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Prepare now for storms

This week is Hurricane Preparedness Week, and now is one of the best times to prepare for a storm.

Last year’s hurricane season saw two storms, Florence and Michael, that didn’t give Suffolk a direct hit but nevertheless caused some effects. These storms showed that even tropical systems that don’t have Suffolk in the bullseye, and aren’t even the strongest storms, can cause severe weather. There’s no such thing as “just a tropical storm.”

From the National Weather Service, here are some things you can do this week — or at least, ideally, before hurricane season starts — to prepare.

  • Make sure you have a hurricane evacuation plan. The first thing you need to do is find out if you live in a storm surge hurricane evacuation zone or if you’re in a home that would be unsafe during a hurricane. If you are, figure out where you’d go and how you’d get there if told to evacuate. You do not need to travel hundreds of miles. Identify someone, perhaps a friend or relative who doesn’t live in an evacuation zone or unsafe home, and coordinate with them to use their home as your evacuation destination. Be sure to account for your pets. Put the plan in writing for you and those you care about.
  • If a hurricane strikes, you’re going to need supplies not just to get through the storm but for the potentially lengthy recovery period that could follow. Have enough non-perishable food, water and medicine to last each person in your family a minimum of one week. Electricity and water could be out for at least that long. You’ll need extra cash, a battery-powered radio and flashlights. You’ll also need a portable crank or solar-powered USB charger to charge your cell phone.
  • Call your insurance company or agent and ask for an insurance checkup to make sure you have enough homeowners insurance to repair or even replace your home. Don’t forget coverage for your car or boat. Remember, standard homeowners’ insurance doesn’t cover flooding. Whether you’re a homeowner or renter, you’ll need a separate policy for flooding. It’s available through your company, agent or use the agent locator at www.floodsmart.gov. Act now, as flood insurance requires a 30-day waiting period.
  • If you plan to ride out a hurricane in your home, make sure it is in good repair and up to local hurricane building code specifications. Have the proper plywood, steel or aluminum panels to board up the windows and doors. Remember, the garage door is the most vulnerable part of the home, so it must be able to withstand high winds.

You can find more tips at www.weather.gov, www.vaemergency.gov, or by checking out our special hurricane preparedness section in the paper on May 22.