102 Hurricane Tips from Hurricane-Surviving Floridians

Florida is beautiful, which is why daily people move and retire here from all over the world (many to South Florida from the Northeast and Midwest) to trade their bitterly cold winters of shoveling snow for taking in sunshine, seemingly endless beaches and the warm salty air. With all the wonderful and good things the Sunshine State has to offer also comes the bad – mosquitoes, humidity (coupled with bad hair days) and hurricanes – just to name a few.

As Florida natives of 33 years, my hubby and I have seen ALL kind of storms. John lived through Hurricane Andrew in 1993. In college we waited out Wilma and Frances at his parent’s house in Fort Lauderdale. In 2004, Hurricane Charley leveled my hometown where my family lost our roof and I lost absolutely everything in my room (from yearbooks, childhood memories, etc). Then we’ve seen “big storms” that have ventured off course or dissipated. In fact, many times I remember growing up we’d be excited about “Hurricane Days” at school because they almost always turned into a gorgeous beach day (Florida friends, I know you remember these days and hurricane parties)!

Nonetheless, we’ve seen our share of hurricanes and the truth is, you never seem to know how things will turn out until it’s passed – or until Jim Cantore shows up to your ‘hood.

We’ve been blessed to make it to this day to say that we’ve survived all the storms in our past and we will – WILL SURVIVE – the storms that are yet to come. Scrolling through the newsfeed on various social media platforms, I’ve seen some pretty smart, practical, clever, silly and even insanely crazy ideas for some tips, advice and thoughts on how to prepare for and survive a hurricane from many of our Floridian friends (with some extra tips from my bestie, Nurse Kellee). Including this, which is sort of scary, but true. We live *here*.
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Whether you’re a seasoned storm survivor or if you’ve just moved to Florida and in panic mode because Publix or Walmart ran out of water, here’s a few list of things to keep in mind, put into practice and do when you’re preparing for a hurricane (note: these are in NO particular order, is not a complete or exact list that will work for everyone. Be smart and safe!):

1) Have a plan. If you don’t have one, start making a checklist now, an evacuation plan if needed and implement one or two of the suggestions you see below that you may find useful.
2) Get gas. Fill gas cans, top off vehicles. Last night around 10pm we called around to see who had gas and ended up going to a station that was filling up at that exact moment.
3) Buy bottled and gallon jugs of water.
4) Fill tupperware and freezer bags with water and start filling your freezer, you can use this as ice packs later, extra drinking water and water for pets. (have your littles help, it will get them mentally prepared for the storm and they will think this is fun!)
5) Stock up on some non-perishables. They always tell you to be prepared for 7-10 days, make sure you have enough goods for everyone in the household, even your pets!
6) First-aid kits. Scrounge up all you have around the house and pick up what you don’t have: including latex gloves; sterile dressings; soap/cleaning agent; antibiotic ointment; burn ointment; adhesive bandages in small, medium and large sizes; eye wash; a thermometer; aspirin/pain reliever; anti-diarrhea tablets; antacids; laxatives; small scissors; tweezers; petroleum jelly). Throw them in a bin!
7) Take pictures of important documents and upload them to your cloud (email yourself if you don’t know of any clouds other than the ones in the sky) or external storage device (such as a USB/pen/thumb drive) that you can easily take with you.
8) Take videos. Rooms. Valuables. Exterior of your home. Etc. Upload to your cloud (or other places) to easily access them after the storm for inventory and/or insurance purposes.
9) Fill your bathtub. Not necessarily for drinking, but flushing toilets or maybe rinsing your mouth out if you decide you brush your teeth to feel human
10) Put your shutters up. If you can’t, see if someone can help you.
11) Know your flood zone!! Check with your insurance agent to see what your zone is, you need to know if you’re prone to flooding, in which you need to make extra preparations (sand bags, flood insurance, etc). You can also check your address on the Evacuation Maps courtesy of www.FloridaDisaster.org/PublicMapping
12) Exterior goods need to be secured in a shed/garage/inside. Patio furniture, grill (we are brining this and all propane tanks inside), potted plants, bicycles, etc all become deadly projectiles during high winds and tornadoes.
13) Get cash out of the ATM. Lots of it, as you can’t use your credit card when there’s no power.
14) External battery packs. Thankfully we had a few Mophie chargers that will be a HUGE help (I’m not sure how I survived before without my wireless Charge Force Station).
15) Family up north you’ve been itching to visit? Now is a really, really good time to do so!
16) Determine what’s priceless and irreplaceable to you, keep them close or take them with you. Consider putting heirlooms & photos in plastic bins in a high place, second floor, or safe room if you don’t plan on taking them with you.
17) If you don’t have time to leave, now is the time to check with your local government on shelter locations. Here, most schools are locations so do not wait to check on these! (Click here for Charlotte County Emergency Management)
18) Medications. Get prescriptions filled asap, keep medical supplies together and prep a cooler to keep these things cold if needed.
19) What are the speeds of different hurricane categories?

Wind speeds of hurricanes:
Storm Category Winds
CAT 1 74-95 mph
CAT 2 96-110 mph
CAT 3 111-130 mph
CAT 4 131-155 mph
CAT 5 Over 155 mph

20) LAUNDRY! My most dreaded chore, but get it ALL done now. You’ll thank yourself later.
21) Itty bitties: diapers, wipes, formula, blankets, pillows, pacifier (or 4-5).
22) Littles: Pull-ups, wipes, blankets, pillows, favorite comfort snacks or special teddy.
23) Pencils/crayons/notebooks, a board game (we will likely be playing with Pokemon cards and learning the ins and outs of every single Pokemon in existence if we go without power for a few days) and a few things to pass the time with littles.
24) Teens: I don’t have any teens, but I’d think now would be a good time to pick up a good book series (maybe a Harry Potter book or two?) and to bring back the Walkman!
25) Since you just did all your laundry, sort out enough clothes for at least a week to 10 days (at least it’s less to put away, woo hoo!)
26) Unless you’re Jim Cantore, as tempting as it is to go outside to see what’s going on mid-storm, please be safe (and smart)… don’t do this:

27) Start using up your perishables to make more room for ice in the freezer.
28) Bug repellent!! (mosquitos are no fun)
29) Pick up extra pet and livestock food & supplies.
30) Share your evacuation plans with loved ones and family members so they know where you’re headed.
31) Secure ALL firearms and ammunition properly.
32) Old rags & beach towels on your windowsills. Even with the best windows & shutters, water seeping from the wind pressure happens. A few damp towels is better than soaked drywall or floors.
33) If you don’t already have your hurricane supplies, you need to please stop reading this and start heading out now. Many places are running low, you may be able to call ahead or do in-store pickup. *resume reading when you get home… here*
34) Brush up on your non-electronic solitaire skills with REAL CARDS (rules on how to play courtesy of Bicycle: click here)

35) Flashlights, lanterns and glow-sticks (for the kids)… we bought a mini flashlight with a wrist lanyard for each kid so they felt safe.
36) B.A.T.T.E.R.I.E.S. you can never have too many, stock up. A few lighters would be good too.
37) Pick up some adult beverages (CM for you, Mike Martin!) or wine to keep yourself a just a bit sane. When the power goes out, you can drink whites first, as reds will still be good later. Just today a customer of ours brought me this as a “Thank You” and said to add to our “hurricane supplies” (thank you, Emily!)
38) Weather Channel does their updates “on the 8’s” of the hour. Hurricane updates at 5am/pm and 11am/pm
39) Dust off the emergency radio and listen to NOAA Weather Radio for critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS)
40) Click here for the difference between hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones (American Red Cross)
41) Never underestimate the power of a nice loooong, hot shower. Do yourself a favor and take one before power goes out.
42) Generators are your friend.
43) If you have this said generator, purchase a wall A/C unit. Once power is out, you can board your family up in one room in the house with the A/C unit and seal off the door with a mattress to keep one room super cool while you wait for power to be restored (we did this during a storm at my in-laws in college, genius and kept us sane with no power for over a week!)
44) Park vehicles as close to the house as possible (we have them horizontally in the driveway close to the garage)
45) Stock up on Oreo Cookies. Just because, everyone loves Oreos.
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46) When you lose power, cook EVERYTHING that will go bad. Better to have too much food than let it spoil and you can share with those who don’t have much or any.
47) Boil water to make it safe for emergencies (more info here from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
48) Flooding/storm surge/water is the leading cause of deaths during hurricanes, NOT wind. “According to the National Hurricane Center, storm surge, rainfall flooding, high surf, and deaths just offshore (within 50 nautical miles of the coast) combined for 88 percent of all deaths in the U.S. from hurricanes, tropical storms or tropical depressions from 1963 to 2012.”  (more info here by The Weather Channel)
49) Check with your local school district about closures. If they aren’t closed and part of your family’s plan is to evacuate, call for an excused absence, family safety first! (Local friends for Irma click here: Charlotte County Schools & Sarasota County Schools)
50) Look for your vet records in case you need to shelter your furry friends at a storm-safe facility.
51) When riding out the storm in your home, gather your family into the most innermost room with no windows, if possible. We’re sticking with the half bath, “shoe room” and possibly the under-the-stairs closet.
52) The Dollar Store has a plethora of glow-stick necklaces and bracelets, this would be great at night with the kiddos to make everything a little more fun and less scary.
53) Get a few boxes of Uncrustables to accompany your few bags of Veggie Straws, Chewy Bars, trail mix and Goldfish… (or snack of your liking, of course)
54) Fill up your Sun Pass for tolls, or make sure you have change for them.
55) Make sure you have one of these bad boys (bonus: they can open beer too!)
can opener
56) Set aside cooking tools and fuel, charcoal and propane.
57) Paper plates and plastic utensils are your friends (you can’t run the dishwasher, remember?)
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58) Check on your loved ones, family and even your elderly neighbor that lives alone. See if they need help, if they have needs. If you can’t take them in, get them in touch with someone who can help or a local shelter.
59) You did laundry already, make sure with your clothing you have rain gear and sturdy shoes. I wanted to buy these but I’m pretty sure they don’t exist (Lilly Pulitzer, please get on this, I’ll take one in YGR or RRR) 🙂
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60) Toiletries and hygiene items. Toothpaste. Brushes. Face wipes. Deodorant (maybe more than one)
61) If all else fails with plumbing/sewer/septic, maybe have a shovel close by to create your modern day outhouse out back. Sh*t happens. (pun intended)
62) If you’re reading this early enough to get a shipment, Amazon Prime is my new favorite hurricane prep tool for everything… even if it’s an extra French Press (momma NEEDS coffee)
Amazon Prime
63) Amazon Prime for everything but water, that is, unless you’re cool with paying $10-14/gallon. I almost fell into this trap until I read the reviews!
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64) Do the dishes now, the dirties sitting in the dishwasher are going to be stankkk when you can’t run it and it’s too late.
65) Keys. To your house. Car. Shed. Storage unit. Motorcycle. If they aren’t all in one safe place now. Get ’em together.
67) Travel safe. Interstate travel during evacuations and emergencies are no joke. Know the conditions before you go, as gas is a precious commodity. (Florida Highway Patrol’s latest Traffic Incidents)
68) Toolset. Know where it is, put the tools back that have been laying around the house in random places, etc. You never know when you’ll need them.
69) Pets. Do you know where there carriers are? Leashes? Muzzles? Meds? Portable dishes/tupperware? Prep for your furry friends.
70) You thought you had enough together to entertain your littles? Maybe grab a few extra toys, books and games to keep your sanity by keeping them busy.
71) You have a family plan, how about work? Make any necessary arrangements you need to professionally, be safe and smart, your health and well-being is of upmost importance.
72) DO NOT wade through standing water after the storm, you never know what’s in them, between alligators or live power lines that have fallen.
73) Pools and spas are perfect for bathing.
74) Canals, ponds and lakes (in Florida) are NOT perfect for bathing, there are alligators!!
75) Turn the refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting and keep them closed as much as possible so that food will last longer if the power goes out.
76) Turn off propane tanks and unplug small appliances.
77) Again, know what’s going on in your community and be prepared to evacuate if advised by authorities. Be careful to avoid flooded roads and washed out bridges.
78) **Please check with your insurance agent**  standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding, it’s important to have protection from the floods associated with hurricanes, tropical storms, heavy rains and other conditions that impact the U.S. For more information on flood insurance, please visit the National Flood Insurance Program Web site at www.FloodSmart.gov
79) Sunscreen, especially when you’re spending time putting up shutters/prepping your home as well as getting everything back to normal afterwards (and you may also want to pick up an extra bottle of bug repellant)
80)  When your internet is out, so is Google Maps. Invest in one of those old fashioned paper ones just in case (get a paper map of your county/town/area)
81) Draft a list of your family and emergency contact information.
82) If you are evacuating, be sure to only return home when local officials say that it is safe.
83) Keep away from loose or dangling power lines and report them immediately to the power company (praise God for our lineman who will be braving the storm to keep us safe)
84) Thank a first responder, they are in most cases not with their families to protect them from the storm or evacuate… thank them for their service to our community.
85) Post-storm, inspect your home for damage. Take pictures of damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance purposes.
86) Safe & Well with American Red Cross: If your community has experienced a hurricane, or any disaster, register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well Web site available through RedCross.org/SafeandWell to let your family and friends know about your welfare. If you don’t have Internet access, call 1-866-GET-INFO to register yourself and your family. (source: American Red Cross)
87) Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts to prevent flooding and unnecessary pressure on the awnings.
89) If you don’t own hurricane shutters, protect windows with one-half inch marine plywood that is pre-cut to fit your doors and windows.
90) It’s ok to eat ALL the Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food in the freezer, it would be a shame to let it go to waste.
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91) Storm Surge: is the abnormal rise of water generated by a storm’s winds. This hazard is historically the leading cause of hurricane related deaths in the United States. Storm surge and large battering waves can result in large loss of life and cause massive destruction along the coast. Storm surge can travel several miles inland, especially along bays, rivers, and estuaries. (NWS/NOAA)
92) Tornadoes. Tornadoes can accompany landfalling tropical cyclones. These tornadoes typically occur in rain bands well away from the center of the storm (NWS/NOAA)
93) Other places to store water, in your washing machine (top loader) and well tank. Also good for rinsing off, flushing toilets etc.
94) Vitamins, keep your body going. (and in my husband’s case, a 6-pack of Monster)
95) Reinforce the garage door.
96) First I’ve heard this, but was told to put an ax in your attic in case of severe flooding.
97) Comfort foods. Really, no power. No A/C. No cell service. No Disney Jr for your kiddos. It’s stressful, have some of your favorites on-hand.
98) Whistles for every person, you never know.
99) I didn’t order this in time, but my bestie did. A solar panel charger, USB, external battery, 2LED flashlights and carabiner for your cell or tablet – it’s like the modern day Swiss Army knife. Brilliant.
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100) A Swiss Army Knife (or any multi-tool) has always been good to have on hand, since 1897. Quite the selection here.
101) As always, once you feel your checklist is complete and you are 110% prepared for a storm, ask yourself WWJCD? (what would Jim Cantore do?) Everyone knows he’s where all the action is, you can follow his tweets here.

We have a Hurricane Season EVERY YEAR from June 1st – November 30th. Every. Year. We are survivors. We rebuild. The only thing we cannot replace are our lives, so no matter what you decide to do during a major storm, be safe. Be smart. Plan ahead. Prayers that the Good Lord be with you in your travels and all your decisions that you make to keep you and your family safe.

**Disclaimer: I am in no way an expert in hurricanes, a first responder, doctor, meteorologist, psychic or Jim Cantore – please be safe and take all necessary precautions to stay safe and always double check with your local government when planning and evacuating for an emergency.

102) If you are evacuating and can’t get out of the state or to a safe place, please visit https://www.expedia.com/florida, as they are working to create accommodations for residents who are evacuating. Thank you, Expedia!!