The uncertainty and chaos can be overwhelming in the wake of a hurricane. Whether you evacuated or stayed put, you’re probably wondering what steps to take next.
It’s been a few years since South Florida’s last hurricane, and many new Floridians and old may need a brush up on what to do after a hurricane. This comprehensive guide aims to clarify what steps you should—and shouldn’t—take after a hurricane has passed.
If You Evacuated for the Storm…
Don’t Return Until Officials Say You Can
We all want to get back to our homes and assess the damage, but it may not be safe for a few days to weeks after a hurricane hits.
There have been countless stories of Floridians that weather the storm safe and sound to enter stormwater electrified by a downed powerline or crash their car into downed trees and large branches.
Additionally, resources such as gas may be scarce after a hurricane if widespread power outages have affected your area, making your trip home harder.
Wait for the green light from local authorities before returning home. Make safety your number one priority.
If You Didn’t Evacuate…
Stay Inside Until the Storm Has Passed
If you decide to hunker down at home, the first (and most crucial) rule is to remain indoors until it’s confirmed that the storm has completely passed. Even the outer bands of passing storms can be dangerous, and tornadoes can form out of seemingly nowhere.
It’s important to remember that hurricanes have a calm center or eye, which can be misleading for some who think the storm has already passed. It’s crucial to stay alert and prepared even when the weather seems to have calmed down.
Venturing out prematurely can expose you to considerable risks, such as flying debris, unstable trees, structures, or even a sudden storm intensification. Stay safe by staying indoors.
Don’t Go Near Downed Power Lines After a Hurricane
Downed power lines are incredibly hazardous. They can electrify puddles, wet grass, and even the ground, posing a significant risk of electrocution. If you spot any downed lines after the hurricane passes, report them to authorities immediately and steer clear.
Stay Tuned to Local News After a Hurricane
Information is a critical resource during any disaster. Keep a battery-powered radio or a charged mobile phone handy to stay updated on developments and news after a hurricane passes. Local news will provide information on things like where to find emergency aid, what roads are open, and updates from local government officials, as well as secondary weather updates.
Don’t Drink Tap Water After the Hurricane Passes
After a hurricane hits, water treatment facilities may be compromised, making tap water unsafe for drinking. Stick to bottled water or boil tap water if you must. Always wait for confirmation from local authorities before using tap water for drinking or cooking.
You do not want to get sick after a hurricane hits. Emergency response can be far slower than usual.
Help Your Neighbors, Within Reason
If you can, safely check on your neighbors (especially those who are elderly or disabled). However, be cautious and don’t venture too far from your home after a hurricane, as conditions may still be dangerous.
Don’t Grill or Use Generators Indoors
When the power goes out, using a generator or grill indoors can be tempting if the storm is still ongoing. However, it may pose a significant risk of carbon monoxide poisoning—a silent and deadly killer.
Always use generators and grills outside and away from windows and doors; whether before, during, or after a hurricane passes, it’s just not safe! Don’t end up in a Florida Man story!
Stay Out of Floodwater After a Hurricane
Floodwater isn’t just rainwater; it often contains sewage (and frequently dangerous debris). Even shallow, slow-moving floodwater can sweep you off your feet. Avoid going into flooded areas after a hurricane hits. Floodwater will be dealt with soon enough; this is what your seven days of food and water are for!
If Power Goes Out, Skip the Candles
Though candles seem like a convenient and cheap light source, they pose a fire risk (and typically don’t provide enough light anyway). Stick to battery-operated light sources, like flashlights and lanterns, after a storm.
Fire departments cannot help you while a hurricane or tropical storm watch is in effect, so please be extra careful!
The First Few Days After a Hurricane
Be Prepared for Power Outages After a Hurricane
After a hurricane, widespread power outages are commonplace, so be prepared for intermittent power outages. Charge all essential devices when possible, and consider investing in a power bank for emergencies. Hundreds of great power banks are available in local retailers and on Amazon for under $30. We love Anker power banks.
Expect Road Closures, Blockages, and Curfews After the Storm
After the hurricane passes, local authorities may impose road closures, blockages, and even curfews to ensure public safety. Please familiarize yourself with these rules and follow them. These rules may be inconvenient, but they are there to keep you safe and allow government workers to work through cleaning up your community more quickly after a hurricane has passed.
Toss Perishable Food
With power outages typically comes spoiled food. Any perishable food left unrefrigerated for more than 1-2 days will likely spoil and should be discarded to avoid foodborne illnesses.
Before a storm, we recommend placing water in a clear plastic cup. Wait for the water to freeze completely, then place a quarter on the ice. If the quarter has sunk more than 1/4 inch below the surface of the refrozen ice, your food has gone bad.
Evacuate If Resources Are Scarce After a Hurricane
If, after the hurricane, you find that essential resources like food, water, and medicine are becoming scarce, it may be safer to leave the area until conditions improve.
Ensure the hurricane does not affect whichever area you choose to leave.
After the Storm Passes, Seek FEMA Aid If You Need It
If your area has been declared a federal disaster zone, you may be eligible for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Don’t hesitate to contact them for temporary housing, food, and water assistance after the hurricane has passed. The sooner you reach them, the better chance you will get adequate aid.
Here is a link to Apply for Disaster Assistance with FEMA.
Exercise Caution During Repairs After a Hurricane
As you begin repairing your home, use proper safety equipment. Even seemingly minor repairs can be dangerous if not performed carefully. Paramedic service may be delayed or suspended in your area immediately after a hurricane, or storm damage and road blockages may make it difficult, if not impossible, to provide prompt service.
Dispose of Damaged Property Properly
Debris comes with the territory. Check with your waste management service to see how, when, and where they will pick up garbage and storm debris.
Manage Flood Aftermath After the Hurricane
If your home suffered flooding during the storm, acting quickly to mitigate further damage is crucial. Cover any openings where rainwater can enter, eliminate standing water, and consult professionals for extensive repairs. Any soaked furniture or mattresses should be discarded immediately to prevent mold.
If you cannot deal with water damage promptly after a hurricane and have standing water in your home for an extended period, leave your home!
Secure Damaged Windows
Broken windows can be an invitation to looters or wild animals. Temporarily board up any broken windows until they can be adequately repaired. Consider purchasing hurricane protection such as hurricane shutters or impact windows for peace of mind for the next storm.
Beware of Gas Lines After a Hurricane
Natural disasters like hurricanes can damage gas lines, leading to potential leaks. If you smell gas after a hurricane, evacuate the area immediately and contact authorities. Secondary storms, downed powerlines, or other phenomena can ignite the gas.
Document Your Expenses
Temporary repairs after a hurricane can add up. Keep all your receipts and document your spending. Documenting your repairs will help when you file your insurance claims later on.
After the Hurricane, Consult Your Insurance Company
If your home is severely damaged and uninhabitable, your homeowner’s insurance can help arrange temporary accommodations. Contact them as soon as possible to expedite this process. Home insurance and flood insurance companies can quickly become overrun with claims after a natural disaster like a hurricane, and resources can run thin. Call sooner rather than later!
Your safety and well-being are paramount after a hurricane. Take these guidelines to heart, look out for each other, and remember—you’re not alone. We’re all in this together, and we’ll rebuild and recover.