In the aftermath of Harvey, the arrival of Houston’s first hurricane season will undoubtedly stoke some trepidation from Houstonians still reeling from last year’s unprecedented storm, but there’s no reason to panic if you have a proper plan in place.
While June 1 marks the official start of Hurricane Season, the Gulf of Mexico has already seen its first named storm, Subtropical Storm Alberto, which made landfall earlier this week on the Florida coast, dumping rain and wreaking havoc across the country.
Predicting a Higher-than-Average Number of Named Storms
It’s notoriously difficult to predict how active a hurricane season may be, but forecasters have already warned that the U.S. could expect to see a higher-than-average number of named storms and hurricanes this year.
When Harvey swamped Greater Houston last year – flooding homes and forcing many to flee – many residents who were new to the region hadn’t experienced a storm before and were unprepared for what happened. Even some who had weathered Houston’s hurricanes and floods in the past were caught flat-footed by the extreme, widespread flooding caused by a storm of epic proportions.
As the tropics begin to warm again, experts are urging residents to heed the lessons learned last year and get prepared now before any potential storm appears in the Gulf.
Top Seven Things You Should Do Now to Get Ready
- Assemble a kit. Along with non-perishable food and water (one gallon per person per day), toss in a flashlight, some spare batteries, cash, first aid supplies and copies of important paperwork – insurance policies, emergency contacts and prescriptions – in case you need to grab it and go. As many people discovered during Harvey, exposure to contaminated floodwater can lead to skin infections and other injuries. Consider packing protective gear such as waterproof pants and boots to protect from floodwater, and protective masks to filter the air.
- Heed your medical needs. If you have a chronic condition – or you serve as a caregiver for someone with special medical conditions – be sure to have a plan in place for managing your health during a storm. Keep a checklist of medications that should be packed in an emergency and make sure you store them in a sealed bag so that they remain clean and dry. Remember that some medications, like insulin, are sensitive to temperature and must remain cool at all times. Make sure you include your physician’s information, too, in case you need to phone in for a refill from afar. Have a backup plan to power your medical devices should the electrical grid fail. If you rely on a device for lifesaving care, consider notifying the local public health authority to get evacuation assistance.
- Buy now. Don’t wait for the frenzied supermarket rush to stock up on the items you need in case you lose electricity or water, or are forced to evacuate. Consider purchasing enough supplies to last five to seven days. Harvey’s floods prevented many people from leaving their homes for five days or longer, so it’s important to have enough food, medicine and water to sustain you and your family until roads reopen. Remember to keep your fuel tanks filled in your vehicles and home generators.
- Know where to go. Do you live in an evacuation zone? Most people sheltered in place during Harvey, but if another storm threatens the region, a voluntary or mandatory evacuation may be ordered. Get familiar with the local evacuation routes and have a plan in place for what to pack and how to meet up with family members.
- Stay informed. Sign up for emergency alerts from your local county, city, school district and other authorities. If you know you will not have access to transportation, register now for assistance by calling 211. You can view power outages and sign up for power outage alerts here. More information about emergency alerts can be found at readyhouston.gov.
- Talk to your family. Strike up a conversation with members of your household before disaster strikes. Discuss responsibilities for each family member and decide how you will communicate with each other. Figure out any special needs that must be addressed beforehand. Make a plan for pets and childcare.
- Harden your home. While Harvey was a flooding event, future storms could deliver damaging winds that could dislodge loose rain gutters and down tree branches. Take action now to prune limbs, remove any dead trees around your home and secure any loose items on your house that could become windborne. If you plan to operate a gas-powered generator, remember it must be kept outdoors and at least 20 feet away from windows and doors to prevent the deadly buildup of carbon monoxide in the home. Memorial Hermann is committed to continuing to serve the community whenever disaster strikes, but we urge all local residents to stay safe and have a plan.