June 1st is the unofficial kick- off for summer break, vacations, cookouts, and pool parties! Here in coastal South Carolina, swimming trunks are donned, blankets, towels, and picnic gear is crammed into the trunk, and sunscreen is slathered across our shoulders as we head out to enjoy the sunny weather with friends and family. It’s a great time of the year!
While June 1st is eagerly anticipated by thousands across the Lowcountry, it also marks the beginning of an ominous and much-less-celebrated occasion: Hurricane Season. Storms like Hurricane Katrina, Sandy, and Ivan stir up images of destruction and loss in distant places like New Orleans, New York, and Alabama. While we have been spared for quite a few years, South Carolina is also no stranger to significant hurricane damage.
Hurricane Hugo struck the coast of Charleston on September 21, 1989 as a Category Four storm. Wind gusts exceeding 100mph toppled trees and destroyed buildings. The twenty foot storm surge flooded low-lying areas causing irreparable damage to homes, businesses, and vehicles. Hurricane Hugo was also deadly. Thirty-five deaths were attributed to the storm; of the various causes, the top three were smoke inhalation, drowning, and heart attack.
With many sources predicting an active hurricane season in 2016, it is wise to prepare yourself and your family. While it is important to evacuate when authorities give that direction, if you find yourself at home when a storm hits, here are some of the challenges you may face and how to be ready for them:
- No power. If you have a generator to provide back-up power, fantastic! Be sure to have fuel on hand to keep it running. Also have multiple flashlights and plenty of fresh batteries. Candles and/or lanterns can help as well, but remember to be safe with any open-flame so your situation doesn’t go from bad to worse.
- Food & water. Sources recommend having 3-5 days of food on hand. Having food available may prevent you from having to go into potentially dangerous conditions immediately after the storm. For emergency water, your water heater is a great resource. Just remember to turn of the electricity (if it is still on) and let the water cool before accessing it. Take time now to contact your plumber for instructions if you are unsure about how to access water from your water heater.
- Damage to your home. There may be emergency service companies who will tarp roofs and board up windows and doors soon after the storm, but remember that access may be restricted so response will take longer than normal. It is also best to use contractors referred by your insurance company if possible since they are more likely to be licensed and insured. Do not try to repair your home yourself if you cannot do so safely. A hole in the roof is far better than a broken leg.
You may help prevent damage to your home by taking time to cut back any branches that overhang your roof and by getting rid of dead trees or limbs. (Note: You may need to check with your local permitting office before cutting down trees.) Also, secure any lawn furniture, trampolines, etc. that may become projectiles in high winds. Another great way to minimize damage to your home’s windows and doors is to install hurricane shutters. As an alternative to this, a less expensive option is to pre-cut plywood to fit window openings. Do some research to determine what works best for you.
- Other important considerations. Have emergency contact numbers, emergency shelter locations, and evacuation routes on hand so you are able to act safely and quickly if needed. Also, learn the difference between a hurricane watch (possibility) and a hurricane warning (expected) so you know how serious the situation is. Finally, know your insurance agent’s contact information so you can reach out to them after the storm for guidance. Remember, they are experiencing the same things you are. Be patient. It’s during times like this that everyone needs to work together.
As you prepare for fun this summer, remember to prepare for hurricane season as well. June 1st through November 30th represents the time when we most likely could be impacted by a storm. Rather than letting the worry of a hurricane cast a dark cloud over your festivities, enjoy your summer with peace of mind knowing that you are ready should a storm come our direction!
Have a safe and happy summer!
Rick is the Director of Sales and Marketing for Paul Davis Restoration of Greater Charleston. Paul Davis Restoration is a nationally recognized disaster restoration company that restores property affected by fire, water, storm, smoke, and other disaster. For more information, please visit www.pdcharleston.com.
Hurricane statistics gathered from Wikipedia.org