Last-minute hurricane tips you might not have thought about



I wasn’t on the Treasure Coast for the last two major hurricanes, Jeanne and Frances, in 2004, but I did make it through a tornado that destroyed my home in Tuscaloosa, Ala., six years ago.

As we prepare for a hit from Hurricane Irma, here are some things I learned from that experience that you may not see elsewhere.

• Keep your cell phone charged up to the time electricity may go out. Have other family members keep theirs charged as well. Your phone will be your lifeline to help and other family members and you will be surprised at how quickly you can lose a charge in an emergency. Make sure you keep your charger with you during the storm and remember you can charge it from your car — as long as you can get it started — after the storm.

• While electricity, telephone and Internet connections are still working, get with other family members and develop a plan for contacting them to let them know your status after the hurricane passes. If you are on Facebook or other social media, let loved ones know you will try to post your status there as soon as you can. That will be the quickest way to reach the greatest number of your family members and friends. If Internet and phone connections are down, use one person outside the storm area as your main contact and ask them to notify other loved ones of your status. In the hours after the tornado struck our home, we were unable to call out on our cell phones because the networks were flooded with calls from outside the network. We spent a frantic couple of hours afterward trying to find out if our son and daughter living a few miles away were OK.

• If you have a designated safe space where you intend to ride out the storm in your home, make sure it is out of the path of trees that could fall on your home. Our home was destroyed by three pine trees, two oaks and a maple tree that came crashing down on it when they were uprooted from the winds. Luckily, we were in an interior closet out of the line of where the trees fell.

• Wear closed-toed shoes during the storm. When we emerged from the closet after the tornado, our house and neighborhood were littered with glass, nails, fallen trees and other debris. So many fallen trees blocked our neighborhood, that nobody could leave in a car. Those who lost their homes had to walk out several blocks.

• Spend any spare time you have before the storm packing a bag for several days of being away. Put your belongings in a baggage with rollers so you can wheel it long distances if you need to leave your home.

• Get cash. If the electricity is down, credit card processing machines, ATMs and even cash registers won’t work.

• Program your insurance company’s claims department’s number in your cell phone. If possible, keep your insurance policy with you.

Good luck, be safe and we will post some more tips soon on dealing with the storm’s aftermath.

This is an update of a story originally written for Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

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