2020 could be the worst hurricane season: are you prepared?
By: Cathy Caroll
Every June through November marks hurricane season, but this year we're likely to face an unusually destructive one. As top forecasters predict an above average Atlantic hurricane season, experts agree that preparedness is the key to avoiding major losses.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported a 70 percent chance of experiencing 13 to 19 major, named tropical storms—which have sustained winds of 39 miles per hour or more. Six to 10 of those storms are expected to have sustained winds of 74 miles per hour or more, becoming hurricanes. Three to six of those hurricanes could be the kind that, if they hit land, will wreak devastating damage, endangering people and property with flying debris in winds that could reach over 100 miles per hour. By contrast, an average hurricane season is less severe, with 12 big tropical storms, six which become hurricanes—three of them major.
Now is the time to prepare. It only takes one hurricane or tropical storm to cause a disaster, NOAA warns, regardless of the seasonal outlook. Though nearly half of the states in the U.S. are in hurricane-prone areas, other states are not immune from the dangers: Hurricane storm surges can trigger tornadoes, as well as deadly inland flooding.
Update Your Disaster Plans in the Wake of COVID-19
This year, storm season has the additional layer of occurring amid a pandemic. Your disaster preparedness plan should take this into account. The Federal Emergency Management Agency's updated guidelines include that you:
- Check with local officials to see if your regular shelter is open this year due to the coronavirus. If you evacuate to a community shelter, review social distancing and other guidelines for this from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Prepare your evacuation “go bag." Include hand sanitizer, disinfectant supplies and two cloth face-coverings per person, in addition to medication and pet supplies—or keep these items ready in your car trunk. Have enough food, water and other supplies for each family member for at least 72 hours. After a hurricane, these items may be in short supply for days or even weeks.
Protect Your Family and Employees
Planning, preparing and knowing what to do when a hurricane is coming can make a huge difference in safety and resiliency. A few key steps include:
- Updating your plan and making sure everyone in your family and business knows and understands it.
- Downloading the FEMA mobile app for disaster resources, weather alerts and safety tips.
Prepare Your Home and Business
During hurricanes, people can pass away from drowning or being struck by blowing debris—and your home, office building and frequented roads can be destroyed, too. Here are some simple steps to make your home or office safer:
- Remove damaged trees and limbs that could fall on your house or break windows.
- Fix loose gutters that could be torn off in high winds.
- Lock storm shutters to protect windows. If you don't have shutters, buy plywood and nail it over windows if a bad storm or hurricane is imminent.
- Place sandbags around areas prone to flooding.
- Secure outdoor equipment such as patio furniture and grills. Retrofitting your home with protective measures can be expensive, but you can do it in stages, according to the Institute for Insurance Information, which recommends:
- Replacing gravel or rock landscaping with shredded bark, which is lighter and won't cause as much damage when it's blown around.
- Making sure sliding glass doors are made of tempered glass and covered with shutters or plywood during a storm.
- Replacing old garage doors and tracks with ones approved for wind pressure and impact. Wind coming into your home through such large openings could cause major problems for the rest of your home—especially your roof.
Protect Your Finances
Recouping damages to your home and business requires preparation. FEMA estimates that after a hurricane 40 percent of small businesses won't reopen, 25 percent more small businesses will close a year later, and, three years later, 75 percent of businesses without a continuity plan will fail. Here are a few steps to take to protect the value of your home and business:
- Create a detailed inventory of your possessions and their value. Remember to include commercial vehicles and business equipment. This information is vital if you have to file a claim.
- Flooding isn't generally covered in standard business, home and renters insurance policies, so find out if you have the protection you need.
- Be sure you have comprehensive auto insurance which covers damage to your vehicle from tropical storms and hurricanes including damage from high winds, water and objects that might fall on it, such as trees and branches.
Getting precise, accurate information about a serious storm or hurricane heading your way is crucial. Stay up to date on watches and warnings by checking the National Hurricane Center throughout the season.
When disasters strike any area, the high volume of claims prevents many insurance companies from acting quickly. Having access to a Dedicated Catastrophe Team that is poised to respond at the first sign of threatening weather, can help you recover from losses fast.