In the last few years we’ve all seen some pretty large storms hit the gulf coast and the weather community is already predicting an active 2010 hurricane season due to the unusually warm temperatures of the waters.  June 1st was the start of this year’s Hurricane Season so I thought I’d take a few minutes to talk about the importance of being prepared for it, how to go about doing that, and some things going on around town to help you prepare.  Don’t get caught without needed supplies if a Hurricane does decide to target our great city this year.

So what exactly is a hurricane?  According to FEMA it is defined as “a type of tropical cyclone-an organized rotating weather system that develops in the tropics.  Hurricanes rotate counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere.”  A cyclone can then take the form of a tropical depression (winds up to 38 mph), tropical storm (winds of 39 to 73 mph), or hurricane (winds 74 mph or higher) based on maximum sustained wind speed.  There are several aspects of hurricanes that can affect you and your family’s safety:

  1. Flooding - flooding is a major concern when hurricanes hit Houston.  If the rain comes too fast and too hard it can quickly overwhelm the city draining system and cause major flooding and damage.
  2. High Winds - hurricane force winds 74mph or higher have major damage potential to houses, buildings and any other dwellings in Houston and surrounding areas.  They can also be very dangerous to you and your family by flying debris easily picked up by the high speed winds.
  3. Tornados - although not all that common here in Houston, hurricanes do have the potential to spawn tornados.

2010 Family Hurricane Preparedness Event
at the George R. Brown Convention Center takes place on June 19th from 10 am to 3 pm and is FREE to the public.  The event will feature:

  • An interactive format suitable for the entire family
  • The Kids Zone Activity Center
  • Guest appearances by the Energizer Bunny and Louie the Lightning Bug
  • FREE giveaways
  • Hurricane experts from the National Weather Service
  • “Hurricane tracker” scavenger hunt
  • Electric safety demonstration presented by CenterPoint Energy

If you don’t already have one, you need to prepare a Hurricane Survival Kit BEFORE one hits Houston again.  Here is what you should consider including in your survival kit (I keep mine in a large plastic storage container marked with “Survival Kit” for easy identification and retrieval):

  • Water - at least 1 gallon daily per person for 3 to 7 days; Also fill bathtub and other containers; Gator Aid is also good to fend off dehydration
  • Food - at least enough for 3 to 7 days
    -non-perishable packaged or canned food / juices
    -foods for infants or the elderly
    -snack foods
    -non-electric can opener
    -cooking tools / fuel
    -paper plates / plastic utensils
  • Bedding - Blankets / Pillows, etc.
  • Clothing - seasonal / rain gear/ sturdy shoes
  • First Aid Kit / Medicines / Prescription Drugs
  • Special Items - for babies and the elderly
  • Toiletries / Hygiene items / Moisture wipes
  • Flashlight / Batteries / Lantern Radio - Battery operated and NOAA weather radio
  • Telephones - Fully charged cell phone with extra battery and a traditional (not cordless) telephone set
  • Cash (with some small bills) and Credit Cards - Banks and ATMs may not be available for extended periods
  • Important documents - in a waterproof container or watertight resealable plastic bag (insurance, medical records, bank account numbers, Social Security card, etc.)
  • Tools - keep a set with you during the storm
  • Gas - Vehicle fuel tanks filled several days before landfall is expected
  • Pet care items - proper identification / immunization records / medications;ample supply of food and water;a carrier or cage;muzzle and leash
  • Bleach (without lemon or any other additives)
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Keys
  • Toys, Books and Games
  • Duct tape

Remember, you don’t wait till the last minute to try to gather your supplies when a hurricane has been predicted to hit Houston.  If you do you’ll quickly find that what you’re looking for has already been scooped up by the crowds rushing to prepare.  You might also consider keeping some nails and plyboard on hand in case you might need to board up your windows.  A generator might be helpful as well but make sure if you use one you follow the directions carefully and don’t put your family in danger from exposure to carbon monoxide poisoning.  You might also think about getting a small window a/c unit as well.  I used one along with a generator after Hurricane Ike and it really made those days without power a lot easier to handle.  Again, don’t wait till the last minute if you are planning on purchasing a generator or window a/c unit because prices can spike quickly if everyone is making a mad dash to their local hardware store to grab one.

Preparation of a family disaster plan will ensure that when disaster strikes, everyone knows where to go and what to do.  According to FEMA, here are the three steps to take to prepare your disaster plan:

  1. Gather information about hazards - contact your local Contact your local National Weather Service office, emergency management office, and American Red Cross chapter. Find out what type of disasters could occur and how you should respond. Learn your community’s warning signals and evacuation plans.  Assess your risks and identify ways to make your home and property more secure.
  2. Meet with your family to create a disaster plan - discuss your plan with your family.  Pick two places to meet: a spot outside your home for an emergency, such as fire, and a place away from your neighborhood in case you can’t return home.  Choose an out-of-state friend as your “family check-in contact” for everyone to call if the family gets separated. Discuss what you would do if advised to evacuate.
  3. Implement your plan -
    - Post emergency telephone numbers by the phone; install safety features in your house, such as smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.
    - Inspect your home for potential hazards (items that can move, fall, break or catch fire) and correct them.  Have your family learn basic safety measures, such as CPR and first aid, how to use a fire extinguisher, and how and when to turn off water, gas and electricity in your home.
    - Teach children how and when to call 911 or your local Emergency Medical Services number.
    - Keep enough supplies in your home for at least 3 days. Assemble a disaster supplies kit. Store these supplies in sturdy, easy-to-carry containers, such as backpacks or duffle bags. Keep important documents in a waterproof container. Keep a smaller disaster supplies kit in the trunk of your car.

Visit Channel 11’s hurricane preparation site for more information.