Sunday, September 10, 2017

25 Hurricane Dangers

If you have been watching the news today (literally every station) you will have seen the non-stop reporting on Hurricane Irma which is hitting Florida as I type this.  All of this coverage provides a lot of 'lessons learned' about prepping for a major hurricane.  These are the many dangers that a hurricane can pose and what you need to prepare for if you live in a hurricane-prone area:
  1. Strong winds blowing down power lines.  These can electrocute you as they fall on you, as you are driving or walking near them and they arc, or if they fall into the flood water you are walking in and they are still charged.
  2. Strong winds blowing things (signs, trees, debris, roof tiles, etc) into you.  This can also be deadly as it doesn't take a very big object, when propelled by high winds, to cut a person in half.  When the winds blow, stay inside!
  3. Flood waters/storm surge.  First you see a little water blown in by the hurricane and moments later the entire first floor of your home can be inundated.  And it doesn't take much rising, fast-moving water to carry a person/car/home away.  Always seek shelter in a stable building, preferably with a couple of floors so you can go up as flood waters rise (and put an ax in the attic in case you need to escape through the roof).
  4. Loss of power.  High winds bringing down power lines will result in no power, often for days or weeks.  If you rely on electricity for refrigeration/heat/air conditioning/hot water/etc. you will need to plan for alternate power sources until electricity can be restored.
  5. Loss of drinkable water.  Municipal water systems as well as private wells can be subject to failure when the entire area is underwater.  As soon as a water system is deluged with untreated flood water (and all of the crap mixed into it), the stuff coming out of the pipes can cause illness and even death.  Store water, learn to purify water, and learn what water can't be purified (ie: water laced with oil and other chemicals).
  6. Gas stations without gas.  Gas is critical for people to evacuate an area but even if you decided to hunker down in your own home, getting gas after the storm recedes can take days or even weeks to be brought back into a storm-ravaged area (especially if the gas stations have been flattened).
  7. Stores without food.  First there is a run on food before the storm is set to hit and more food for anyone.  Again, it could takes days or weeks for trucking and food supplies to get back on track to fill up grocery store for evacuees who are returning and for those who decided to ride out the storm at home.  Plan accordingly.
  8. Looting.  Today on the news a video crew caught a bunch of people looting a shoe store.  I can kind of understand if people are looting a store for food because they are starving but Nikes and Adidas are hardly a life-saving commodity.  This just popped up on my news feed, looks like the scumbags got caught.
  9. Evacuating to a shelter.  Getting to the shelter was part of the battle, wondering if the shelter would even remain standing was another concern, and then having to worry about what, if anything, the people would return to after getting the all-clear was another.
  10. Staying home instead of evacuating.  One guy couldn't bring his monkey to a shelter so he decided to stay home with the creature.  Another person on the news said it would be too hard to evacuate her very ill mother so they stayed at home.  Others who voluntarily chose to remain home instead of evacuating were blasted by social media.
  11. No work, no pay.  While there were some social media threads about very generous employers telling their employees to evacuate and they would still be paid no matter how long it took the business to get back on its feet after the storm, most people weren't so fortunate.  No work means no pay for many people and there was no way to determine how long these people would be without work.
  12. Decimation of structures.  Homes, businesses, condos...every structure in the path of the hurricane will suffer some sort of damage, from a few missing roof tiles to broken windows to the building being completely flattened.  Housing is going to be a huge issue after the storm passes.
  13. Tornadoes.  If being in a hurricane wasn't bad enough, many networks reported tornadoes being spotted around the hurricane's path.  Needless to say, the destruction from a tornado can be just as bad--and deadly--as from a hurricane.
  14. Water everywhere.  Obviously not a good thing.  Water damage--from heavy rains to flooding to standing water after the fact--means ruined homes, washed out roads, washed away cars, and, if the water sits long enough, it can be a breeding ground for disease.
  15. Evacuating ranged from stressful to impossible.  Many people drove (along with several other million people) to escape the storm only to find gas stations out of gas, and their planned six-hour trip to a drier part of the state took 20-30 hours.  Many people weren't prepared for such an extremely long evacuation.  And then there were those who tried to fly out of the area, again with several other million people.  There were only so many planes and so many seats and towards the end, when all planes had to be out of the area, many, many people were left stranded at the airport as there were no more seats left for them.
  16. A hurricane hitting a major tourist area posed even more problems.  Each year several million tourists come to Florida whether for Disney World, to catch a cruise, or to go to the Keys.  So not only did emergency planners need to figure out what to do with all of these extra people, the tourists themselves, who may have been extremely prepared at home, had few if any preps with them.
  17. No help when you call 911.  Emergency responders were very clear, and the news networks reinforced the message, that after a certain point in the storm, all first responders were going to shelter in place and no calls to 911 would be answered (well, they may have been answered but no police or medical were dispatched).  When you have people on stand-by to help after the worst of the storm passes, the last thing their bosses are going to do is send them out into deadly situations and hope they return in one piece.  This is common during all disasters so people are basically on their own during the worst of the storm and for some time afterwards (usually right after a disaster the first group of responders sent out are doing evaluations of the situation and not rendering individual aid).  Example here.
  18. Sorting out the mess afterwards is going to take work of epic proportions.  There is insurance to deal with, FEMA, clean up, rebuilding...  Here's an interesting article on the topic.
  19. Curfews are a thing.  For both people's own safety as well as quelling looters, many jurisdictions issue curfews before, during, and after a major disaster.  This is just something to be expected.
  20. Many people rely on the internet for all sorts of things.  Apparently last minute hurricane preps shouldn't be one of those things.
  21. But of course social media can be a lifesaver providing all sorts of information including a reddit live thread, local emergency info from local news stations, and the ability to check in as safe.
  22. The down side of social media...dumb people.  TIL You aren't supposed to shoot at hurricanes.
  23. As with any disaster, there are things people should and shouldn't do, check out this list of things not to do during a disaster.
  24. And from the "I can't believe people would do that' file, many people abandoned their pets to the hurricane.  Sad.
  25. Finally, some interesting things learned: Tesla can remotely extend the range of their vehicles (cool and creepy at the same time), some cool maps of the hurricane evacuation, and some lessons learned from Katrina.

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