3 hurricane preparation tips from someone who knows

This weekend marked the beginning of the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts we’re in for a near-normal or below-normal hurricane season this year. As the season begins, Greg Mason, a civilian employee was interviewed about his experience before, during and after a storm. Read more about his story and check out his preparedness tips below!

Portions of a highway along the North Carolina coast were washed out by Hurricane Irene. The aerial photo was taken during FEMA's initial damage assessment. U.S. Army photo.

Portions of a highway along the North Carolina coast were washed out by Hurricane Irene. The aerial photo was taken during FEMA’s initial damage assessment. U.S. Army photo.

Written by Elaine Specht.

Retired after 23 years in the Coast Guard, Greg Mason is now a civilian employee at the Operations Systems Center in Martinsburg, W. Va. Back in 1993, however, Greg and his family lived in Coast Guard housing at Cape Hatteras where he recalls, “Hurricane Emily punched Cape Hatteras in the face and then went right back out to sea.” The Coast Guard housing was wiped out. Fortunately, all the families and nonessential personnel had evacuated inland two days before.

With the roads to the barrier island still impassable, Mason returned to his home by C-130 and helicopter. As the helicopter flew over his house, he could see directly inside. The entire roof of the duplex had been lifted off and dropped about 80 yards away. Inside the house, he said, “It was like a fiberglass bomb went off; everything glistened with fiberglass” from the insulation. “Even clothes inside dresser drawers were covered.”

Despite the hurricane’s destruction, Mason did many things right to be as prepared as possible. Here are his top, experience-tested, tips for hurricane preparedness:

1. Prepare a disaster readiness kit.

Put together a basic disaster supplies kit and consider storage locations for different situations. You’ll also want to ensure your neighbors and community members do the same.

“Water and ice are like gold after a hurricane,” said Mason.

He advises cleaning and filling milk jugs with water and packing them into any available space in your freezer. The extra ice in the freezer may help keep food safe longer if you lose power. After the ice melts, you also have a source for clean water to drink or wash if you don’t have a safe water supply after the storm.

2. Have an evacuation plan.

A basic disaster supplies kit is an important part of planning before a hurricane hits. NOAA illustration.

A basic disaster supplies kit is an important part of planning before a hurricane hits. NOAA illustration.

When you evacuate, ensure you only take essential items with you. You should plan ahead of time how you will assemble your family and supplies and anticipate where you will go for different situations. Choose several destinations in different directions so you have options in an emergency and know the evacuation routes to get to those destinations.

“When you pack up to evacuate,” he warns, “always keep in mind that there may be nothing when you go back.”

Mason also took pictures and video of his belongings.

“It is difficult emotionally when everything you have is gone,” he explained. A video inventory proved invaluable to help him remember what was under the collapsed walls of his house as he was making insurance claims.

3. Know the hazards.

Hurricanes cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and as far as several hundred miles inland. Along with producing winds exceeding 155 miles per hour as well as tornadoes and mircrobursts, hurricanes can create storm surges along the coast and cause extensive damage from heavy rainfall. Floods and flying debris from the excessive winds are often the deadly and destructive results of these weather events.

You should be familiar with what hazards are most common in your area and learn community hurricane evacuation routes and how to find higher ground. Determine places to meet and how you would get there if you needed to evacuate. Also, don’t forget to make a plan for what to do with your pets if you need to evacuate.

For more information about how to prepare for hurricanes and other emergencies, visit Ready Coast Guard.

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