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Jul 18, 2022

Preparing for Hurricanes as Storm Season Approaches

By Lori Draz

Sooner or later, a little rain must fall. The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June 1 to Nov. 30. New Jersey’s tropical storm activity is typically between August and late October, so the time is now to learn what to do in an emergency. The New Jersey Office of Emergency Management offers these tips on what to do when hazardous weather and things like long-term power outages, flooding, evacuations and more occur. 

The first step is to stay informed. The second is to discuss hurricanes and other natural hazards and develop a plan for your family and others in need in your neighborhoods. 

First, some terms: A Tropical Storm Watch is issued when tropical storm conditions, including winds from 39 to 73 mph, pose a possible threat within 48 hours. A Tropical Storm Warning is issued when tropical storm conditions are expected to affect a specified area within 36 hours. A Hurricane Watch is issued when hurricane conditions, including sustained winds of 74 mph or greater, are possible within 48 hours. And a Hurricane Warning is issued when hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours. In coastal or near-coastal areas, a hurricane warning can remain in effect when dangerously high water and exceptionally high waves continue even though the winds may have subsided below hurricane intensity.

Next, experts suggest you Build a Hurricane Kit with a two-week supply of these emergency necessities. Don’t forget special supplies for babies, the elderly and those with access or functional needs. Make you kit portable and keep it in an easy to find place. 

Items on a well-stocked kit include a battery-operated alarm clock and battery- or crank-operated radio/TV with NOAA access. You should also have at least one flashlight per person and plenty of batteries, a fire extinguisher and first aid kit. On the personal side, be sure to have cash (ATMs don’t work in power outages), credit cards, cell phone chargers and prescriptions, including eyeglasses. Keep one gallon of water per person per day and water purification tablets. For meals, have coolers, emergency cooking grills, canned and dried food, a non-electric can opener, pots, pans, plates, utensils, gas and oil. Don’t forget work boots/shoes, several changes of clothes, sleeping bags, sheets, pillows and towels, bleach, sponges and paper towels, soap, shampoo, analgesics, bandages, and anti-bacterial ointment, toiletries, feminine products, toilet paper and towelettes. Also pack toys for kids and baby as well as pet food. 

Your beloved pets need protection too, so before a disaster, get their plans in order. Make sure pets who can be are microchipped. Make sure your pet carrier is large enough for the pet to stand up and turn around in, and spend time getting your pet used to the carrier ahead of time. Snakes may be kept in plastic containers and birds need their cages. Mark your pet’s contact info anywhere you can – on carriers, collars and in your home. 

Locate a dependable friend or relative who lives some distance away and ask if you and/or your pets can stay with them during an emergency. Locate pet-friendly hotels and motels outside, and make arrangements with trustworthy neighbors if a disaster strikes and you cannot get home in time to evacuate. Find boarding kennels that have staff members who stay on the premises with the animals in the event of a disaster. Horse, livestock or poultry owners need to develop emergency evacuation plans as well, and nj.gov/agriculture/animalemergency offers livestock resources. You can also call the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s Division of Animal Health at 609-671-6400.

Remember to keep pets indoors and on leashes for several days after a storm. Not only could there be broken glass and downed power lines, predatory animals like foxes and raccoons will be out in full force looking for food and shelter. 

After the hurricane, follow these tips. Only return home only when officials say it is safe. Don’t drive unless necessary, and especially avoid bridges until roads have been cleared of debris and downed power lines. 

If you have become separated from your family, use your family communications plan or contact FEMA or the American Red Cross. The American Red Cross also maintains a system you can register with called “Safe and Well” at redcross.org/safeandwell. Call 2-1-1 or 800-RED-CROSS for more information. 

If you cannot return home and have immediate housing needs, text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area. You can also call 211 or visit RedCross.org and download the Red Cross app. 

Following these tips can help you weather whatever the weather brings so stay prepared and stay safe!