The last three Atlantic hurricane seasons have seen major storms strike the United States, creating billions of dollars in damage. Hurricane Matthew in 2016; Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in 2017; and Hurricane Michael in 2018 were all devastating. In each case, Florida was in the bullseye.
The other issues of higher insurance costs, building code changes and hurricane fatigue are just now becoming evident as areas rebuild and try to return to normal. Simply put — no one needs another hurricane in 2019.
The forecasters at AccuWeather are predicting 14 tropical storms this year, with five to seven of them growing to hurricane intensity and two to four of them churning into major hurricanes. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the average number of hurricanes per year is 12. There is some hope the weather condition El Niño will continue to strengthen this year and last through hurricane season, because this will create wind shear in the ocean hurricane lanes, which can diminish the season. However, it appears the folks at AccuWeather don’t give much hope to El Niño currently.
What should homeowners do around the house to get prepared before the storm?
First and foremost, double check your survival supplies that may have been depleted from the last hurricane. Do you need to replenish your stock of emergency food and water, batteries, flashlights, tarps and generator? Gather all the items you need for your get-and-go bag, such as important paperwork, insurance coverage and identification. Be sure everything you need personally is prepared.
Next, start preparing your house. Trim branches away from your home and remove dead limbs and trees. Clean your roof and gutters of leaves and debris. Plus, have a licensed roofer repair any loose shingles or leaks. Take the steps now to prevent driving rain from penetrating your roof.
Ensure doors are adjusted so that latches secure tightly. Replace worn or torn weather-strip, which can stop driving rain from coming into the home. Now is a good time to re-caulk around windows and doors to prevent moisture seeping through hairline cracks. Plus, cracks in stucco and gaps in siding must be caulked to prevent moisture penetration in the wall.
Old, outdated aluminum windows should probably be replaced with hurricane tested windows. Since last hurricane season, hurricane impact glass windows have become very popular for their strength and protection against flying debris. Many homeowners who have impact glass windows choose not to board up their windows.
Check the supports in the garage door to ensure none have been removed or loosened. Switching to a direct current (DC) garage door motor with a battery backup will keep a garage door working in the event power is low. These new motors are reasonably priced and should be considered when replacing a worn-out unit.
Have a strategy for properly storing yard and pool items in the event of a hurricane. It is extremely difficult figuring this out while you are trying to protect your family. Before the storm is a great time to get rid of things in your yard and pool area that you no longer need. Many times, you are stowing and protecting stuff that best belongs in the garbage.
Finally, create a safe space in your home. The new mantra by state officials is know your zone and know your home, which simply means you should not evacuate if you are in a safe, well-built home in an area that is out of the path of the hurricane. Emergency management officials have determined over evacuations create more dangers than just sheltering in place, especially if the home is not in the direct path of a hurricane. Creating a safe space in your home adds peace of mind for those who have never ridden out a hurricane.
The predictions for this year’s hurricane season coupled with two years of devastation should get everyone in the mindset of preparing. Although hurricane season is unpredictable, Florida dealt with Hurricane Michael in 2018, which was recently upgraded to a Category 5 hurricane.
Florida’s hurricane track record has not been good over the last three years, and who’s to say this season won’t be even worse? My best advice — start your preparations early and take them seriously.
Don Magruder is the CEO of RoMac Building Supply. He is also the host of the Around the House TV show on LSTV and LakeSumterTV.com at 1 and 6:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; and at 7 a.m., Noon and 6 p.m. Saturday.