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Inland Hurricane Preparedness

Be Prepared for Tropical Storms

A fallen tree lays across a powerline next to a rural road as a result of storm damage.

Often times during the Atlantic hurricane season, storms can pass through or near West Virginia. Hurricanes bring unique challenges, but many of the safety measures taken to minimize the hazards associated with these massive storms can also help with smaller, localized weather emergencies.

Hurricane damage occurs from three main factors, intense wind, storm surge and massive rain and snow fall. Of these, wind and excess precipitation affect West Virginia. To formulate a complete emergency plan, prepare before the storm arrives, have a plan for what to do during the storm and a plan for recovery after the storm has passed.

Emergency Preparedness Kit

Assemble, organize and store the supplies in a waterproof backpack and containers so it can be easily taken should a need for evacuation arise. Check supplies on June 1 yearly, which marks the start of the Atlantic hurricane season. Check for expired items and replace as needed. At minimum, a good basic kit should contain:

  • Ample water. A rule of thumb is one gallon per person per day, a three-day supply for evacuation and a two-week supply for home. This would mean 12 gallons portable, and 56 gallons at home for a family of four to evacuate and return home for two weeks post storm. Remember to add extra water for your pets and animals.
  • Food. Look for non-perishable and easy-to-prepare items, such as dehydrated camping meals. Stockpile a three-day supply for evacuation and a two-week supply for after the storm at home. Again, remember to prepare for your pets and animals, too.
  • Flashlight and an emergency/weather radio with extra batteries for both.
  • First aid kit large enough for your family’s needs.
  • Medications and medical supplies for two plus weeks. Remember medication needs for pets and animals, too.
  • Multipurpose tool or basic tool kit.
  • Emergency blankets. Foil blankets can help keep you warm and warm the injured.
  • Bleach and soap to sanitize water and clean surfaces.
  • Personal hygiene items.
  • Family and emergency contact information.
  • Copies of personal documents. For example, prescription and medical info, proof of address, deeds/leases, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies and animal id info. You can take pictures of these documents and keep them in your mobile phone.
  • Extra cash. ATMs may not work or may be depleted after a storm passes.
  • Maps of the area. GPS may be down due to power failures.

Add additional items to your kit if desired including lanterns, hand warmers, water purification tablets or a filter, camping stove, small portable generator, a tent, sleeping bags, plastic sheeting/tarps and additional first aid supplies.

Before the Storm

Planning is vital, and discussing a plan can help reduce fear and anxiety in young children and the elderly. Plan on a place to meet, such as home, work or school, in case communications break down due to power outages and system damage by the storm and family members are separated.

Pets and animals will also have to be accounted for in your planning. Research shelter and boarding options before you need them so that you can provide for their needs. Keep pictures and registration information for animals in case they become separated or lost during the storm.

Review evacuation routes and plan several evacuation destinations so that you will be ready for storms traveling different paths.

Fill your car with fuel and fuel up generators, heaters and portable lanterns. Only transport and store gasoline in approved containers. Never run a generator or cook on a grill inside your home. The carbon monoxide produced by these items is a silent killer. Pre-position your generator in a convenient, safe, well ventilated, location for use before the storm hits.

Clean up potential flying debris outside of your home such as patio furniture, grills, lumber, brush piles and trash. These items can cause additional damage during the storm if blown around.

During the Storm

Listen to official emergency broadcasts on your weather radio. Follow any official notifications to evacuate if necessary, but otherwise stay off the road during the storm and obey any emergency declaration that asks you to avoid travel.

Stay inside, clear of large windows and doors. An interior windowless room on the lowest, non-flood prone, level of your home such as a bathroom is the safest location during high winds when debris is flying. Use caution if sheltering in a below grade room due to flood risk.

Hurricanes often spawn intense thunder storms with inherent lightning, tornadoes and straight-line winds (derecho). Take additional appropriate precautions if tornado warnings are issued.

Wait until the entire storm has passed before leaving your shelter and give at least 30 minutes after the last audible thunder to resume any outdoor work to minimize the risk of being hit by lightning.

After the Storm

Use caution when inspecting your home and property after the storm has passed; many hidden dangers can be present in storm debris. Trees and structures can be weakened by strong winds and soaking rain and snow and they can fall unexpectedly. Downed electrical wires should always be treated as live wires and avoided.

Flood waters and the mud left behind are rarely clean. Most contain oil and other chemicals that can cause health issues to those who swim or wade through the water. Bacteria from dead animals, sewer releases and stagnant water can make you sick. Wear the appropriate boots and protective clothing, and wash your hands and any other skin that contacts the flood water.

Standing flood water can be deceptively deep, never drive into water of unknown depth.

Use caution when clearing downed brush and trees, especially around overhead powerlines. Recovery work is hard, mud and trees are heavy and slippery, so use the appropriate tools and avoid over exertion and strains and sprains. Get help and avoid working alone if you can, first responders will be inundated with calls during, and after, the storm so be prepared to handle accidents initially on your own with well stocked first aid kits and supplies.

Many of the safety tips and resources provided for this article were sourced from OSHA, The National Weather Service and the American Red Cross. These agencies also have a wealth of additional information and resources to assist you with emergency planning and storm recovery.

Compiled by WVU Extension Service Safety and Health Extension.
Last Reviewed: September 2018