Disasters, a word that is no stranger to the Charleston region. What many people who visit our beloved area, don’t realize is that Charleston has a history of disasters. With a seismically active area around Summerville and Bowman called the Middleton Place-Summerville Seismic Zone, the Earthquake of 1886 caused about $157M in damages when adjusted for inflation and serves as a staunch lesson to our region to always expect the unexpected. Just 5 years earlier, the Fire of 1861 ravaged and destroyed 540 acres of land on the Charleston peninsula.
Yet, the more recognizable threat to the Lowcountry are hurricanes. For the city and area that has been named No. 1 city destination in the U.S. & World by Conde Nast Traveler readers for the past 9 years and No. 1 city by Travel & Leisure readers for the past 7, hurricanes are always a constant threat every June through November. In 1989, Charleston experienced one of the most destructive hurricanes ever to hit the United States, Hurricane Hugo. A category 5 hurricane with winds reaching 160mph, the storm caused massive amounts of damage across the Tri-County region.
Hurricanes are no joke and should never be taken lightly. Just this year alone, at the time this was written, a total of 24 tropical or subtropical cyclones have been identified, 23 storms have been named, 8 storms have been hurricanes, and 2 have been major hurricanes (Category 3+). 2020 has been the second most active storm season since 2005 on record.
So what can you do prepare? Here is a step by step guide to help you prep your home and survive hurricane season.
MAKE A PLAN
The worst thing that you can do when dealing with hurricanes or hurricane season is to panic. Plans are important so that you understand the key steps of what you have and need in an inventory, where to go in case of evacuation, and what needs to be done in the interim.
SECURE THE EXTERIOR
The exterior of your house/apartment/condo/etc. is extremely important to consider when planning and prepping. Trim back large tree limbs and shrubs, bring all outside furniture, plants, toys, et.al. indoors when you get the warning that a hurricane may hit around the area. Things that are not as easy to move, secure as best as possible so they don’t move during strong winds. Clean out storm drains and gutters.
STORM SHUTTERS OR BOARDS
The protection of windows, skylights, storm doors are essential to preparing for strong storms. This isn’t for just protecting your home, rather it is for the protection of you and your family. Strong winds can cause glass to break, which will result in rain getting into the home. For a great guide on how to board up a home, check out this great article from Art of Manliness.
WALL HANGINGS & ARTWORK
When a strong storm is on a path for your city or region, you want to make sure that wall hangings are secure and are off the ground, in case of water coming into the house.
MOVE CARS TO HIGH GROUND OR INDOORS
Always move cars to higher ground or park them in a garage. Try not to park them under trees or power lines, to reduce the risk of damage.
GAS & ELECTRICITY
If you have to evacuate make sure your gas tank is full in your car. Hurricane warnings always result in gas shortages.
In case there are power outages, keep all electrical devices charged. Cellphones, laptops, tablets, etc.
Always have spare batteries for battery operated devices such as flashlights, lanterns, and radios.
Unplug unnecessary appliances to keep them from shorting out if there are power surges or outages.
Keep them away from outside doors and windows to protect them.
For your refrigerator and freezer, turn the thermostat to its coldest setting and keep the doors closed.
PREP AN EMERGENCY KIT
Emergency kits aren’t just what the scouts take with them when going out camping or hiking. Rather they are life savers and can be what get you through disasters at any given time. Flashlights, radio, extra batteries, non-perishable food, bottled water, blankets, clothing, toiletries, etc. To build your own, check out this link at Ready.gov
Ensure a supply of water in case you lose water pressure. Best practice is to fill the bathtub and large containers with water. Remember that 1 person = 1 gallon per day, and you want to store at least a 3 day supply.
Information is crucial in any emergency. One reason is to calm panic, while another is to ensure that you remain rational when making decisions.
A great place to check for emergency notifications is through the SC Emergency Management Division or SCEMD; the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association; as well as local radio and tv news networks.