The Swallowtail Team and the Greater Charleston area were so fortunate that neither felt the brunt of Hurricane Florence that brought massive amounts of water and some high winds to North Carolina and significant flooding north of us along SC’s coast. In the days leading up to landfall, we all tracked Florence’s progress and checked the updates to see where Florence was expected to go. I think we all experienced a lot of stress because of the uncertainty, which increased after the Governor issued evacuation orders and stores and pharmacies began to close.
Most of us evacuated, and after returning to work again and sharing our stories, we found we faced many of the same issues and had similar experiences. We started thinking about what were our biggest take aways. Had we adequately prepared our homes and the office before the hurricane? What should we do if we had decided to stay in place? What can we do now to be prepared for the next hurricane? We started writing lists.
Returning Home After a Hurricane
What should you consider as you return home after a hurricane? Here’s our list:
- Check the road reports to make sure your route home is not flooded. If you can, check with friends and neighbors to find out about your local roads and board.
- If you suspect your home is damaged or if you need to make an insurance claim, consult a Structural Engineer before you move back in.
- In a hurricane, windows are the ‘weak’ link in your home’s exterior. Flying debris can break a window, allowing an entry point for the wind and rain. Consider adding hurricane shutters to your windows to protect your home as well as your family.
- To prevent additional damage, consider installing check valves in plumbing to prevent backups.
- Consider purchasing a generator that can run key functions in your home (eg. the refrigerator) until power is restored. Plan ahead so you know how to set it up and how to run the fridge on the generator. Keep a supply of fuel ready and follow the manufacturer’s operating instructions when you use it.
- The only room in my home where I can seek shelter without a window, is a small powder room under the stairs. It is too small to shelter two people let alone a family and it would be very uncomfortable for even a short duration. Can a room in your home be turned into a FEMA safe room or ICC 500 storm shelter? Now is the time to evaluate the options and consider the feasibility of making the renovation.
- Replenish your emergency supplies including batteries, water, non-perishable food, medications, flashlights, and first aid. Do you need to add additional supplies, like cards, for your comfort and entertainment?
- Property damage and death may happen due to fallen trees. Now is a great time to review the trees on your property. Consider removing any trees that are too close to your home or if they are in poor health.
- If you are at risk of flooding or experience long periods of standing water on your property, consider improvements to your property to facilitate the drainage away from your home and to increase the rate of absorption of water into the ground.
Our Biggest Take Aways
- Hurricanes are unpredictable and even a slow moving Category 1 storm can be very dangerous if you are in the wrong place.
- Due to the changing nature of hurricanes it is important to get an update twice daily so you have the most current information. Evaluate your risk regularly and take what ever action you need to stay safe.
- The plan you made for the last hurricane may not be the best plan for a new hurricane. The impact zone for each storm is unique; so don’t rely on preparations you made for a previous storm to ensure your safety. Plan for the current conditions.
- Rather than waiting until the last minute, stock up on necessities in advance. Once an evacuation order is issued many business-including grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations – close for business to allow their employees to have time to make the necessary preparations and evacuate safely. This can occur days before the forecasted weather event. For the businesses that do remain open, supplies will quickly become limited or run out. It is especially important to ensure you have adequate quantities of the essentials: food/water, fuel, and medications.
- Expect to be delayed returning home. Depending on the severity of the storm and the damage caused, it can days or weeks before you are able to return home. The impact of a natural disaster is felt long after the storm has ended. Floodwaters may take days or seeks to recede, downed trees and other debris continue to block roadways and state and local officials may keep roads closed until they are deemed safe for travel.
This list is by no means comprehensive, but we wanted to share our thoughts from an ‘architect’s perspective’ about what we thought about when returning home after a hurricane. If you have any great ideas you’d like us to add to this list, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
After first writing this article upon returning to our office after Hurricane Florence, we realized we had more information to share for our clients and residents of the Lowcountry area regarding our thoughts on preparing your home before a hurricane. Please consider reading our second blog post: What to Consider Before A Hurricane.