Hurricanes produce damaging winds, elevated sea levels (storm surges), flooding rains and tornadoes. They wreak havoc on coastlines, homes and lives. Hurricane Camille in 1969 dropped 27 inches of rain in fewer than six hours. Far and away the most devastating was Hurricane Andrew, which hit South Florida in 1992, leaving behind what looked like a war zone. Since Hurricane Andrew, building codes have become more strict in the hope of ensuring greater protection from these deadly storms.
Fortunately, every year meteorologists learn more about hurricanes. The National Hurricane Center in Coral Gables can predict within 12 hours when a hurricane will make landfall. Residents must prepare in advance and pay attention to official announcements from the National Hurricane Center. Preparing for a hurricane takes place long before one actually occurs. The first step is determining your threat. Here are some important guidelines to consider:
- Know your elevation.
- Know your evacuation color (check your telephone book or Office of Emergency Management)
- Know your home construction type.
- Know the evacuation route.
You also need to know how to prepare your home and make a list of your family’s special needs (prescription medicines, etc.). Emergency shelters do not take animals, so make advance arrangements for your furry loved ones.
Brush up on your hurricane lingo so you will better understand the forecast:
- Tropical depression: A complete low-pressure circulation with winds up to 38 mph.
- Tropical storm: A low-pressure circulation with highest sustained winds of 39-73 mph and a warm center. Storms are named.
- Hurricane: A pronounced low-pressure circulation with highest sustained winds of 74 mph and a warm center.
You also must be able to distinguish between a watch and a warning. A tropical storm or hurricane watch means that it is possible to occur within the next 36 hours. A tropical storm or hurricane warning means that it is expected within the next 24 hours. Florida Power and Light (FP&L) and local news stations publish free hurricane guides.
When a hurricane threatens Naples Florida’s coastline, you must either evacuate your home or find a safe interior room without windows in which to take shelter. In the event your area falls under a mandatory evacuation, fill your vehicle’s gas tank, have cash on hand and leave early—everyone will need gas and all roads out of the hurricane’s path will be crowded with other evacuees. Shelter openings will be announced on the radio, but do not report to the shelters until then. You should also:
- Turn the refrigerator and freezer to the coldest settings.
- Turn off the water at the main valve leading into your home.
- Turn off the main gas line.
- Prepare emergency water and food.
- Secure important documents in a watertight container.
- Cover windows and doors with plywood or hurricane shutters.
- Bring in or tie down projectile objects outside the home.
After the storm, do not attempt to return to your home until authorities give the all-clear. Stay tuned to the television or the radio for the latest official updates—and be patient.
Notify your Naples insurance agent and be sure to obtain the proper forms, and arrange for pictures and video to facilitate your home repairs.