Hurricane Florence is bearing down for a solid hit on the Southeastern United States. What started as a simple tropical depression just off the coast of Africa has now turned into a Category 4 hurricane. And it gets worse; some meteorologists are predicting that Florence might progress into a Category 5. Here’s what you need to know to stay safe, help with recovery efforts, and keep on top of important changes to the storm.
• First, where to find information. The National Hurricane Center is the best, and most reliable, source of information. This government-sponsored resource should be high on your radar in coming days. Accuweather also has a significant amount of info available, and should be next on your list.
• When seeking updates, remember that hurricanes can change quickly. Be sure that you’re looking at the most recent update (usually posted within 12 hours) when you’re reviewing information, especially if you’re in an impacted zone.
• Unlike most hurricanes, Florence isn’t predicted to hit the Florida keys or Southern Florida. Instead, the current path puts it in place for a solid hit between Myrtle Beach and Virginia Beach. Again, this is only a prediction; hurricanes are notorious for changing path at the last minute.
• If you are anywhere close to the predicted path – and yes, that includes most of Florida, too, as well as areas north of Virginia Beach – keep a close eye on the news. Some locations along the coast are being evacuated already; don’t try to play hardball and wait it out. Listen to emergency officials and evacuated if and when you are directed to do so. Material items can be replaced; your life is much more precious.
• Experts are predicting torrential rains, coastal erosion, and extremely high 110 MPH winds. If you’re close to the coast or in the path, this likely means you will lose power. There may also be flooding in lowlands and localized flood plains. Plan for this accordingly. Check local emergency responder pages to find out where to go if you need to escape.
• Folks, we aren’t talking about a little bit of summer rain, here. Accuweather is predicting “historic” rainfall, meaning this storm may bring far more water and flooding than we’ve ever seen before. Just how much are they predicting? An insane 40 inches, or 3.5 feet. Power outages will happen. Floods will happen. Storm surge along the coast is almost a guarantee.
• Remember that, during storms like these, access to water, food, and hygiene may be cut off – sometimes for days. If you haven’t stocked up on supplies, try to do so now as long as it is safe. Be aware that stores often run out of items early on. Gas stations along the coast are already reporting that they have run out of gas; keep this in mind if you decide to evacuate.
• A list of evacuated zones is available here. However, contacting your local emergency response organizations is best because conditions may change quickly. Don’t assume that just because you aren’t listed here, you don’t need to evacuate. Check local city pages and call your police non-emergency line if you need up-to-date information or have an emergency situation on your hands.
• As emergency responders will likely be kept busy, you should only call 911 if you have a true emergency on your hands. This includes flash flooding that traps you in or on your house, critical health emergencies, severe injuries, and crimes in progress. Otherwise, call the non-emergency line first.
• Want to help people and pets affected by the hurricanes? The Red Cross is already in action in advance of the worst of the storm. Contact them directly to donate or volunteer your time. To help with pets (such as if you would like to foster pets for evacuees) get in touch with your local animal shelter.
• The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) will also be arranging volunteer efforts and supplies for victims. If you’re not a victim, you can still get involved, including volunteering your time, sending supplies, or opening up your home to evacuees.
• Pets found during evacuation efforts should only be taken in if it is safe and reasonable for you to do so. Be aware that animals you find may be scared and reactive. Your own safety should always come first. Contact local shelters for information on what to do with a found pet; this includes livestock, such as horses, cows, and sheep.
• For areas hunkering down or sheltering in, check in with local businesses and charities. Most will play an active role in recovery and collecting supplies or volunteers after the storm. If you live close to neighbors, stay in contact with them as long as it is safe for you to do so. This is especially critical for seniors, the infirm, and the disabled, as they may be unable to react quickly to changing conditions.
• Above all else, STAY SAFE. Hurricane Florence is no tropical storm at this point and we might be in for a wild ride on the Eastern coast. How you prepare, and how you react, can help you ride out the storm in relative comfort and safety, even if conditions worsen quickly.