After the 2017 hurricane season, we learned in Horizon West and Orlando that even if a hurricane isn’t expected to directly impact us, the path of the storm can quickly change and we must be prepared. Below is a list of preparation tips for things to buy and do, or don’t, before a major hurricane is predicted to impact Florida. This list is customized for our specific Horizon West area of Windermere, Winter Garden, and Orange County.
These reminders, or “rules” are based of meteorologist Denis Phillips, of WFTS in Tampa.
- Errors in storm tracks can be HUGE more than 3 days out. Don’t go crazy over forecasts more than 3 days out.
- The models and frequent updates will flip flop back and forth, look for overall trends in the storm.
- Prepare in June. If you didn’t prepare in June, do so immediately. Check your supplies and plan to see what YOUR family needs. Every family has different needs.
- Don’t freak out.
- Don’t freak out. Tropical storms and hurricanes come with the territory. Odds of storms impacting our area directly is usually low.
- If things get bad, meteorologists and local news will be there with us. Don’t pay attention to the national news channels.
Staying up-to-date and informed is critical to make decisions to protect your family before a hurricane.
- Determine Your Weather Source: Before the hurricane, pick which news stations are you like and find the most reliable. During a hurricane, these stations go into 24/7 coverage, so you’ll want to like listening to the meteorologists. We’re partial to Channel 9 WFTV and News 96.5 FM WDBO.
- Evacuation Zones: Although Horizon West is not along the coast and not in any major evacuation zones, you’re home location may be more susceptible to flooding. Know if and when you’ll evacuate if emergency officials make a declaration. If you plan to evacuate, know what city you’re heading to and where to stay. During Hurricane Irma, hotels up through Atlanta were booked full. If you’re thinking of leaving, book your hotel room as quickly as possible.
- Terminology: Know the difference between depressions, storms, and hurricanes
- Tropical Depression: Maximum sustained winds below 39 mph.
- Tropical Storm: Maximum sustained winds below 73 mph.
- Hurricane: Sustained winds above 74 mph.
- Category 1: 74 – 95 mph
- Category 2: 96 – 110 mph
- Category 3: 111 – 130 mph
- Category 4: 131 – 155 mph
- Category 5: 156 mph and above
Preparation Before the Storm
Stock up on supplies at the beginning of hurricane season or weeks before a potential storm. Making a dedicated trip to Wal-Mart at once and putting the items in storage helps knock out many of these items.
- Sign up for Orange County Alerts: Download the OCFL Alert app to receive emergency information from Orange County. It includes information on shelters, water and ice distribution, evacuation routes, and other announcements.
- Travel Bag: Pack a travel bag in case of immediate evacuation. Pack for three days. This should include clothes, toiletries, and medication. Relate to packing for a weekend getaway, but with only limited options to purchase items you forgot. Pack extra glasses or contact lenses if needed. When packing medication, bring your entire supply so you don’t run out or risk it being damaged in your home.
- First Aid Supplies: Be prepared to respond to small injuries with a First Aid Kit, as first responders will not be able to get to your house during the storm or immediately afterwards. Amazon has First Aid Kit options available for under $20.
- Household Supplies: A few days before a hurricane is when stores start to run out of stock. Be prepared with extra home supplies. Items include paper towels, toilet paper, and hygiene items. Additional items that are helpful include allergy medicine, mosquito repellent, duct tape, and hand sanitizer.
- Food Supplies: Ensure you have a minimum of 72 hours of food for each person. More is always better. Stock up on canned foods and non-perishable foods. Canned meat, fruits, and vegetables are great options, along with canned soups and beans.
- Water: Buy your water at the beginning of the season. Bottled water has a very long shelf life and will get you through the season.
- Cash: Before the storm, swing by an ATM and withdraw some cash, minimum of $100 depending on the size of your family.
- Pet Supplies: Similar to your travel bag, be prepared with supplies for your pet. Keep an extra bag of pet food and treats on hand throughout hurricane season.
- Batteries: While batters could fall under “Household Supplies”, they deserve their own line. These are critical during power outages to keep you in the light. AmazonBasic Batteries are a low price, excellent value, and easy way to stock up.
- Flashlights/Lantern: Flashlights are great when searching for an item, but are inefficient in lighting up a dark room for several hours at night. Lantern’s offer light for the whole room without having to utilize multiple flashlights. Purchase these items now and check their batteries.
- Weather Radio: This is a must for living in Florida. A Weather radio will alert you for warnings and watches in your zip code.
- Paperwork: Have all of your important documents and paperwork in order for easy reference should you need it. This should include emergency contact information, home insurance, deeds, wills, birth certificates, passports, and financial documents. Write down serial numbers for any large items that could be stolen.
- Checklists: Make a plan. If a hurricane is forecasted to hit Horizon West, will you stay or evacuate. What if the hurricane will hit Tampa or Miami? Discuss and make those decisions ahead of time. Write down your plan and create a checklist of all items to stock up on, and then another list of items to take with you when evacuating. Then, communicate your plan with family and close friends.
Preparing Your Home
- Bring in Outdoor Items: Bring inside any and all outdoor items if possible. During a hurricane, all objects have the possibility of becoming flying debris which cause damage, plus you’ll lose the item. Bring everything inside.
- Trim trees and bushes: Keep on mind the yard waste pickup day and ensure this is completed before the last pickup before the hurricane. Remove any dead branches and trim trees and bushes to allow wind to flow through them. Plants will go back, but only if they are still rooted after the storm. Trim them back to ensure they can stay rooted in extreme winds. A loppers tool is easy to use and very helpful in trimming.
- Windows: DO NOT place tape on windows. This does not offer any additional protection and adds to flying debris if the window breaks. Houses that put tape on their window demonstrate their lack of education surrounding hurricanes. Windows should be properly boarded or shuttered to protect from high winds. However, most homes in Horizon West do not board up windows unless their is a specific concern, such as a window facing an open area that will receive direct wind impact.
- Check Smoke Detectors: If you don’t regularly check smoke detectors when the time changes, now’s the time to do it.
- Prepare your Garage: Homes in Florida don’t have basements and most do not have much attic space, so many residents in Horizon West use their garage for storage. Unfortunately, this leaves your second most valuable asset, the car, exposed to the elements during a hurricane. Clean out the garage or get a storage unit to ensure the garage is being utilize to protect your cars.
- Freezer Check: This one’s easy. Fill a cup with a little bit of water and place it in your freezer. The next day, place a coin on top of the ice. If the freezer loses power and warms up, but then re-freezes everything once power is restored, you’ll know since the coin will be frozen at the bottom of the cup.
- Video Your House: Another easy way to document your belongings before the storm is a video walk-through in and around the room. Record all of the significant items that you own and record the outside of your home. This will help provide proof during an insurance claim.
Riding Out The Storm
- Run Your Ice Machine: Keep the ice machine in your freezer making ice as long as possible. Move any extra ice into your cooler until you lose power.
- Use a Cooler/Don’t Open the Fridge: Move any perishable goods that you plan to use into a cooler right before the hurricane hits. Coolers are designed to be opened and closed often; whereas refrigerators are not. Keep the fridge and freezer closed as much as possible, if you must open either, do so quickly.
- Add Ice Blocks to the Fridge: To help keep the fridge colder for longer, fill some tupperware containers with water and freeze them. Every 12 hours, rotate several containers between the fridge and freezer.
- Fill the Bathtub: Although unlikely, the water supply could be affected by a hurricane. Filling the bathtub gives you an additional supply of water for hygiene and flushing toilets.
- Turn Down Your A/C: One of the worst aspects of hurricane’s is losing power during and after the storm. Get a few more minutes of comfort by lowering the temperature of your A/C by a few degrees before the
- Lock Windows and Doors: Keep all windows and doors locked to help prevent the wind from blowing them open.
- Close Window Blinds: Close the blinds and curtains on all windows. In the event wind blows out the window, blinds and curtains help keep glass from flying far into the home, which could cause injuries.
- Re-enforce the Garage Door: The garage door is one of the weakest points on a house and most susceptible to being blown in, which could cause the roof to blow off. An easy way to help re-enforce the garage door is to slowly push both vehicles in the garage up against the garage door. To do this, put a blanket on the bumper of the car, put it in neutral, and slowly push it up against the door. This will help provide extra support to the garage door during high winds. IMPORTANT: Do NOT turn on the car while the garage door is closed.
- Candles: Be very careful with candles during hurricanes, as these can easily start a fire if left attended. Try to use a battery powered lantern for lighting instead.
- Entertainment: Without electricity, be prepared to entertain yourself and family to pass the time. Stock up on board games or books. Games like Uno are inexpensive and compact, which makes it great for both riding out the storm or packing in case of evacuation.
After The Storm
- Power Outages: Write down the number for Duke Energy, 800-228-8585, to report an outage and to receive updates. Be prepared for lengthy outages, as some neighborhoods may take several weeks to return power to.
- Generators: Ensure your generator is at least 15 feet away from your house or any neighboring houses. Generators emit dangerous levels of Carbon Dioxide. After Hurricane Irma, 5 people were killed and dozens of others injured from carbon dioxide poisoning caused by generators.
- Obey Curfew Times: Orange County will put mandatory curfew’s into effect after the storm. This ensures crews and emergency workers can assess the situation and start work right away. Do not go out on the roads while this curfew is in effect.
- Stay Hydrated: Many people go outside to start cleanup efforts once the storm has passed, but with limited electricity and no refrigeration, it’s important to stay hydrated while working outside.