Hurricanes are capable of producing winds in excess of 250 kilometres per hour and causing catastrophic damage to coastlines as well as areas up to several hundred kilometres inland. Additionally, hurricanes can lead to storm surges along the coast and cause extensive damage from heavy rainfall.
The Atlantic coastal area is subject to hurricanes. Parts of the Pacific Coast can also experience heavy rains and floods each year due to the impact of hurricanes. The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June to November, with the peak season from mid-August to late October. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15 and ends November 30.
Before a Hurricane
To prepare for a hurricane, take the following measures:
- Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan. Contact A.P. Reid Insurance Limited if you would like us to provide you with an emergency kit checklist or sample family communications plan.
- Learn the elevation level of your property and whether the land is flood-prone. This will help you know how your property will be affected when a storm surge or tidal flooding is forecasted.
- Identify levees and dams in your area and determine whether they pose a hazard to you.
- Learn community hurricane evacuation routes and how to find higher ground. Determine where you would go and how you would get there if you needed to evacuate.
- Make plans to secure your property.
- Cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.
- Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure. This will reduce roof damage.
- Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well-trimmed so they are more wind resistant.
- Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
- Reinforce your garage doors. If wind enters a garage, it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage.
- Bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down.
- Determine how and where to secure your boat.
- Install a generator for emergencies.
- If in a high-rise building, be prepared to take shelter on or below the 10th floor.
- Examine your home insurance or rental insurance policy to learn the details of how you will be covered (and what is excluded) in the event of a flood.
Know the Terms
Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a hurricane hazard:
Tropical Cyclone: A warm-core, non-frontal, synoptic-scale cyclone, originating over tropical or subtropical waters, with organized deep convection and a closed surface wind circulation about a well-defined centre. Once formed, a tropical cyclone is maintained by the extraction of heat energy from the ocean at high temperature and heat export at the low temperatures of the upper troposphere.
Hurricane: A tropical cyclone in which sustained surface wind is 118 kilometres per hour or more.
Storm Surge: An abnormal rise in sea level accompanying a hurricane or other intense storm, and whose height is the difference between the observed level of the sea surface and the level that would have occurred in the absence of the cyclone. Storm surge is usually estimated by subtracting the normal or astronomic high tide from the observed storm tide.
Storm Tide: The actual level of seawater resulting from the astronomic tide combined with the storm surge.
Hurricane Warning: An announcement that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the specified area. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of storm-force winds.
Hurricane Watch: An announcement that hurricane conditions are possible within the specified area. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of storm-force winds.
Tropical Storm Warning: An announcement that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the specified area within 36 hours.
Tropical Storm Watch: An announcement that tropical storm conditions are possible within the specified area within 48 hours.
During a Hurricane
If a hurricane is likely in your area, you should:
- Listen to the radio or TV for information.
- Secure your home, close storm shutters and secure outdoor objects or bring them indoors.
- Turn off utilities if instructed to do so. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
- Turn off propane tanks.
- Avoid using the phone, except for serious emergencies.
- Moor your boat if time permits.
- Keep a supply of water for sanitary purposes, such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other larger containers with water.
- Find out how to keep food safe during and after an emergency.
You should evacuate under the following conditions:
- If you are directed by local authorities to do so. Be sure to follow their instructions.
- If you live in a mobile home or temporary structure. These shelters are particularly hazardous during hurricanes, no matter how well-fastened to the ground.
- If you live in a high-rise building. Hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations.
- If you live on the coast, on a floodplain, near a river or on an island waterway.
If you are unable to evacuate, go to your wind-safe room. If you do not have one, follow these guidelines:
- Stay indoors during the hurricane and away from windows and glass doors.
- Close all interior doors, and secure and brace external doors.
- Keep curtains and blinds closed. Do not be fooled if there is a lull; it could be the eye of the storm and winds will pick up again.
- Take refuge in a small interior room, closet or hallway on the lowest level.
- Lie on the floor under a table or another sturdy object.
- Avoid elevators.
After a Hurricane
- Continue listening to a radio or the local news for the latest updates.
- Stay alert for extended rainfall and subsequent flooding even after the hurricane or tropical storm has ended.
- If you have become separated from your family, use your family communications plan.
- If you evacuated, return home only when officials say it is safe.
- Drive only if necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed¬out bridges. Stay off the streets. If you must go out, watch for fallen objects including downed electrical wires, weakened walls, bridges, roads and sidewalks.
- Keep away from loose or dangling power lines and report them immediately to the power company.
- Walk carefully around the outside of your home and check for loose power lines, gas leaks and structural damage before entering.
- Stay out of any building if you smell gas, and if floodwaters remain around the building or your home was damaged by fire and the authorities have not declared it safe.
- Inspect your home for damage. Take pictures of damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance purposes. If you have any doubts about safety, have your residence inspected by a qualified building inspector or structural engineer before entering.
- Use battery-powered flashlights in the dark. Do NOT use candles. Keep in mind that the flashlight should be turned on outside before entering, as the battery may produce a spark that could ignite leaking gas, if present.
- Avoid drinking or preparing food with tap water until you are sure it’s not contaminated.
- Check refrigerated food for spoilage. If in doubt, throw it out.
- Wear protective clothing and be cautious when cleaning up to avoid injury.
- Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
- NEVER use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds or similar areas, even when using fans or opening doors and windows for ventilation. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can quickly build up in these areas and can linger for hours, even after the generator has shut off.
In addition to insuring your home, we are committed to helping you and your loved ones stay safe when disaster strikes. If you would like more information on developing a family emergency communication plan click here.