What Hurricane Season 2021 May Look Like and How to Prepare
Preparation is the key to a good outcome during an active hurricane season. Houston has historically experienced some major weather events between June and the end of ovember, so it’s important to know how to handle adverse weather conditions. Check out these tips to learn about how to prepare for a hurricane in Houston as well as what weather forecasters are saying about the 2021 storm season.
What Will the 2021 Hurricane Season Look Like?
This year’s storm season has been relatively quiet thus far, but forecasters see some potential unwanted activity on the horizon.
During La Niña years, the water in the Pacific is cooler, resulting in lighter winds that allow hurricanes to become stronger. Currently, we’re in a neutral El Niño pattern – a positive sign. However, sea temperatures in the Atlantic are running above average, which intensify potential storms. For those of you curious to understand how hurricanes evolve, KHOU 11 filmed an excellent special about it that goes into much more detail.
Colorado State University currently expects 20 named storms this season, including nine hurricanes and four major hurricanes. Their overall evaluation for tumultuous meteorological activity? Above-average. The NOAA predicts six to ten hurricanes this season, as well as 20 tropical storms. The average Atlantic hurricane season between 1991 and 2020 saw three major hurricanes, seven more “typical” hurricanes, and just 14 tropical storms. Current estimates suggest that there’s a 68% chance of a major hurricane hitting the U.S. coastline in 2021, up from previous years.
Things can escalate pretty quickly once a storm picks up steam, so it’s critical to have a plan in place so you can protect yourself, your loved ones, and your property.
How to Handle Storm Surge and Flooding
Storm surge happens when a storm pushes water from the Gulf inland. You may have seen markers in the Houston-Galveston area indicating just how high water from previous storms has gotten. One to three feet of water can knock you off your feet and stall your car. Speaking of your car, it only takes about three feet of storm surge to float your vehicle away! Water is powerful – you don’t want to mess with nature.
If water levels reach six feet, it’s time to head to a second floor or roof. At twelve feet, water can fill the entire first floor of your home. At fifteen feet, the typical one-story home is entirely under water. Twenty-foot storm surges can be catastrophic, and we’ve seen them in our area; Galveston Island experienced them during Category 2 Hurricane Ike in 2008. Entire neighborhoods washed into the sea.
While the worst effects of storm surge are typically on the direct coastline, parts of Houston have been evacuated in the past. You’ll want to take steps to secure your property, including tying off any loose items. In addition, always know your evacuation route just in case.
What You Can Do to Prepare Right Now:
- Put together evacuation kits with all the essential supplies you’d need to take with you in the event of an evacuation. Have medical supplies and prescriptions ready, as well as toiletries, clothing, comfort items, and pet supplies if necessary. You’ll also want to bring ID, proof of insurance, important medical information, and any other valuable documents you’d like to safeguard.
- Make sure you have property insurance, and inquire about flood insurance. Be sure you have your agent’s contact info handy in case your property does sustain damage.
What to do After the Storm:
- Floodwaters can contain diseases, wildlife, chemicals, and raw materials. You should contact your home insurance provider and throw out anything that has been contaminated (after documenting through photo and video, of course).
- Take a close look at your home’s structures, especially the roof, ceilings, and the foundation. Get in touch with your home insurance provider about any damages. You may be able to complete smaller repairs yourself, but you should be prepared with the names of a few contractors who can also lend a hand.
How to Deal with Utility Outages
We often don’t realize how much we rely on utilities like power until we lose them. Flooding and high winds can really impact life as we know it.
Neighborhoods may see damage to power lines and natural gas service. Don’t attempt to travel through an area with down power lines; leave the vicinity. In addition, if you suspect you have a gas leak, call 911 and your utility company to report the danger once you’re in a safe location. If your home is experiencing any kind of flooding or is expected to, it’s usually a wise move to turn off your home’s electricity if you can do so without exposing yourself to water. Remember: Electricity flows through water!
Also, remember to pack chargers in your emergency kit. When power returns, you’ll be eager to get back online and in touch with the rest of the world.
If your power goes out at any point, food stored in your refrigerator may no longer be safe to eat. The FDA and USDA recommend throwing out refrigerated food that rose to temperatures above 40°F for more than two hours, as well as any frozen food that has thawed out.
Planning to use a generator during the next big storm? Knowing how to properly operate them is crucial to safety. Generators can restore comfort and utility in times of need, but they can also pose a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and electrocution when used improperly.
According to KHOU 11, generators should always be used outside at least 20 feet away from buildings, especially open structures such as doors, windows, awnings, and eaves. Avoid using chains and locks to secure a generator as they can slow firefighters down in the event of an emergency, and remember to never store gasoline inside your house. Use properly-rated extension cords, and never connect a generator directly to the electrical system in your home. In fact, it’s usually a good idea to consult an electrician about proper placement, hook-up, and advanced generator features like automation and transfer switches.
Finally, always use UL-approved carbon monoxide detectors when using generators at home. These devices save lives!
Unfortunately, there is a chance you may lose water during a bad storm. As we know, this utility may take a while to restore. Be sure you have enough water on hand for approximately one week – at least one gallon per day per person for drinking and washing. Before the storm becomes active, you may also want to fill tubs and sinks with water for flushing toilets just as a precaution.
Know Your Contacts and Resources
Although you may have a list of important contacts in your phone already, what happens when the power goes out? Have you committed the numbers to memory? Make sure you write down
and make accessible the contact information of anyone you might want to reach out to during an emergency.
In addition, it’s always helpful to have on hand a few contacts at your home insurance company and the names of a few contractors who can help you with difficult damages. Mold spreads fast anywhere but especially in Texas – you don’t want to be stuck in line waiting for critical repairs.
While a Realtor® can’t guarantee homebuyers that a home will never flood or be damaged during a hurricane, an experienced one can help buyers determine where a home sits on the floodplain and if a home has flooded in the past.
Be safe this hurricane season!
Check out these checklists, guides, and inclement weather resources from 365 Things to do in Houston for more useful information:
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