Practical tips often overlooked during the hurricane season to help new Florida residents stay sane

Ellen Contreras

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Photo collage - hurricane imagesEllen Contreras

The hurricane season starts on June 1st and ends on November 30th. While most of the activity is seen in September, we do get our fair share of storms throughout the entire six months. Some years are way busier than others.

Every year is different and unpredictable. One year, Florida gets the brunt of the storms, another year gulf states like Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi get pounded. Don’t forget about Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, they seem to get hit hard as well.

We have a lot of people moving from the west coast and northeast to the southeast – especially Florida - and they need help with how to prepare and what to expect. For others who live in these areas, a refresher can’t hurt.

Here are some tips to help you prepare for a storm, what to when one hits, and what to do after it is over:

Stay or evacuate – have a plan:

It goes without saying that cat 4 and 5 storms are devastating, and residents are advised by emergency services to evacuate if possible. Cat 3 is where a lot of people are on the fence regarding what to do. For many, if the eye is predicted to hit where they live, they leave. Otherwise, if it looks like the storm will skirt the area, they hunker down and stay. A lot of people seem to stay home and have hurricane parties when a cat 1 or 2 is headed into town.

However, if you live in an evacuation zone or a mobile home park, then you must heed the warnings and leave when a storm is coming. For those living in Florida, visit FloridaDisaster.org to help you decide on your evacuation plan. Every state has their own site for disaster information.

If you leave ahead of a storm, know where you plan on staying. Make reservations if staying at a hotel and bring non-perishable food and water if the hotel loses power.

Grab and go bag:

Set aside important documents in a bag in the event you must leave quickly, so you are not left scrambling. Passports, birth certificates, insurance policies, deeds, social security cards, mortgages or leases, financial documents, driver’s licenses, safe deposit box keys, passwords, etc. Keep this bag year-round and go through it annually to keep it organized and updated.

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Grab & go bag - essential files, paperwork, ID, etc.Elle Contreras

Prepare home and property:

At the start of the hurricane season, make sure you have your window protection in place. If you use wood to board your windows, make sure they are in good condition and that you have enough hardware and tools to put them up and take them down.

If you have accordion shutters, make sure they are in working order, and open and close easily. If you have traditional shutters, make sure you have enough wingnuts on hand.

Check trees and shrubs, and trim them away from power lines. Remove any branches or limbs that are dead and have the debris cleared away, so it is not a hazard.

Take a video of both the interior and exterior of the home ahead of a storm. In the event you incur damage, there is proof of the condition and contents of your home. Keep an inventory of furniture and assets as well.

Food, water, and supplies:

At the start of hurricane season, keep frozen food to a minimum in the event you lose power, you do not have to worry about how to preserve the food. Nor will you be forced to have a spontaneous barbecue.

As the season approaches, buy non-perishable items as they go on sale. It saves money rather than buying in bulk right before a storm when everyone else is in the store clearing off the shelves.

Here are some food suggestions from a seasoned Floridian:

  • Canned ready-to-eat soups – you can heat them on the grill or eat them cold.
  • Tuna packets, tomatoes, and mayo that comes in a squeeze bottle. Hellmann’s squeeze bottle doesn’t need refrigeration. Quick sandwiches that are satisfying.
  • Nutella, bananas, and apples. Comfort food at its best.
  • Powdered milk added to water so you can have cereal.

Along with the usual snacks, these items will give you meals in a pinch while waiting for the power to be restored.

Buy water for drinking and fill the tub to flush toilets if you lose water. Batteries, flashlights, phone chargers, bug spray, sunscreen – think about items you use when camping or boating.

Alcohol isn’t necessarily a bad thing to have on hand either, depending on your preference. Take cash out of the ATM as a precaution. Make sure you also have enough food and supplies for your pets.

Self-care:

Ahead of a storm, get your laundry done. Get prescriptions refilled. Have baby wipes on hand. Cold showers on a hot day aren’t too bad, but baby wipes will help you feel clean if you don’t want to freeze or you don’t have water at all.

This is a list of some of the things that others told me about when I recently moved to Florida and some I learned through trial and error. My last piece of advice is to pick up a hurricane preparedness guide from your state or county offices that come with a comprehensive checklist along with phone numbers and websites of agencies that can help after the storm passes.

Let friends and family, that live outside the area, know what your plans are ahead of time. Check in with them after so they know you are safe. Hopefully the 2022 season won’t be as active as predicted.

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Ellen Contreras is also known as the Treasure Coast Connector because she shares information and writes articles that connects business owners to consumers in the community - Florida's Treasure Coast and beyond. Ellen is an iHeart Radio talk show host at Planet Vero. Her show, Treasure Coast Connector, airs on Saturdays at 3pm on WCZR 101.7FM (Stuart to Melbourne, FL). She also writes helpful articles and shares opinions on careers, business development, the Florida lifestyle and more. Follow Ellen on: Livestream - iHeart radio talk show: https://livestream.com/planetvero/events/ Spreaker: https://www.spreaker.com/show/treasure-coast-connector-show Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TreasureCoastConnector Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/treasurecoastconnector/ LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ellencontreras/

Vero Beach, FL
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