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Preparation for a hurricanePreparation for a hurricane

Preparation for a hurricane

Compiled by John Collins, AOPA’s aviation services department

Inventory your property

Additional resources

  • Take photographs and make a list of all valuables
  • Safeguard valuable papers in high and dry location—deeds, wills, insurance policies, contracts, titles, passports, leases, and tax returns
  • Secure loose objects or move to garage or shed
    Outdoor furniture, trash cans, outdoor grills
  • Protect windows
    Close shutters or cover with plywood—taping windows is not effective
  • Move cars inside garage
    Secure garage door
  • Move boats close to house
    Lash securely to trailer, fill with water to weigh down
  • Secure loose objects inside
    Close closet doors, tape cabinet doors shut


To make this decision, you should know as much as you can about the storm’s strength and movement. Also, consider the safety of the location in which you’d be “riding it out.” Obviously you’re better off in a sturdy structure on high ground than in a mobile home or in a low-lying area.

There are many other factors involved, and there is no one answer for every situation. My advice is to stay tuned to your TV or radio for the latest reports, and err on the side of caution.

If authorities order an evacuation, follow their instructions! Please take the threat of a hurricane seriously. Property damage is unavoidable, but loss of life can be avoided if people heed warnings from authorities. Here’s what to watch for:

Hurricane watch

A hurricane watch is issued by the National Hurricane Center when hurricane conditions pose a threat to a specified area within 36 hours. Monitor storm reports on radio and television. Implement your family plan. Before the official evacuation order is given, consider leaving the area early to avoid congested evacuation routes.

Hurricane warning

A hurricane warning is issued by the National Hurricane Center for areas where sustained winds of 74 mph or higher are expected within 24 hours or less. All precautions must be completed immediately.

A word about strike probabilities

As a hurricane approaches, you may hear reports or see maps on TV giving “strike probabilities.” These show the most likely areas to be hit with the highest percentage and areas less likely to be hit with lower percentages.

Do not be lulled into a sense of security. These numbers represent the forecasters’ best guess as to where the hurricane is headed. Hurricane movement is very hard to predict, and storms can and do change course unexpectedly.

Also, we’re used to hearing percentages for the probability of precipitation. While you may go ahead with your plans for a picnic if there’s a 60 percent chance of rain; you should not use that mindset with hurricanes. The consequences of the forecast being “a little off” are drastically different for rain and hurricanes.

If you stay

Stay indoors in an inner room on lowest level away from doors and windows. Do not go out in the brief calm during passage of the hurricane’s eye. The lull sometimes ends suddenly and winds return from the opposite direction. Winds can increase in seconds to 75 mph or more.

Without taking any unnecessary risks, protect your property from damage. Temporary repairs may reduce further losses from wind and water.

Move furniture away from exposed doors and windows.

Keep radio or television tuned to receive information from official sources. Unexpected changes can sometimes call for last-minute relocations.

Remain calm. Your ability to cope with emergencies will help other members of your family. Stay calm, be reassuring, and use common sense. Use telephone or cellular phones only in the event of an emergency or a life-threatening situation.

If you evacuate

Know the official evacuation routes and where you are going and leave early (preferably at the beginning of the watch period), leaving sufficient time to avoid heavy evacuation traffic. Evacuate in daylight with a full tank of gas. Take only the most valuable possessions with you, otherwise place them in high points away from flooding within your home. Listen to your car radio for additional emergency information or evacuation routing problems.

Turn off gas, water, and electricity. Check to see that you have done everything you can to protect your property from damage or loss.

When going to an evacuation shelter, first confirm that the shelter is open. During an emergency, authorities open shelters as they are needed. Take blankets, sleeping bags, flashlights, special dietary foods, infant needs, games, lightweight folding chairs, and water. Register every person arriving with you at the shelter.

Do not take pets, alcoholic beverages, or weapons of any kind to the shelters.

Be prepared to offer assistance to shelter workers if necessary, and advise all family members of their obligations to keep the shelter clean and orderly.

You should have preplanned what to take within your vehicle (blankets, bottled water, canned or dried provisions, eating utensils, extra family medications, first-aid kit, games, hearing aid, manual can opener, prescriptions, sleeping bags, spare batteries, spare glasses, and other essential survival items). Take additional changes of clothing and foul-weather gear.

You should have preplanned to keep in your possession your driver’s license, personal identification papers, insurance policies, personal property inventory, medic-alert or device with special medical information, maps to destination, heirlooms, valuable pictures, and essential paperwork that may be vital during and after your evacuation.

Take cash, since ATMs or credit card machines may not be working.

Stocking up

It’s a good idea to keep hurricane supplies in one place so you’ll know exactly where to find them when the time comes.

Stores are always crowded as a hurricane approaches, and supplies of many items may be low.

Hurricane essentials

Hardware store/supermarket

  • Flashlights and bulbs
  • Batteries
  • Battery-powered radio/TV
  • “Rabbit ears” for TV
  • Manual can opener
  • Garbage bags
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Extra clothing (sturdy)
  • Water purification tablets
  • Camping stove, fuel, and matches
  • Coolers
  • Basic tools, hammer, screwdrivers, axe, saw, rake, and shovel
  • Exterior-grade plywood to cover windows. These can be pre-cut to fit your windows and stored permanently.
  • Screws and nails
  • Plastic sheeting and tarps
  • Rope and duct tape
  • Mop, broom, and pail
  • Ladder
  • Work gloves and goggles
  • Pocketknife


  • First-aid kit
  • Supply of prescription medication
  • Children’s medicines
  • Soap
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Aspirin and other analgesics
  • Disinfectants
  • Baby supplies
  • Bottled water (as the storm approaches, fill tubs and other containers with tap water)
  • Boxed, canned, and powdered milk
  • Canned juices, instant coffee, and tea
  • Canned meats and soup
  • Canned vegetables and fruits
  • Snack foods
  • Spreads (peanut butter and jelly)
  • Bread and cereals
  • Sugar, salt, and pepper
  • Pet food
  • Disposable plates and utensils
  • Toilet paper and other toiletries

Hurricane preparation checklist

House checklist

___________ Gather supplies early

___________ Store loose outdoor items

___________ Anchor small sheds

___________ Trim dead branches from trees and shrubs

___________ Put chorine in pool; protect filter motor

___________ Tape or board up windows

___________ Fill gas tank of cars; park in safe place

___________ Remove valuables (furniture and rugs) from floor of house

___________ Move furniture away from window; cover with plastic

___________ Put important documents in waterproof container

___________ Keep tuned to radio or television for the latest information

___________ Do not remain in a trailer or mobile home during a tornado

___________ Doors and windows on the side of a house away from the tornado may be left open to help reduce damage to the buildings, but stay away from them.

Shopping list (not at last minute)

___________ Flashlight and batteries

___________ Radio and batteries

___________ Masking tape for windows

___________ Several days’ worth of non-perishable, easy-to-heat food

___________ Bottled water

___________ Canned heat for cooking

___________ First-aid kit

___________ Non-electric can opener

Mobile home checklist

___________ Store or anchor outdoor accessories to ground

___________ Shut off fuel lines at the tank

___________ Disconnect electrical, sewer, and water lines

___________ Open faucets

___________ Pack breakable items and store in center of home

___________Tape windows and mirrors. Evacuate when winds reach 30 mph

September 15, 1999

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