In days past it was hard to know if a huge storm was approaching. Storms seemingly came out of nowhere and caused massive devastation. While still dangerous and destructive, we now have a huge leg up on our ancestors and know well in advance when and where a storm will make landfall along our Gulf Coast. It’s important that we take advantage of the knowledge we’ve accumulated throughout history in dealing with gulf coast hurricanes.  

Houston is especially susceptible and vulnerable to hurricanes due to our geological location along the gulf coast. The more recent named storms include Allison, Ike, and Harvey. Luckily, as a populous, we have technology and resources to predict and aid us in the survival of these natural disasters. In the following paragraphs we’ll go over everything you need before, during, and after the storm to ensure you come out the other side as unscathed as possible. 

1. BEFORE THE STORM?

Prior to even recognizing a named storm in the gulf, it is imperative that you have flood insurance in addition to your home owners policy. A typical home owners policy will not cover flood damage from natural disasters. Once a named storm enters the gulf you can NOT get flood insurance. Carriers will not accept a new policy when a storm is near.  

Texas does not require that homeowners have flood insurance. It is extremely affordable compared to the price of repairing a flooded home so we advise on getting flood insurance despite the assessed risk of your home actually flooding. The average flood insurance premium in houston is around $600/year.

In addition to getting flood insurance, it’s important to be cognizant of where your home is relative to a mapped floodplain. To get this information visit www.msc.FEME.gov . Here you can input your home’s address and learn where you are located relative to a mapped floodplain. This will give you some solid data to help you make the decision on if to evacuate or not.

2. AS THE STORM APPROACHES

Preparedness is everything when it comes to staying safe during a hurricane. Mark Sloan from the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management said, “During hurricane season, if your tank is half full, consider it empty.” Sloan was talking about your literal gas tank in your car, but this message applies to all aspects of preparing for a storm. If you only have half the water, food, or energy sources you need to survive you might as well have none of these things. 

The 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season, according to Google, is Saturday, May 22 until Tuesday, November 30. With that said, if you are not evacuating during named hurricane it is crucial to have a storm kit ready well in advance that will last you up to seven days. While the resources needed in your storm kit can usually be found easily it’s best to have this kit collected prior to hurricane season as supplies run out quickly when everyone in town makes a mad dash to the store. 

These items include;

  • Driver’s license/ID
  • Important Documents stored in a secure water proof place
  • One gallon of water per day per person for seven days 
  • Foods that do not require cooking or refrigeration
  • Dry clothes
  • Dry bedding
  • Toiletries and Hand sanitizer
  • Flashlights
  • Generator to run your refrigerator and charge devices
  • Camp stove and propane
  • Hand Crank radio to check emergency frequency in the event of power outages

While not all of these things are crucial to survival per se, water is the most important thing out of all of these. We can go much longer without the other items on the list than we can without fresh water. A cheap easy way to ensure you have plenty of water is to fill up a bathtub with water and keep it there until your access to fresh water is restored. This bath water can later be boiled and used to drink if you have an energy source to heat it with. Hence the camp stove on the list above. 

Now that you’ve gotten your kit prepared and you’ve decided to ride out the storm, there are multiple ways to stay informed leading up to the storm. The most intuitive sources include the obvious weather channel and local new outlets. Some less intuitive means to collect information on the approaching storm is is the Emergency Alert System(EAS) and the NOAA warning system. In Harris County the information is available at www.readyharris.org and AlertHouston. You can sign up to receive notifications from AlertHouston at https://houstonemergency.org/alerts/ .

3. DURING THE STORM

Shelter is the name of the game during a storm. The object is to locate a “storm-safe” area within your home. The attributes of a “storm-safe” area includes a windowless room within the interior of your home on a low floor that does not flood. 

While taking shelter in this area within your home we advise that you listen for storm alerts and emergency information either on your local new network, AlertHouston, or the EAS system mentioned above. Do your diligence before hand and be prepared for power outages. Charge your devices and have a hand crank radio nearby to keep tabs on the EAS. In Houston you can tune in on KUHF 88.7 FM or KTRH 740 AM. 

These precautions should be taken assuming you haven’t already been told by your governing authority to evacuate. The decision to evacuate can and should be made prior to a mandatory evacuation though. You can’t do anything to “save your house” by staying put during a deadly storm. If Houston is going to get hit right on the chin by a severe named storm, it’s best not to wait for the authorities to tell you to leave.

4. IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE STORM

The biggest challenges lay in waiting after the storm has passed. By now your neighborhood is full of debris, trees and power lines are down and mangled together, hopefully your home is habitable and not saturated with flood water. The first step after the storm is to inspect the damage and begin the planning phase of cleanup. 

Some tips on this first phase of cleanup include conducting a roll call strait away. Contact friends and family to alert them of your condition and likewise ask about their condition.  

Once you begin cleaning up it is important that you wear protective clothing in the event of sharp debris. Be weary of wading in flood water, which could also contain unseen sharp debris.  Take photos during this early phase for insurance purposes and begin the claims process with your insurance company as early as possible. It is likely that the insurance company will be backlogged with claims from the recent events. 

For more information on what to do post storm, visit https://www.readyharris.org/

5. STORM DAMAGE REPAIR

The storm has come and gone. The flood waters have receded. You have assessed your home and have contacted your insurance company to start the claims process. The long process of rebuilding has begun. 

While you might be eager to start this process right away, it is important that you vet contractors with diligence prior to hiring them. This process has been highlighted before by us on a previous blog post so we won’t go into detail on this. We do have a few tips for selecting a contractor specifically for insurance work. 

For starters, talk with your insurance adjuster. He/she is there to aid in the process and may have experience working with specific contractors in the area. 

Ask any contractors that you interview if they have any experience working alongside insurance companies on storm repair jobs. Insurance work is slightly different than regular work when it comes to construction. A fumbling contractor during the repair process will make your life stressful, as if it weren’t stressful enough post hurricane. 

Once you’ve selected a few contractors to pick from all of the standard rules apply when selecting a contractor. Things like researching the companies prior to them submitting bids, interviewing multiple contractors and asking them correct questions, and getting all proposals and scopes of work in writing prior to signing or submitting any form of deposit.

CONCLUSION

Hurricanes are scary events. Unfortunately we can’t prevent them. With the correct amount of diligence and preparedness and assuming mandatory evacuations aren’t in place, you can usually face a hurricane head on and be ok. While you might sustain some damage, some stress, and have to endure some inconveniences, you can make the experience as smooth as possible by preparing correctly and following through diligently once the storm is passed.