How To Prepare For Hurricane Hermine

With sustained winds recorded at 75 mph, Tropical Storm Hermine was upgraded to a full-blown hurricane on Thursday afternoon, with landfall expected by early Friday. Forecasters are warning that Hurricane Hermine could bring heavy rainfall, isolated tornadoes, and winds as high as 80 mph to areas of northern Florida and southern Georgia, prompting the governors of both states to declare a state of emergency. While many of Florida's long-term residents are well-versed in Hurricane Preparedness 101, the state hasn't seen a hurricane since Wilma tore through the Gulf Coast in 2005. For those wondering how to best prepare for Hurricane Hermine, there are a few things you can do now to ensure you're ready when the storm hits.

Hurricanes can be catastrophic. Centered roughly 190 miles west of Tampa and barreling north-northeast at 14 mph, Hurricane Hermine could bring tornadoes, high winds, heavy rainfall, power outages, and/or storm surges and flash flooding. State officials in Florida have issued an evacuation order for Franklin County, and a hurricane warning is in place for the Big Bend area of the state's Gulf Coast.

Preparing for a hurricane is something best not left to the last minute. Things like obtaining or updating insurance policies to cover flood or wind damage, or strengthening or waterproofing areas of your home most likely to bear the brunt of the storm — the roof, windows, and walls — can't be done last minute. However, you can quickly document the contents of your home with a video camera or cellphone to make filing a claim later all the more easier. Be sure all images include a date and time stamp.

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Stay Alert And Informed

One of the most important ways to prepare for a hurricane is to be aware of how to stay informed about weather conditions and alerts. Sign up to receive text or email emergency notification alerts for your area, if they're available. These systems can be easily researched online by entering "alerts" and the name of your town, city, or county. Keep abreast of the situation via television or radio.

Prepare for power outages by having a crank- or battery-powered radio on hand. Make a list of important contacts now so you'll have them when needed. Include the numbers for your local emergency management office, the local American Red Cross shelter, local hospitals, local utility companies, county law enforcement or public safety authorities, and your property or homeowners' insurance agent.

Preparations At Home

Stay home if you're not in an area ordered to evacuate. Lock down hurricane or storm shutters, or if you don't have those, bolt 3/4-inch plywood boards over every window. Bring in anything that could fly away in heavy winds, including patio furniture, barbecue grills, lawn decorations, or tools. Anchor down anything too dangerous to bring inside — a propane tank, for instance. Sandbags can be used to help redirect storm surges, floodwater, and/or debris away from your home. Don't save outside work for the last minute, as the National Hurricane Center has warned that winds will reach tropical storm strength by Thursday afternoon, making outdoor preparations dangerous.

Keep an emergency disaster supply kit handy. Consider having two — one for the home, and a pared-down one for the car. Include at least two weeks' work of water and ready-to-eat non-perishable food for each member of the house. Don't forget to include appropriate food and water for pets. The kit should also include more than a few extra batteries, flashlights, candles, a can opener, eating utensils, a change of clothes or two, an extra pair of shoes, blankets or sleeping bags, eyeglasses if needed, a first-aid kit, and any essential medicine regularly taken by anyone in the house. Keep cash and important documents — like your driver's license, social security card, ID, medical cards, property deed or lease, insurance papers, birth and marriage certificates, and checkbook — with you. You'll need these after the storm has passed.

Prepare for the power to go out by turning your fridge and freezer to the coldest setting. Refrain from opening them often if the power goes out. Have a plan for where and how you'll take shelter from hurricane-force winds in your home. If unable to shelter in a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or International Code Council (ICC) 500 safe room, hunker down in a small, windowless room (think a bathroom or closet) on the lowest level of your home that's not likely to flood.

In Case Of Evacuation

Fill up the gas tank in your car so you're ready to go as soon as an evacuation order is issued. Keep your cellphone fully charged, and communicate regularly with friends and family. Know where to go if an evacuation order is issued for your area. Make an evacuation plan, and designate a meeting place outside the affected area in case you're separated.

Don't return to your home until the all-clear is given, even if you've forgotten something. Your personal safety is more important than any material item left behind.