC medications, see:
Check your Food and Water Stocks
Ensure you have at least two weeks of food per person, just in case. Most should be shelf stable, like canned goods and freeze dried foods. Remember the power is very likely to be out during the hurricane for hours, and possibly many days after.
Consider dry or canned goods such as: peanut butter, canned soup and meats, bread, vitamins, baby formula, and other shelf stable foods. Stock up on shelf stable treats – granola bars, jerky, chips, chocolate or whatever favorites your family’s favorites are. Don’t buy things you won’t eat. See “Top 10 Real Foods to Store Without Electricity” and “5 Best Freeze Dried Foods – Long Term Quality Food Storage” for more recommendations.
Remember to have a stock of pet food, puppy potty pads (animals won’t be able to go outside to use restroom), cat litter, pet treats, pet calming drops, and other items like cat or dog treats.
See “Emergency Cooking – 10 Ways to Have a Hot Meal When the Power Goes Out” for more information on food prep without power.
Ensure you have at least 7 to 10 gallons of drinking water per person. Store one gallon per day per person you expect to be without a clean water source. You need 35 gallons for 5 people for 7 days minimum. (That's one gallon of drinking water per person per day.) Don't forget extra water for dehydrated food prep, and pets.Cats and dogs typically need 2.5 gallons for 7 days.
Fill your 55 gallon drinking water drum and buy bottled water NOW, if you haven’t already. There won’t be any bottled water on the shelves in just a few days.
For addition information, please see:
Confirm All Your Regular Supplies
Make sure you have a full stock of toiletries; toilet paper, toothbrushes, feminine products, toothpaste, flushable wipes, dry shampoo, deodorant, wet wipes, (diapers…baby and/or adult if needed) and any other items you had on your list when you were planning.
Check your gasoline, make sure you have two or more full 5 gallon gas cans. Keep all your vehicles topped off with fuel.
Get your House Ready
Start getting your house ready. Clean and prepare the yard. Consider storing unused vehicles offsite at a safer location, as noted in post #1. Test your generator and your chainsaw. Get rid of ALL trash before the storm, and don’t leave any trash out during the storm. Begin preparing to board up windows with ⅝ or thicker plywood, remove screens from windows. If you have a car, boat or other vehicle on jacks, remove the jacks. Remove basic tarps – only leave tarps that are capable of withstanding a hurricane. Double check plants and trees outside. (Cut back any limbs that may be a problem and take to city dump.)
To cut down smells in the garbage can during the hurricane, add cat litter to the bottom of your garbage cans. This is an especially good idea for the garbage cans that will store human waste.
Ensure you have enough cash on hand. Stock up on propane. (If you use it.) Have at least 2 propane tanks for grill or several bags of charcoal and grill starter fluid. Check batteries in all your handheld devices, and make sure chargers are working. Make sure your 3000k+ generator is working and test it.
HURRICANE WATCH – When there is a likely chance of landfall within the next 4 days
If you live in an evacuation zone, evacuate. You can replace ‘things' but you can't replace life. Waiting can leave you stuck in traffic, or hoping for an evacuation on your roof in the storm..
- If you evacuate, turn off gas, water, electrical breaker panel/box, AC units and such.
- Grab your bag of important documents and valuables and your travel items and leave. Secure the valuables you can’t take.
- Unplug everything, wrap electronics including TVs in plastic of some kind. (Plastic bags are recommended.) Put all remotes, cable boxes, stereos, etc.… together in a waterproof container.
- Pack children’s favorite toy, tablet, pillow and blankets.
- If small animals are panicked by evacuation, use pillowcases to cover them and pack them inside pet carriers.
- Leave a prominent note saying where you are going and what route, in at least two locations (inside above likely flood area).
- Use folding tables to get everything off the floor that you can.
- If you can’t take it or move it; wrap it and/or cover it and raise it on cement blocks. Wrap the legs of chairs and tables first with saran wrap if possible and then with trash bags and duct tape.
Do a final check your car/truck – gas, tire pressure, batteries, oil, etc. Make sure all vehicles and boat gas tanks are full, and are kept nearly full. Communicate with family inside and outside the watch area. Share your plans.
Buy ice or make sure you have enough in your freezers. Old soda bottles make nice ice containers and can be used for drinking water once melted. Make sure they are rinsed completely, and leave an inch or two of space in the top for the water to expand as it freezes. Buy bagged ice before there is a run on it. If ice is sold out, immediately fill quart or gallon plastic zipper bags with water and freeze them. They will help keep your freezer and fridge cold. You can put ice cubes in quart and gallon plastic zipper bags to cut down on water in coolers.
Dry ice is a good choice. (If you can get it.) It won’t leave the food in your cooler floating in water.
Note, if you are filling old milk containers to make ice, mark those as NEEDS FILTERING in black Sharpie marker. Milk residue could taint the water.
Bring lawn furniture, potted plants, bikes, toys, garbage cans, potted plants, and other loose items inside. Store them in a garage or solid storage shed so they can’t fly around. Many people left garbage cans out in Texas during Hurricane Harvey, and those became hazards when areas flooded. They contributed to the debris everywhere and contaminated the water.
Turn trampolines upside down and secure them with bungee cords and stakes in ground if possible, or completely disassemble them and store them. Put away bird feeders, flags and other lawn ornaments.
Secure Anything Loose – Even a piece of branch or small toy can become a missile smashing through a window during hurricane force winds. If it’s not bolted down, screwed down, in concrete or tied down, it needs to be moved inside or thrown away.
If you have fruit, vegetables or other crops, pick them before the hurricane.
Move important items above flood area. Use cement blocks or bed risers to raise things up and secure trash bags on things you can’t move. Roll down storm shutters, or prepare to board up your home (plywood over windows) – lock windows, prepare windows and doors for the storm. Use the items you pre-purchased to reinforce your garage door, and other doors and structures and need additional protection. We suggested sandbags in the Before the Hurricane. Alternately, you can use two layers of trash bags half filled with water as “sandbags”.
Clean up. Do all your dishes and laundry before the power goes out. Enjoy a hot shower or long bath before you lose power/water. Make sure you get all garbage out days in advance. You might even make a run to the local garbage dump to minimize garbage inside during the hurricane.
Clothing. Store at least three sets of clean clothes per family member in double plastic bags so you have dry clothes. We recommend 9 extra pairs of T-shirts and undergarments and socks.
Animals. Prepare pets, animals, livestock, beehives and other critters for the storm. Have extra food for the animals and sugar water to feed bees during the storm.
HURRICANE WARNING – Landfall is predicted within 3 days
Keep the Kids Busy
Schools will likely be canceled 3 to 4 days before the expected hurricane, so have plans for your kids. Consider involving children in last minute preparation to keep them active. The storm will keep them cooped up– try to get them active as possible. Involving them can help reduce stress also. You can have them:
- Put their clothes/toys in plastic bags.
- Scour the yard for debris.
- Set up folding tables
- Put them in charge of verifying inventory (counting and listing items)
Last Minute Shopping. We recommend that you stock up well before this, but if you didn't, get to the grocery/hardware store for last minute missed items. Pick items the kids like that are shelf stable. There will be long lines and it is likely items will be sold out.
Final Home Prep
Lock ALL windows including the garage, close storm shutters, prepare windows and doors for the storm. Finish covering your garage door and windows. Get your damage control kit ready – extra trash bags, tarps, duct tape for broken windows and water leaks. Have furniture ready to be moved to higher ground, raised and/or wrapped. Wrap wooden legs for furniture at least in trash bags taped with duct tape, plastic wrap etc.…
Paperwork & Documents. Grab your important items: papers, photos, kid’s favorite toys, heirloom items, etc. Put these items in Ziploc bags and then plastic totes.
Set your freezer and refrigerator to the coldest setting and only open them when needed.
Vehicles and Boats. Make sure all the doors, skylights and windows are closed in vehicles. Move vehicles into your garage. If parking on an incline, locate the front end lower than the rear. Leave at least 2 feet of space between garage and vehicle, in case flood waters shove the vehicles around. Don’t park in grass, vehicles will get stuck.
If you have a boat, ensure it is securely covered and anchored so it does not wash away in case of flooding. Leave enough play in the anchor rope so it can rise of floodwaters, but not so much that it will drift into other vehicles, trees, your home or other buildings.
Just Before the Hurricane Hits
BE PREPARED TO EVACUATE.
Be ready to evacuate at any moment if things critically change from this point on. Place all items that you need to go with you near the door together to grab and go quickly. (IE Clothes, extra shoes, pet items, water, food, important papers, etc.…) Have a “Grab n Go bags”, pet carriers, papers, etc ready to go by whatever means you plan to go out of your house. Double bag or lock up valuables and firearms if any. Have them ready to go with you in case you need to evacuate.
Hygiene. Bathe/Shower before you lose power and water during the hurricane. Have portable toilet and other supplies at the ready.
Turn off gas / propane tanks and non-essential small appliances. Disconnect the exterior fuse on the air conditioner. (Learn how if you don’t know.) Set up folding tables in each room to move items up off floor (if you haven't already).
Food and Water
Water. Fill bathtubs, sinks and/or a Water Bob or another bathtub water bladder. Fill trash bag lined garbage can, bucket or storage bin with water for flushing/ etc. Fill your WaterBob or AquaPod (bathtub water bag). This will give you extra drinking water if/when the power and water go out.
Put water jugs and plastic bags with water in them, in freezers and refrigerators to fill up any open space to reduce thermal losses. Extra ice will keep your freezer and coolers from warming up quickly.
Food/Ice. Make sure freezers and refrigerators are set colder. Coolers with ice should be where regularly accessed items go. Use melted water in coolers to flush toilets or do non-sanitary cleanup.
If flooding is expected, place non-perishable goods inside a garbage bag inside a large plastic tote, or store well above flood water level. Any food that comes in contact with flood waters should be thrown out.
Gear and Communications
Check your Gear. Check your loss of power gear: smartphones (fully charged), solar lamps (for after the storm), emergency radios, flashlights, crank charger, tools, rechargeable batteries, evacuation plan, food, etc. Charge everything that has a plug and needs a charge. Charge the cell phones, charge radios, and charge rechargeable batteries.
** Don’t use candles, they create heat and are a fire hazard, at a time you REALLY don’t want a fire.
Communicate. Ensure everyone in your family knows the plan and who to contact in an emergency. Check in with your out of state point of contact, using your pre-arranged phone SMS/txt and social media. Identify where you are and what your plans are.
Watch for Flooding and Other Severe Damage During the Hurricane
Start the “watch”. Take turns staying awake, so someone is keeping an eye on water and listening to the radio. Turn the Weather radio on and listen to your weather radio for updates, and keep track of damage areas, flooding areas and official updates. Communicate with your Point of Contact, Facebook or MeWe community page, walkie talkies and/or shortwave (ham) radio.
Flooding Prep. If you are in a flood zone make sure life preservers are readily available. If you are in a flood zone you should be planning on evacuating, not sheltering in place. Also consider the items we suggested in before the storm including waders, inflatable boat and rubber boots.
During the Hurricane – Before the Power Goes Out
BE PREPARED TO EVACUATE.
Don’t venture out, conditions can change very quickly. If you find leaks, seal weep holes and leaks with the items you stockpiled.
Food, Water and Cooking. Use fresh foods first. Don’t open freezers / refrigerators unless absolutely necessary. Cook meals, but be aware that the power could go out at ANY time.
When lightning starts. Stay off corded phones, disconnect all sensitive electronics and disconnect smartphones from chargers. Disconnect all but one television. Make sure you radios and electronics are above likely flood areas.
Communicate. Check in with your out of state Point of Contact. Give them a status update. Include confirmation of the number of people, names and ages.
Using the Bathroom. While you have power and water, flush EVERY time someone uses the bathroom (unless you hear bubbling in water pipes). If you hear bubbling or water is backing up, disable the sewer feed and switch to the emergency toilet.
Living areas. Set up two or three living areas with supplies. This gives you a chance to be safe, but change your location to avoid getting on each others nerves. Have drinking water, battery powered lamps, a radio and canned, dry foods or freeze dried foods in each location.
Stand “Watch”. Take turns keeping an eye on the storm. Use a weather radio, regular radio or the internet to keep track of damage areas, flooding areas and official updates.
Flooding prep. Move items you want to keep safe to higher locations within the home. Move furniture to higher ground if possible or raise them up with your cement blocks/risers, especially if it looks like water may come inside your home. Put items that would be damaged by water in plastic totes.
During the Hurricane – After the Power Goes Out
BE PREPARED TO EVACUATE AT ANY MOMENT! The situation can change fast.
Ok the power went out. You have your flashlights, portable lights, crank chargers, radios and extra batteries. If you haven’t done it already, move the items you plan to access frequently into the coolers with ice, so you can leave your fridge and freezer closed as much as possible. Keep an eye on pets and crate if necessary. (Give drops to calm them or put thunder jackets on them.)
Food, Water and Cooking. Use a Sharpie marker to label water bottles so you use up ALL drinking water. When the power goes out, you can move frozen meats and ice from the freezer to the refrigerator/cooler to help keep fridge items cold and have meats to cook. Remember, all food that is exposed to flood water (even if it’s in a can or bottle) should be thrown out.
Bathroom and Hygiene
Bathroom Use. Don’t flush right away (if it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down) UNLESS the water is backing up. Use “bad” water or rainwater, melted ice water to flush. If the water is backing up, start using your portable dry toilet and shut off the sewer. (Remember to turn it back on after flooding subsides.)
Start using the dry toilet. Keep it as completely clean as possible. Use small garbage bags for each use. Empty it into a tightly covered/sealed garbage can. Adding kitty litter or sawdust to the bottom of garbage cans that are used for human waste can cut the smell, also adding it between additions to the garbage can help. For more info on a DIY dry toilet see: “DIY Portable Toilet, Plus Tips to Get Rid of Smells“.
Hygiene. Use the bath wipes, and swap out underwear as needed. (Remember we recommended at least 9 pair.) Once the power is out you are likely to end up in a hot house, so fresh dry underwear will help you feel better. Use mouthwash and a toothbrush to help yourself feel cleaner.
You can use Lysol wipes to sanitize things and even to clean areas of body in emergency. Remember to stock a LOT of wipes, as they are very useful during and after the hurricane. Keep garbage inside, but out of the main living area in tightly sealed garbage cans to avoid stink.
Note: Cell towers may fail during the hurricane. Check in with your out of state Point of Contact. Give them a status update. Include confirmation of the number of people, names and ages. Send text/SMS messages at predefined times to family (probably every hour or every 4 hours). Turn off the smartphone or at least put it in airplane mode when it isn’t in use to save battery life. You may need to reduce the frequency of check ins, unless you have ample power.
Stay connected with your neighborhood community Facebook or MeWe community page for neighborhood updates, or via walkie talkies if you have them. If you don’t have a community Facebook or MeWe page, start one today. See the communications section in the planning document for walkie talkie and ham radio (shortwave radio) suggestions.
Be a good neighbor. Keep an eye out for your neighbors and take photos/video of people who are breaking the law, or driving into flooded water too fast. (This can push water into your homes/cars and cause manhole covers to come off.)
If there are enough adults, take turns sleeping. If you don’t, you will become exhausted and not think clearly. Someone needs to keep an eye on: the hurricane, water levels, listening to the radio/internet. If you don’t have a lot of extra batteries or a crank radio, turn off the weather radio. Turn it back on every hour or so to listen for updates, and keep track of damage areas, flooding areas and official updates.
Watch out for bugs, especially fire ant floating island mounds, snakes and other critters that may sneak into your home to avoid rising water.
Document your situation. Take pictures and short video of inside and outside of the home as the storm progresses. Date and time stamp them. Remember you need your smartphone for communications, so don’t take so many videos your battery goes dead.
Injuries During the Hurricane
Injuries during a hurricane are a main reason to evacuate. A hurricane will leave you without a way to get help, but if you are in a shelter or even better 300+ miles away, you can call 911 if someone gets hurt and likely get help quickly.
If anyone is injured during the hurricane, remain calm, grab your first aid kit, control bleeding and make the person as comfortable as possible. Keep injured people hydrated (unless you suspect internal injury). Control for shock if the injury is severe. Refer to your first aid guides. We recommend you have a number of key first aid books on hand just in case. Even if you have a trained professional, that person may be the one who is incapacitated or unavailable. Have a backup plan.
Contact authorities for professional assistance if needed (you might need to use SMS/texting or Facebook texting to get the message out).
Be prepared to wait. It could be hours or even a day before help arrives. This is why we suggest the first aid kit and getting first aid training if you are going to shelter in place.
Things to Do During a Hurricane
Plan ahead to have things to keep you and most importantly, children, occupied. Have cards, Legos, board games, and books. Computer games are an option IF you have enough backup battery for them.
You might not be able to take a shower or bath, but you can use the wipes to get cleaned up each day. A wipe-down and fresh underwear once or twice a day in heat can make a big difference.
When the power goes out, you can eat all the ice cream. This can be a good distraction, however it may get the kids hyper, so have a plan for their energy.
Keep a routine. Make a checklist for children. This will create some sense of structure even though the hurricane can be overwhelming. Having earplugs to cut out some or all of the noise can sometimes help.
Talk. Make everyone talks, so children and adults can express concern, fear and/or confusion regarding the situation during the hurricane and after.
Children. You can have the kids check things with you (if it's safe) to keep them from getting stir crazy. If you have enough battery power, you can play happy family videos on a smartphone to help distract children. A teddy bear, blanket or favorite toy can make a big difference. Consider “building a fort” inside the house. It is probably best to save the computer games for AFTER you play board games and go through all other options. Tell the kids stories about storms you lived through (no bad ones). Some suggested scary stories, but we think scary stories are a bad idea during the hurricane.
More Storm Preparedness Information
This post covered what to do during the hurricane. Remember, you can shelter in place, but we recommend that you EVACUATE early in case of severe hurricane threat. The next post covers what to do after the hurricane, including returning home if you evacuated, and dealing with the aftermath of the storm and cleanup.
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