In this guide, I’m going to give you a comprehensive hurricane checklist with all the items you need to ride out the next storm.
Category 5 Hurricane Irma, which made landfall in Florida in early September 2017, was the strongest hurricane in terms of wind speed and duration ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. And in 2017, there were four major hurricanes that were Category 3 or greater. It was one of the worst hurricane seasons on record.
And it turns out, climate change has something to do with this. As Kerry Emanuel of the American Meteorological Society reports, climate change will result in hurricanes becoming more intense over the next few decades.
And that means people need to be more prepared for hurricanes than ever. Yet, many people think they’ll have plenty of time to prepare for a hurricane once it’s on its way. After all, there is plenty of warning from the government and the weather stations, right?
This might seem to be the case, but here’s the thing…
Once the word is out about a hurricane moving your way, you will have a very hard time getting what you need. People who are just as unprepared as you, will literally overrun the stores.
People will empty the shelves of food and water. Generators will disappear. Everything you put off buying will become very difficult to get, if you can get it at all. The simple fact is, if you want the best possible chance of making it safely through a hurricane, you need to prepare NOW by taking this hurricane checklist and checking things off.
Why? Here is what to expect when a hurricane comes…
Table of Contents
What to Expect with a Hurricane
The first thing you need to know about a hurricane is that by the time you see the first warning signs, the hurricane is mere hours away. This doesn’t leave you a lot of time to prepare. Warning signs include:
- High ocean levels—Once the hurricane is about three days away, ocean levels will rise and the storm surge moves in. Waves will come more frequently and will get higher.
- Increasing wind speeds—Wind speeds will rise along with ocean levels. Within a day or two of the hurricane reaching you, wind speeds will be at least 15 miles per hour higher than usual. Within an hour before the hurricane hits, wind speeds can get up over 100 miles per hour.
- Drop-in barometric pressure—Within two to three days before the hurricane arrives, the barometric pressure will go down a lot.
- Rainfall—Heavy rainfall will start one and a half to two days before the hurricane hits. This rainfall will get heavier and heavier as the hurricane gets closer, and flooding becomes a real danger.
Hurricanes are rated by category based on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. These categories are:
- Sorustained Winds 74-95 MPH
- Sustained Winds 96-110 MPH
- Sustained Winds 111-129 MPH
- Sustained Winds 130-156 MPH
- Sustained Winds 157 MPH or higher
Storm surge, heavy rainfall, and high winds can be life threatening during a hurricane. You need to be prepared for a loss of power and communication. To start, here is a hurricane checklist of the general provisions you will need to survive a hurricane.
The Hurricane Checklist
A hurricane is a short-lived, regional event, but it is severe and can cause irreparable damage. It is absolutely critical that your hurricane checklist include everything you should stock up on before a hurricane is even a threat.
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The recommendation of authorities such as FEMA is that you have a minimum of three days of food, water, and supplies stocked up in case of a hurricane. However, we recommend a minimum of two weeks to a month’s worth.
You will be storing all of these items in your home, so you don’t have to worry about transporting them, provided you do not have to evacuate. You can click here for a full description of the most important things to have prepared ahead of time. This is a general prepping list that applies to any prepping situation, and some of these items are included below.
With that said, here are the things you need to have on your hurricane checklist to prepare for a hurricane. They are divided into categories to make it easier to read and organize:
Store away one gallon of water per person per day for a minimum of two weeks to a month. You can fill old pop bottles that have been cleaned and sanitized, and store them away. You can also get a bathtub bladder and fill that, which will provide you with up to 100 gallons of drinkable water.
Have at least two weeks to one month’s worth of food on hand at all times. This can be:
- Extra canned goods
- Peanut butter
- Extra dry goods (crackers, cereal, oatmeal)
- Granola bars
- Powdered milk
- Freeze-dried meals
Essentially, have more of the food your family likes to eat on hand. And be sure you have food that is easy to prepare and eat if you have no power.
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Alternative Means to Cook
When a hurricane hits, there is a good chance you will lose your power. In such a case, you will need an alternative method of heating your food. You can cook over a fire if you have a woodstove or fireplace. If not, get a camp stove with extra fuel or a small portable stove with a fuel source you can light easily.
Have plenty of candles, flashlights, lanterns, and/or lamps on hand if and when the lights go out. And be sure to have lots of the required fuel or batteries stocked up.
A hurricane checklist would not be complete if you don’t include a battery-powered or hand-crank radio. This way, you can listen to updates on weather conditions and any news or alerts for your area. And if you can get a ham radio, this is ideal. Even if you aren’t licensed to operate it, you can still listen in.
A fully-stocked first aid kit is an important part of your hurricane checklist. This should include prescription and non-prescription medication. You can click here for a complete list of what you should have in your first aid kit.
- Hairbrush or comb
- Feminine supplies
- Hand sanitizer
- Wet wipes
You will also need to be sure you are prepared in case you can’t use the toilet. This means having extra toilet paper, kitty litter, and a portable toilet or a bucket and heavy duty bags.
Have copies of all your important documents and some cash in a waterproof container. If you have to evacuate, take these with you.
Tools and Supplies
A hurricane checklist includes some unique tools and supplies that will allow you to prepare your property ahead of time. You should have the following stocked up specifically for the hurricane:
- Plywood cut to the size and shape of your windows
- Extra nails, screws, and tension clips
- Good screw driver
Place as much of the above hurricane checklist as you can into waterproof containers. And now that you know what you need to keep on hand, the rest of this article will focus on what to do before, during, and after a hurricane hits.
What to Do Before a Hurricane
There are many preparations you can and should make before a hurricane hits. Some preparations should be done long before a hurricane is on the radar and others should be done before it makes landfall.
Preparations Done Well in Advance
If you live in an area where hurricanes are likely to strike, you need to be well prepared in advance of any threat. This means you are stocked up, ready to move, and have what you need to secure your home and property. Here are some things you can do to be prepared:
- Have shutters installed on your home or have 5/8-inch marine plywood ready for each window. Cut the plywood to size in advance.
- Have a place to bug out to if you do need to leave, such as local hurricane shelters or family or friends.
- Have a bug out bag for each member of the family.
- Make an escape plan and know the safe routes out of your area. Always drive the routes prior to any emergency so you become familiar with them.
- Keep food, water, and supplies in your vehicle. This includes a floatation device, such as a good quality inflatable boat. This is in case you encounter flooding and can no longer drive.
- Make sure you have a family emergency plan in place, so you know where to meet and what to do when a hurricane is about to strike.
- Always keep your gas tank full and your vehicle serviced.
- Remove large trees from your property that could cause structural damage to your home during a hurricane.
- Create a safe room in your home. This is a room your family can hide out in and is ideally located in the basement (provided there is no/low risk of flooding). Stock this room with everything your family needs for at least two weeks and ensure the walls and door are reinforced.
- Make sure you keep all gutters and waterspouts clear of debris at all times.
- Take first aid and CPR classes so you are prepared for medical emergencies.
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Preparations Prior to Landfall
When a hurricane has been forecast, prepare your family and property for the storm. If you have done what is included in the hurricane checklist above, you should be well prepared already. In this case, you should only need to do the following:
- Go over all plans, checklists, and supplies. Make sure you are as stocked up as you need to be.
- Listen to the news, weather, and/or emergency services in your area for consistent updates.
- Evacuate if the authorities tell you to. You shouldn’t try to brave out the storm when your area is going to be slammed. And remember, you can choose to leave your home before the authorities give an evacuation order.
- Fill your bathtub, pots, pans, containers with water.
- Make sure all pets are indoors.
- Close and secure your shutters or board up your windows. Here is an awesome video that shows you how to board up your windows.
- Make sure you fully charge all your devices.
- Secure all loose items, such as patio furniture, that are located outside your home. Ideally, you should take them inside.
- Ensure you trim or remove all limbs and trees on your property that pose a threat to your home.
- Move all expensive furniture and electronics as high in your home as possible.
- Turn off all utilities if the authorities tell you to.
- Turn off all propane tanks.
- Moor your boat, if you have one.
What to Do During a Hurricane
Once the hurricane makes landfall, you should be well prepared and in your safe room or a safe area of your home. During this time, which can last for hours or days, this part of your hurricane checklist requires you to:
- Stay inside.
- Keep listening to the news and weather for information as the situation develops.
- Stay away from windows. If you don’t have a safe room, then stay in an interior room or closet in your home.
- Eat the food you have in your home that will spoil if the power goes out. Cook it all and consume that first.
What to Do After a Hurricane
Once the authorities say the hurricane is over, then you can leave your home if it is safe. Don’t go outside if it seems the storm is over, but there has been no official word. This could be the eye of the storm, which means the storm will come back as bad as before.
It’s also important to understand that once the storm is over, the worst may be yet to come. Once you know it is safe outside, do the following:
- Check in with and reunite with family and friends as soon as possible.
- If you evacuated, don’t go back home until the authorities say it’s safe to do so.
- Stay away from downed power lines and any water they may be touching.
- Stay away from the beaches. I know this seems obvious, but it’s amazing how many people don’t do this, both before and after the storm.
- Stay away from flooded areas. You never know what’s in the water.
- Don’t drink the tap water, until the authorities have said it’s safe.
- Be aware of looters that may take the opportunity for self-gain. This means keeping a low profile, keeping your lights off at night if you have a generator, or covering your windows.
- Begin to take photos of the damage to your home as soon as possible.
- Use tarps and other means to further protect your property after the storm has passed. Insurance may not cover any damage that happens once the storm is finished.
- Replenish your food, water, and supplies.
A hurricane can be a scary and devastating natural disaster. However, if you are properly prepared, you can minimize the danger and improve your chances of survival and recovery. Of course, nature doesn’t guarantee anything. But by following the hurricane checklist provided here, you will have the best possible chance of protecting your home, your family, and your possessions.
And if we forgot anything or you have something to add to our hurricane checklist, please let us know in the comments section below!
Hurricanes have produced winds as high as 185 mph.
A hurricane can cause a lot of damage to structures. Not all damage is easy to see just from a first glance. It is a good idea to wait until an area is officially deemed ok to go back in. Even after officials say it is ok you need to be careful and evaluate a structure for damage, wildlife intrusion, and general safety before entering.
It is best to evacuate as soon as you are told to do so but at the same time, you should listen to your instincts. If everyone tries to evacuate at the same time, you could get stuck in a lot of traffic. Waiting until the last minute can mean that you have to go further to find shelter or worse, that you get stuck in the actual hurricane.