How to Prepare for Hurricane Season on the Outer Banks

June 2, 2016
Categories: Airbnb

hurricane

It’s barely even June yet, on the Outer Banks we had our first tropical system this past weekend (and continuing to move slowly).  Hurricane season is from June 1 to Nov 30.  Typically, the season does not heat up until August.  It is always best to prepare in advance.  There is way too much to do once a storm is on its way. 

You may plan to ride out the event until the storm strengthens or appears to be coming closer.  Therefore, if you should decide to evacuate at the last moment having preparations already in place will make it much easier.  I have lived in the Outer Banks for almost 20 years and have seen many storms.  Over all we have been very lucky.  This is all the more reason not to be complacent.  Threats from a hurricane include high winds, flooding, storm surge, and tornadoes.

Vacationer

If you are a vacationer and asked to evacuate; please do so as soon as possible.  Yeah, it sounds exiting to witness a hurricane.  But, it can get extremely dangerous very quickly.  You are putting the life of yourself, family and potentially first responders in jeopardy.  Evacuating as soon as the recommendation comes will allow you to avoid the serious traffic backups that result.  In addition, flooding can also occur on the evacuation route from the outer bands of the approaching storm.  Therefore, leaving as soon as possible will reduce your risks.  Make sure you take all your belongings when you evacuate as you will not be allowed re-entry after the storm.

Consider, purchasing vacation insurance when you book your vacation rental to re-coup your lost vacation costs.  If you are forced to evacuate, you will not be entitled to a pro-rata refund without vacation insurance coverage.

While everyone understands you want to finish out your vacation; it is not worth the risk.  All the rental homes and properties need to be secured and prepared for the storm.  This puts the local workers into a frenzy of activity to be able to get to all the rental homes, store outside furniture, store garbage cans, secure any items that can turn into flying debris and install other protective measures.  As a result, there is a lot of local traffic on the roads to perform the servicing.

Remember, once the locals finish prepping the rental homes, they still need to prepare their own home and their own evacuation.  As you can imagine, this causes a lot of stress.  Also, the Outer Banks does not have any Red Cross shelters. There may be shelters opened in inland areas and the radio will broadcast their locations.   Should you delay and get stuck or get into trouble; you could truly be on your own for quite a while.   Frequently, the area can lose power, water, rescue and medical services.

Remote Property Owners

If you own an Outer Banks rental property or vacation home, it is important to make plans on how to secure the property before the storm forms.  Typically, there are only about 3 days to prepare all the homes on the island.  The frenzy of activity that occurs makes it unlikely to be able to contract with someone to help once the storm is on its way.  If your home is currently rented, you should communicate with your guests regarding the seriousness of the storm and encourage your guests to follow emergency recommendations.  While some guests may be willing to help prepare the property for the storm, this is not recommended due to potential liability should the guest get hurt, or if the guest accidentally damages the property (like putting deck furniture in the pool).  Plus, the guest does not know your property and the procedures to properly secure it.  A vacation hosting company, like Xpert Home Services, can give you peace of mind that your property will be prepped and secured according to your instructions and a hurricane assessment performed after the storm.

Residents

Even if you think you would never evacuate, you still need to make a plan.  You will need supplies to sustain you should the storm damage take out infrastructure, power and internet/communications.  The best course of action, while making your “ride it out” provisions is to pack a “to go” kit in case you have a change of mind due to the storms severity or projected track.  Much of the two plans will be the same or have significant overlap.  If you have a designated place in your home to store your provisions and “to go” kit, it will make it faster to execute your plan when stress levels are high and everyone is a bit frantic.

Important Papers

I have a portable, lightweight file cabinet that I use year round.  This cabinet is used to file all important papers in it.  Just think, if I lost everything in the home, what will I need the most?  These are the items I file in this cabinet.  It is small and lightweight that it can be picked up and easily loaded into the truck for evacuation.  I keep the most recent copy of all my insurance policies.  I have a copy of the family birth certificates, Social Security cards, car titles, pet vaccination records, mortgages/deeds, marriage certificates, copy of will, and copy of recent tax returns.  Should the worse happen, you will have the most important papers available to you.  Since my file cabinet is not water proof, I have a large plastic water tight container that it fits into.  Alternatively, you could have a cardboard accordion style file holder that you can quickly pick up and place into a water tight storage container.

Ideally, in addition, these same documents can be stored at the property in a secure, fire proof and wind proof safe.

Special Medical Needs Registry

The Dare County Department of Health and Human Services has a voluntary registry that allows staff to contact residents with special medical needs, before, during and after an emergency to identify any needs and provide assistance.  To register, contact Dare County Department of Health and Human Services 252-475-5500.

Before the storm

Insurance

Make sure all your insurance is in place now.  Most Outer Banks properties will require homeowner, flood and wind / hail coverages that can be all separate policies.  Flood insurance is always a separate policy.  Remember, there is a 30 day waiting period to add wind and flood insurance coverage.  So, do not think you can wait until a storm has been named. 

Ideally, you should also have a detailed inventory of your belongings and/or a video of each item.  The inventory list, pictures and video can be stored off site or in the cloud and updated as needed.  You can also simply email the pictures and video to yourself so they are available online.

Contact List

It is time to go old school.  Just in case ones electronic devices do not work, create a paper list of family contact names, addresses and numbers.  Include a list of bank accounts, retirement account, credit card numbers and contact information for each company. 

Plan and Stay Informed

Let remote family members know what your emergency plan is and your evacuation route.  Subscribe to automatic emergency alerts to keep informed as the storm approaches. You can get email notifications from Dare County Emergency Management at www.DareCountyEM.com and download the ReadyNC app.

Pets

If you have pets, make sure veterinary records are up to date and obtain a current copy of all shots.  Your pet should have a collar with a pet tag with you or your vets contact info.  Your pet should have a name tag even if he/she has a chip.  You will also need a leash and a portable kennel is recommended.  Most emergency shelters do not allow pets. It is common occurrence for pets to get lost during or after the storm and having identification on them will help with their safe return. 

Protect Property

Keep the proper supplies on hand to secure your property.  If you have vulnerable windows that you intend to cover; purchase, cut, and predrill fasteners before the season.  Many times, the local stores will run out of supplies once the storm is on its way.

Reinforce garage doors.  Typically, these are the most vulnerable and on the lowest level susceptible to water and wind damage.  The idea is to keep the shell of the house intact.

Take a critical look at the trees on your property.  If a tree is dead, kindly remove it before the storm.  Look for any dead branches that are likely to break off in high winds and remove them before the storm to minimize damage to your or a neighbor’s property.  I have seen pine trees bent in half.  The wind is wicked during a hurricane. 

Fuel

Fuel and service all vehicles just in case you may need to evacuate.  Obtain additional gas supplies for generator use and store in appropriate containers.  Gas stations supplies are typically limited after a major storm event.

Just before the storm

Move any household valuables and electronics to higher locations in the home in case of flooding.

Freeze water in plastic containers or zip lock bags to fill up space in freezers.  In the event power is lost, the freezer will stay colder longer.  In addition, this can be used in cooler or added to your water supply.

Store deck furniture so it will not become a projectile.  If you do not have a place to store it, then tie it down securely.  Make sure all tools, bicycles, lawn and garden equipment is stored or secured.  This also applies to covered porches and all the items inside them.  You don’t want flying debris to break a window or cause damage to the property.

Fill the bathtub with clean water.  This extra water can be used to flush toilets and to clean.  Keep in mind, you can’t have too much water.  I have a 55 gallon tank that I also fill with water.

Move vehicles to high ground if you are in a flood prone area.  Frankly, we are on a sandbar, it is all a flood prone area.  Storm surge can occur from the ocean or the sound.  In 2003, Hurricane Isabel created a 10 foot deep, 1700 foot wide inlet that spanned from the ocean to the sound near Frisco.  Dolphins were seen swimming in the new inlet.  Within 2 months the inlet was filled and the road bed re-built.  On Hatteras Island in 2011, Hurricane Irene opened up another new inlet. This one had a bridge built over it rather than filling it in.  The force of a storm surge is not to be reckoned with!

Unplug electronics and turn off gas, electricity and water to the home before evacuating or when power is lost.  The power surge that sometimes occurs when the power is returned will not damage you appliances and electronic equipment.

Keep an ax in the attic in case of severe flooding.  While I have not done this before, after the images of Hurricane Katrina and people trapped on their roofs, it is a good idea.

During the Storm

Stay inside and away from windows.  The calm period when the eye appears can quickly change to the remaining part of the storm and you do not want to get caught unprotected.  Listen to the weather updates to stay informed of the storms progress. 

Typically, it takes 3 days to prepare for the storm, the storm lasts a day, and then it takes 3 days to put everything right again.  However, sometimes the storms are especially slow moving and can last longer or turn back.  While experts are getting better with their predictions, just about anything can happen. 

The worst storms seem to happen at night.  I think that is because you can’t see outside what is happening but the sound of the wind, the loud banging and trees breaking makes your imagination go into over drive.  It is important to stay calm and comfort any small children and pets. 

Playing cards or board games with the family is a great distraction to keep stress levels down.  Keep the radio on in the background to receive any updates.

After the Storm

Should a major storm impact the area, you may need enough non-perishable food, water and medicine to last a week or more.  See the list below for suggested items.

Once the storm is over, be very careful of dangerous conditions around the property.  Avoid walking or driving in flooded areas.  Do not enter a property surrounded by water as the foundation could be undermined and the home unsafe.  Be aware that wild life is often displaced.  Poisonous snakes or hazardous debris can be hidden in flood waters. 

Down power lines are extremely dangerous and should be avoided.  Notify the power company immediately if you come upon a down or damaged power line. Dominion NC Power telephone is 1-866-366-4357.  Dare County water is 252-475-5990.  Click here for a list of other Dare County emergency numbers. 

Don’t drink or cook with tap water until it is safe to do so.

Luckily, when we lose power after the storm, we have a generator and a gas grill.  The generator is used to power the refrigerator and a few lights.  The television can also be hooked up to get any updates.  While we can’t run the whole household with the generator, it does prevent much hardship in the event conditions persist beyond the week.  It is important to operate the generator and grill safely.  The grill and generator should only be used outdoors.  Being able to enjoy a hot meal is after working to clean up is a beautiful thing.

See our previous blog post for more tips on “What to do after a Hurricane“.

Emergency Pack Essentials – at least 1 week, enough for entire family and pets

I keep the items below packed up in water tight large container.  Items can be organized inside with boxes and zip lock bags. 

  • Have cash on hand – ATM’s and credit card machines are frequently out after an event
  • Passports, identification and credit cards included on person should you evacuate
  • Water – 1 Gal per person per day – pets too. Replace every 6 months
  • Nonperishable food – Replace every 6 months – include can goods, peanut butter, tuna, boxed milk and juice, nutrition bars, cereal, bread, crackers.
  • Toilet paper, Paper plates, cups, plastic utensils, paper towels 
  • Pet food, water and bowls to feed it in
  • Pet leash and carrier
  • Manual can opener
  • Prescription medicine
  • Battery or crank radio (NOAA weather capable preferred)
  • Flashlights with fresh batteries (or crank type)- one for each person
  • Cell phone and solar or crank USB charger for cell phone
  • Sleeping bag for each member of family (pillow / blankets)
  • Change of clothes for each family member with rain gear, sturdy boots.
  • Garbage bags (can also be used for rain gear)
  • Mosquito repellant
  • Sunscreen
  • First aid kit (include over counter pain relief)
  • Toiletries (hand sanitizer, baby wipes, soap, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste)
  • Toys, games, books

The items below can be added to your evacuation kit in the event you ride out the storm and need to protect your property from further damage.

  • Grill/ propane or charcoal and matches
  • Cooler / ice
  • Bleach (can be used to disinfect and to purify water)
  • Duct tape
  • Outdoor extension cords
  • Gloves, basic tools (hand tools or a multi-purpose tool and garden tools), rope, plastic sheeting or tarps
  • Chain saw
  • Fire extinguisher

Should you stay or should you go?  This is a question that can only be answered by you.  You and your family’s personal safety should be the most important consideration.  Contact Xpert Home Services for help in preparing your home for hurricane season and an evaluation after the storm.  Remote vacation property owners will appreciate our vacation home hosting services, which can include the critical storm preparation and assessment.  Contact us today at 252-226-9742.

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