Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hurricane 101, Part I: Run from the Water

In this series of posts, I want to share some simple advice and point out some free online training to help you prepare your home or business for a disaster.

First, the simple advice. There are two simple rules to follow to minimize the impact of a hurricane on your home or business:

1. Run from the water
2. Hide from the wind

Part I: How to Run from the Water

If your home or business is located in a hurricane evacuation zone, that means you are close enough to sea level that the storm surge from a hurricane or tropical storm is likely to inundate your home or business with sea water.

"Staying in a structure located in a storm surge zone during a predicted storm surge is foolish and dangerous, and puts you and your family in unnecessary danger."

This is extremely serious and it is critical for you to know if you are in a hurricane evacuation zone (and if so, which one). Storm surge is deadly, and is by far the number one cause of death related to hurricanes. To see why, check out this simulation put together by the National Weather Service:



One cubic yard of water weighs 1,700 lbs!
Storm surge is not a "tidal wave". Rather, it's a gradual increase in sea level caused by both the decrease in atmospheric pressure associated with the hurricane, and the effect of the hurricane's onshore winds pushing water ahead of it. The effect is "sheets" of water that rise with each new wave. On top of the storm surge, you get massive wind driven waves.

One cubic yard of water weighs approximately 1,700 pounds. We've all felt this when we've been to the beach and been knocked over by a three foot wave while standing in the surf. Imagine what a 20 foot wall of water could do to you and your home or business!

For a first hand look at what it would be like to be in your home or business during a hurricane's storm surge, check out this AP video from Havana Cuba shot during Hurricane Ike in 2008:


If you live in a hurricane evacuation (aka storm surge) zone, and you are ordered to evacuate by your local government, the decision is simple: LEAVE*. Staying in a structure located in a storm surge zone during a predicted storm surge is foolish and dangerous, and puts you and your family in unnecessary danger.

(*To find out whether you are in a hurricane evacuation zone, Google "Your County + Hurricane Evacuation Zone Lookup". Most coastal counties in the United States maintain a website where you can enter your address and get your evacuation zone information. If you can't find it online, call your county's Emergency Management office or leave a comment below and I'll find out for you!)

But if you have to evacuate, where should you go? And what should you do to keep your family safe once you get there? Stay tuned for the next post in this series titled How to Hide From the Wind.

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