We’ve had a taste of a hurricane, but not since 1991
The Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project Team is predicting another “above average “Atlantic Hurricane season this year with 17 named storms. NOAA is also projecting an above average season. The increase they are citing is likely linked to global warming with the resulting higher sea levels and elevated ocean temperatures. Another factor cited could also be tied to a decline in El Nino winds; the wind shearing force known to tear hurricanes apart in their development stages.
While the number of Atlantic Hurricanes has been inching higher, Rhode Island has not experienced that increase. Based on over 200 years of National Weather Service records, Rhode Island averages one hurricane every 10 years. However, Hurricane Bob in 1991 was the last hurricane to hit Rhode Island representing a 30 year lapse. (Super Storm Sandy was a tropical storm when it hit RI).
That 30 year lapse means most of us have never experienced a hurricane. When a hurricane does come will you be ready? Many of the preparations are the same as preparing for winter storms with some important differences.
*Homeowners insurance: Depending on where you live in Rhode Island, you may need both a Flood Policy and your Homeowner policy. The standard Homeowner policy covers wind driven rain gaining access to your home through your damaged roof but not seepage from exterior surface water. Exterior water entering your home is covered through a Flood policy. Your car could be damaged in the storm by flood water, falling trees, or flying debris. You must have Comprehensive coverage on your auto policy for that.
* When a hurricane is heading our way, you won’t have much time to prepare. Hurricanes generally travel up the coast from Florida to RI in 48-72 hours. Don’t wait!
*If you haven’t got a generator, consider making that investment. If you have one, make sure it’s working; you will likely be without power for a few days. The generator must be used outdoors; the exhaust could kill you.
*Charge cell phones. Today they are your life line to the outside world. Make sure to have a rechargeable battery backup
*Fill your car(s) with gasoline. Gas stations that are open before the storm will likely run out due to the high demand, and availability may be limited after the storm. Don’t forget to plan for your generator’s fuel needs.
*Check on the operability of flashlights and your supply of batteries.
*Stock up on non-perishable food supplies avoiding food items that require refrigeration. These include dry cereal, snack bars, canned juice & foods, ready to eat soups, peanut butter, baby formula, diapers, personal hygiene items, paper plates & cups, and instant coffee & tea.
*Assuming you have a well and no generator, plan for water; Keep drinking water separate from bathing and flushing. After the hurricane passes you may go without power for several hot days. 1 gal. per person per day for five days is considered the minimum recommended. A clean barrel filled with water will serve as a storage container for personal hygiene but not for personal consumption.
*Turn your refrigerator and freezer to their highest settings a few days before the storm. The colder temperature will help keep it colder longer while power is out. Partially fill plastic bottles or tubs with water and place in your freezer. The frozen water will help keep the freezer cool and when he water melts, you will have additional drinking water. When the power goes out, moving some of the iced bottles to your refrigerator will help keep it cool. Minimize opening the refrigerator and freezer doors as much as possible while the power is out.
*Prepare for medical concerns having a one week minimum supply of prescription medications. Make sure your first aid kit is a well stocked.
*Have tools and supplies on hand: hammer, nails & other hand tools (rechargeable tools will be useful only for a long as your batteries last), duct tape, plastic tarps, (you will likely need a temporary “blue roof” after the storm), a full gas grill propane tank, a manual can opener, matches, battery operated radio.
*Secure your property. Collect all outdoor furniture, grills and toys and get them inside. Anchor objects that cannot be brought inside that could be wind-tossed; they will likely become destructive flying objects.
*Make sure you have cash on hand. Banks and ATM’s will likely be closed due to power outages or will run out of money after the storm.
*If you have a boat in the water, get it out early. Don’t wait for the last minute rush.
* If you are encouraged to evacuate, do so for your safety and that of your family.
During the Storm: Stay inside where it’s safe. If you go outside, you may be struck by a flying object, branch, power line, or falling tree. Pick up a good book, play some games or cards and enjoy some special family time. Make it a positive experience creating some memories for your family.
After the Storm:
*Confirm the safety of those immediately around you. Seek emergency help if necessary.
*Let your emergency contacts know your status but minimize cell phone use as you may not be able to recharge your cell phone for a few days. Texting will be more effective as it requires a mere second or two for the transmission while a cell phone requires uninterrupted cell signal during the call.
*Assess your property for damage. Take pictures to document all damage before the clean-up.
*Trees will have fallen. Be cautious as you try to clean the debris; chain saws are dangerous. Power lines may be wrapped within tree branches and may remain energized.
*Make temporary repairs as necessary to protect your property from additional damage.
*Report damage to your insurance agent or company as soon as possible. Follow that claim notice with repair estimates and pictures when available. Know that insurance companies will be bringing in adjusters from all over the country to help you– and the thousands in this state and region– who will all have damage. Making that first call will get the claim process rolling.
*When you have damage get estimates from contractors you want doing the repairs. This will be a period of high demand for contractors. Do not simply accept the lowest bidder. Check references. Get confirmation that the contractor is insured. Fraud and “wanna be” contractors will feed on your desire to get your home back to normal. Before repairs begin make sure to have a written contract specifying what is to be done, when work will start, the cost, the materials to be used, and a payment schedule. Never make a full payment up front and don’t make a final payment until the all work is completed. Even the most honest and dependable contractor may get the job basically done, move on to their next job, leaving the completion of your project for months to come. Remember, the repair contract is between you and the contractor you select; the insurance company is paying you so you can have your home repaired.
*Be cautious of who is really an adjuster representing your insurance company. After such events, public or private adjusters may show up at your door indicating that they are there to handle your claim; implying that your insurance company sent them. Or they may promise to get your claim settled faster and for more money if you hire them. Know that in return they take a percentage of the loss, usually 10% or more.
*Take pictures or video during the repair process. In the event the contractor discovers more damage, your insurance company is usually prepared to issue a supplemental payment. The pictures provide documentation justifying the additional payment you will be seeking. When all is said and done, your out of pocket expense should not exceed your deductible. The labor to make temporary repairs and the cost of temporary repair materials should all be combined as your final repair costs.
Hopefully we will make it through another hurricane season unscathed.