How to survive a hurricane in 2018

7 minute read

Picture the scene: you’re on a dream holiday in the Caribbean. The sea is blue, the beaches white, but the sky is darkening – a hurricane is on the horizon. Local news channels are reporting that air and sea travel off the island have been cancelled until the storm passes. There’s no escape from the approaching 110+ mph winds. How do you survive?

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from May through to November each year, peaking in September. During this period hurricane activity dramatically increases due to the summer warming of the Atlantic ocean. This means that travellers heading to Central America, the Caribbean or the East Coast of America between May and November need to be aware of the dangers posed by hurricanes.

In this guide we’ll explain the threats you need to be aware of, what to expect during the 2018 hurricane season and how to keep yourself safe if you get caught in the eye of the storm.

Contents

  1. What are the threats from a hurricane?
  2. Pre-hurricane preparations
  3. Staying safe during a hurricane
  4. Staying safe after a hurricane
  5. What to expect in the 2018 Hurricane Season
  6. Conclusion

What are the threats from a hurricane?

Hurricanes pose a number a of threats to travellers, depending on where you are. The main hazards to keep an eye out for are:

Coastal flooding from storm surges

As hurricanes approach land, the sea is unsurprisingly churned up by powerful winds that can exceed 100 mph. This results in large waves known as storm surges that can flood coastal areas and damage infrastructure. If your hotel is near the beach or you rely on public transport, then storm surges can prove a major disruption.

Flooding related to heavy rainfall

Alongside powerful winds, you can also expect heavy, intense rainfall during a hurricane. In urban areas the sudden downpour may struggle to drain effectively, which can result in flooding.

hurricane flood

Erosion or landslides if in a valley or near hillsides

Heavy, sustained rainfall can lead to landslides as the rain permeates the ground and erodes layers of soil. Areas with a high clay content in the ground will be more prone to landslides as rain can’t drain through the impermeable clay. As the water builds up on top of the clay, the soil above gets more unstable until it essentially slips off the clay and causes a landslide.

Damage from strong winds and debris

Hurricane-force winds range from 74 to 157+ miles per hour and, as you may expect, not too many things can stand up to such a destructive force. Flying debris is a major hazard during a hurricane and is a major reason why you shouldn’t go outside! The debris left behind in the wake of storm can be just as disruptive, blocking roads or damaging infrastructure and making it hard to get out of the area.

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Pre-hurricane preparations

If a hurricane is approaching your location, your first response should be to evacuate the area and head to a safer or more protected location if possible. However, if you’re unable to leave for whatever reason, then take advantage of any time you have before the hurricane arrives to carry out the following actions:

  • Stock up on essential supplies from the local supermarket or grocery store. These include:
    • Non-perishable foods (e.g. canned vegetables, canned pasta and canned soup)
    • Bottled water
    • Matches + candles
    • Batteries (if possible)
  • Identify and avoid low lying areas at risk of flooding, e.g. don’t go in a ground level shelter if you have a 2nd floor room.
  • Move furniture (e.g. couches, bed headboards, etc) in front of any glass doors and windows facing the outside world, this will help to minimise flying debris if they break.
  • Remove breakable items from the room, e.g. mirrors on walls, lamps.
  • Prepare an emergency room that you can retreat to if need be, e.g. the bathroom. Ensure there are adequate supplies pre-stocked in there such as canned food, candles and water. If bottled water is in short supply, run a bath full of cold water to drink as a last resort. If you can, put a few chairs in there too as they will be useful in barricading the door from the 70+ mph winds if you end up sheltering in the bathroom.

Staying safe during a hurricane

As a hurricane approaches, you should listen to the instructions issued by local authorities, including any evacuation orders. If you are advised to evacuate then you should do so immediately by any means necessary, including by commercial flight, chartered plane or boat.

If you cannot get out of the area and a hurricane is approaching then follow the tips below to improve your chances of staying safe and surviving the storm:

  • Stay indoors at all costs – flying debris is one of the biggest killers in a storm
  • Shelter in the strongest part of the building, such as an interior room with no windows
  • Stay away from windows, doors and skylights
  • Refrain from using landline telephones and taps, which may conduct lightning
  • Use mobile phones for emergency calls only
  • Stay hydrated (plan for one gallon of clean water per person, per day)
  • Ration food supplies and consume as necessary
  • Use candles and torchlight to see if the power goes out
  • Be aware of flooding from storm surges (especially if near the coast)

A note on flooding

As mentioned above, both heavy rainfall and storm surges can result in severe flooding during a hurricane. This poses several risks to travellers. Not only can flooding cut-off access in and around buildings, but currents can be deceptively strong even in shallow waters. You’re potentially also at risk of electrocution if power lines have fallen down or been damaged. So what should you do in the event of flood? You should avoid crossing flood waters and do your best to seek higher ground and wait the storm out.


Staying safe after a hurricane

Staying safe from further harm

Damage to infrastructure and the environment, as well as flying debris, flooding, fires, etc. all pose a risk to your wellbeing. Try to stay in a safe shelter and avoid going outside until advised it is safe by the relevant authorities. Likewise, if you were evacuated from where you were staying, don’t return until advised.

Work together

In the wake of a hurricane strike the normal societal order can break down. You may have been staying in a hotel, but in the post-storm devastation the last thing on employees’ minds is going to be ensuring your five star experience is maintained. Look to pull together with fellow guests who you can communicate with as there is safety in numbers, especially from post-storm looters and the like. Identify who has useful skills, e.g. medical or cooking skills, and delegate tasks out among the group. When supplies are scarce and help isn’t immediately available, it is vital to work together as a team to ensure survival.

Access to power

Hurricane strength winds can damage power lines and generators, especially in poorer countries. If you have them, ration batteries and make the most of solar-powered chargers and generators where possible.

Access to food and water

Clean drinking water may be in short supply. Unless it’s bottled, water will need purifying before drinking. Likewise, ensure all non-perishable food is sealed and uncontaminated before eating. Keep personal activity to a minimum to save energy and reduce the need for hydration. Use spare food and water sparingly, and keep valuable supplies safe and out of sight.

Avoiding contamination

Heavy rainfall or storm surges can flood drainage systems, spreading sewage and waste – putting travellers at risk of infection. Immediately cover cuts and grazes to prevent infection as medical support may be unavailable for some time.

Access in and out of the region

Structural damage and a lack of power can combine to put airports out of action in affected areas. If the airport is functioning, it will most likely be closed to commercial flights and only in use by chartered airplanes. Docks and ports may similarly be closed. Travellers may have to wait it out until the airport of dock re-opens before continuing on their journey.

Communicating after a hurricane

Phone lines will likely be out so you should listen to local radio for official warnings and advice, or check social media. Reaching out to authorities and embassies can help travellers make contact with family in an emergency. Our rules of thumb for communicating after the hurricane are:

  • Use SMS or email for non-emergency communications – not voice calls
  • Use social media to let family and friends know you are okay
  • Keep phone calls short and for communicating vital information to emergency personnel and/or family only
  • If your call is unsuccessful, wait ten seconds and then redial

Looking to avoid hurricanes altogether? Our ultimate guide to travel safety is essential reading wherever you’re travelling!


What to expect in the 2018 Hurricane Season

Meteorologists from Colorado State University, considered the top hurricane forecasters in the US, are predicting an above average 2018 season. Current predictions stand at 14 named tropical storms, including seven hurricanes. Of these, CSU are expecting three to turn into major hurricanes of Categories 3, 4 or 5. The likelihood of a major hurricane making landfall along the US coastline at 63 per cent.

Countries likely to be affected

The regions most likely to be affected during the Atlantic hurricane season are:

  • Islands in the Caribbean
  • US states along the Atlantic Coast
  • Countries and states in the Gulf of Mexico
  • Countries in Central America
  • Islands such as Colombia’s Archipelago of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina
  • Canada’s Maritime Provinces

Atlantic hurricanes typically move west-northwest after forming in the tropics, putting the southeastern US coast directly in their path. Florida’s coastline of 1,350 miles – the longest of any state after Alaska – makes it a big target for any upcoming hurricanes.

While the mainland US has comprehensive emergency evacuation and recovery plans to mitigate the impact of such storms, other nations are far less prepared.

As seen in the cases of Puerto Rico, Dominica and the northern Lesser Antilles, the lack of storm preparedness can provoke humanitarian crises and decimate local economies.

Puerto Rico’s struggles to recover from Hurricane Maria have been well-documented, and while not garnering as many international headlines, many other islands throughout the Caribbean that were hit last year are more or less in the same boat.

Due to the high costs and time-intensiveness of storm-proofing infrastructure, all nations vulnerable in 2017 will continue to be so this year as ‘super storms’ become the new normal.


Conclusion: Worried about hurricanes?

Unlike many other hazards, hurricanes are much easier to track and monitor, which gives you more time in which to react. There’s two key periods of time that you should be concerned with as a hurricane approaches: before the storm and after the storm.

Before the storm, you should stay up-to-date with the latest movements of the hurricane and make every effort to leave the region if you are in its path. CloseCircle risk alerts can provide you real-time updates on hurricanes, helping you to stay ahead of the threat and giving you more time to get away from affected regions.

After the storm has passed, it’s time to face the aftermath. Food, water and energy may be in short supply, while buildings and infrastructure may be severely damaged making it difficult to leave and head to safety elsewhere. The CloseCircle SOS button can give you peace of mind in the direst of circumstances, with our expert team available 24/7 to provide support, advice and an evacuation to safety if required.

If you need more travel advice about hurricanes, contact the CloseCircle team today..

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