Although Florida is referred to as the Sunshine State, it is also known for its potentially dangerous hurricane season. Each year, Floridians brace for the winds, rain, and destruction that come with a hurricane. Unfortunately, there is no way to know if you and your family will experience a hurricane this season; however, there are steps you can take to prepare for the possibility.
Understanding Florida Storms
Keeping you and your loved ones safe during Florida’s hurricane season begins with understanding storm terminology and the advisories issued during storm season. According to information provided by the State of Florida:
- Tropical Depressions are cyclones with winds of 38 mph.
- Tropical Storms vary in wind speeds from 39-73 mph
- Hurricanes have winds 74 mph and greater.
With a hurricane, you should be most concerned if you are located in what will be the upper right quadrant of the storm (the center wrapping around the eye) because that is typically the most intense portion of the storm.
Florida Storm Advisories
In order to prepare properly, or to know when to evacuate, you need to know what the various weather advisories mean.
- Tropical Storm Watch: Tropical storm conditions are possible in the area.
- Hurricane Watch: Hurricane conditions are possible in the area. Watches are issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical storm force winds.
- Tropical Storm Warning: Tropical storm conditions are expected in the area.
- Hurricane Warning: Hurricane conditions are expected in the area. Warnings are issued 36 hours in advance of tropical storm force winds.
- Eye: Clear, sometimes well-defined center of the storm with calmer conditions.
- Eye Wall: Surrounding the eye, contains some of the most severe weather of the storm with the highest wind speed and largest precipitation.
- Rain Bands: Bands coming off the cyclone that produce severe weather conditions such as heavy rain, wind, and tornadoes.
- Storm Surge: An often underestimated and deadly result of ocean water swelling as a result of a landfalling storm, and quickly flooding coastal and sometimes areas further inland.
Steps to Take to Prepare Your Home and Family
As Florida’s hurricane season approaches, there are several steps you should take to protect your home and family in the event a severe storm or hurricane hits your area:
- Subscribe to weather alert systems. Subscribe to your local alert system as well as National Weather Service alerts. Also use the Emergency Alert System (EAS), NOAA Weather Radios and make sure Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are activated on all smartphones. Instructions for iPhone and Android can be found by clicking the link.
- Know where to shelter and do practice evacuations. The best shelter from a hurricane is a FEMA safe room; however, if you do not have a specially constructed safe room, the next best option is “a small, interior, windowless room in a sturdy building on the lowest level that is not subject to flooding,” according to FEMA. If you must evacuate, you also need to be prepared. Practice getting everyone out safely and have a plan in case you get separated.
- Put together a hurricane kit. If you do not evacuate during a hurricane, you will need to be prepared for the aftermath. To do that, you should prepare a hurricane kit that includes:
- Non-perishable food (enough to last at least 3 days)
- Water (enough to last at least 3 days)
- First-aid kit (include any prescription medication you may need)
- Personal hygiene items and sanitation items
- Flashlights (have extra batteries on hand)
- Battery operated radio (again, have extra batteries)
- Waterproof container with cash and important documents
- Manual can opener
- Lighter or matches
- Books, magazines, games for recreation
- Special needs items: pet supplies and baby supplies if applicable
- Cooler and ice packs
- Protect your home. Florida’s storms and hurricanes can produce devastating winds, rain, and flooding that can cause severe damage to your home and property. To limit that damage, the State of Florida suggests doing the following:
- Cover all your windows, either with hurricane shutters or wood.
- Although tape can prevent glass from shattering everywhere, be warned that tape does not prevent the window from breaking.
- If possible, secure straps or clips to securely fasten your roof to the structure of your home.
- Make sure all trees and shrubs are trimmed and clear rain gutters.
- Reinforce your garage doors.
- Bring in all outdoor furniture, garbage cans, decorations, and anything else that is not tied down.
- Prepare for power outages. When a hurricane slams into the state, Floridians can expect to lose power for hours, days, or even weeks. Preparing for that very real possibility is crucial during hurricane season. Some steps you can take to prepare for the loss of power include:
- Keep your gas tank full.
- Have extra cash on hand. If the power goes out, ATMs will not be working, and stores may not be able to accept debit/credit card payments.
- Charge your cell phone. Keep it charged and limit use if you lose power.
- Stock up on water. Keep sufficient bottled water for drinking but also fill bathtubs and large containers with water for washing and flushing only.
- Know when to save food and when to throw it out. Freeze any food that can be frozen ahead of a storm. For food left in the refrigerator, use the gov chart to decide if the food can be saved or should be discarded. Reinforce your garage doors.
If you suffered property damage in a Florida storm or hurricane, call us at 407-500-1000 or submit our online form today. One of our experienced Florida insurance claim attorneys will explain your rights to you and discuss your legal options at no cost.