As a life long resident of Charleston, South Carolina, the word hurricane still excites some nervousness in my mind, even though I have seen my fair share. I can still remember the destruction of Hurricane Hugo and the devastation it caused my city almost 30 years ago. In more recent times, Hurricane Katrina still rings horrific tragedy in so many lives, and people say to themselves so often in these situations, "if we had only been prepared". You do not want to find yourself in the unfortunate situation of the lesser prepared, and here are some of the best ways to stay abreast of the hurricane essentials.
First of all, what is the difference between a tropical storm and a hurricane? A tropical storm is an organized system of strong thunderstorms with a defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 MPH. A hurricane is an intense topical weather system with a well defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 74 MPH or higher.
Know the difference between watches and warnings. In today's technology and news and emergency warnings and watches are readily available but it is up to the individual to know the difference and be prepared. A watch is an announcement atha hurricane conditions are possible within the specified areas. When watches are issued it is imperative that preparations begin immediately because winds will incur soon after. This is why these watches are given 48 hours in advance. Many people are fooled by the "calm before the storm". A hurricane warning is an announcement that tropical storm conditions are expected within the specified area. Again, winds will make these preparations very difficult to accomplish once the wind starts. These Watches are issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of the storm force winds.
Most people that live in the Lowcountry are familiar with the thousand year flood that happened last October that was due to a tropical storm. It left the Lowcountry to Columbia under thousands of gallons of water, which was not anticipated at all. So because of that, many residents have taken out additional flood insurance policies and preparations for flooding such as sandbags. In the lower lying regions, you will see sandbags lining property lines or doorways to try and keep water out of the thresholds.
You absolutely MUST know your evacuation route. Even if your plan is to stay and hold down your house, conditions could get so bad that you may need to evacuate for the safety of your family. During the tropical storm last year that lead to the thousand year flood, some people had flooding up to their roof lines. There was no choice but evacuations. Please know your evacuation route, plan and have your car gassed, with an extra tank in case of scarcity. I can not stress this enough. It could mean life or death.
Lastly, make sure you have on hand all essential items such as non-perishable food items, water, batteries, weather radio and make sure to fill your bathtubs up with water to flush toilets and bathe should the water lines go down and conditions get compromised. Canned foods are incredibly important if power lines go down and refrigerated food goes bad. Also, bottled water, a gallon a day, per person for a week is recommended. Of course that seems like a lot but if a situation ever arises that you should ever need it, you will be thankful that you were prepared.
Hurricanes are serious storms that can take lives and devastate communities. They should always be taken seriously and with the utmost regard to detail. If it passes you by with a little rain, you have many things to be thankful for and you will be prepared for the next storm!