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Forecasters predict an ‘above average’ hurricane season—here’s how to prepare

Hurricane season begins June 1.

A satellite image of a hurricane swirling in the Gulf of Mexico. Credit: Getty Images / Zenobillis

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With the start of hurricane season on the horizon, there’s no time like the present to start preparing before a storm arrives, especially as experts predict a very active 2020 hurricane season.

As a longtime Florida resident, I’m not waiting for the first named storm to start prepping—and you shouldn’t either. Taking care of these simple proactive tasks ahead of June 1, the start of the Atlantic hurricane season, can save you major headaches down the line. From revisiting your insurance policy to checking in on your hurricane preparedness kit, here’s what to do now so you’re ready for hurricane season.

1. Review your insurance policy

Insurance review
Credit: Getty Images / courtneyk

Before hurricane season, take a look over your insurance policy and make any necessary changes.

It’s a good idea to review your insurance policy now so that you’re not caught off guard when a hurricane strikes. My husband and I recently looked into our home insurance policy, only to find out that we were underinsured. Meaning, if our home was destroyed in a hurricane, we would not have had enough money to cover rebuilding our current home. After a brief call with our insurance agent, we increased our coverage in a matter of minutes. I instantly felt better.

Even if you’ve had the same policy for years, there’s no harm in giving it a once-over before the start of hurricane season. Especially since it becomes harder—and sometimes impossible—to make changes to existing insurance policies once a storm is named. However, insurance policies vary, so make sure to contact your insurer for specific information about your plan. Also, if you're holed up at home due to the pandemic, take a few minutes here and there to document your belongings. It's good to have photo or video evidence of your personal belongings in case they become damaged and you need to file an insurance claim.

Another thing to keep in mind is flood insurance. Generally, flood damage is not covered by your traditional homeowner’s insurance. That means if your home floods due to a hurricane, that damage may not be covered by your current policy. Therefore, it’s a smart idea to secure your own flood insurance if you live in a flood-prone area.

Sewer backups are another common problem during hurricanes that are likely not covered by your current home insurance. The backups can occur for a number of reasons, and homeowners generally bear the burden of any fixes and repairs to the pipeline that connects the home to the main sewer system.

2. Clean up your yard

Backyard
Credit: Reviewed / Rachel Murphy

This is what my backyard looked like before we cleaned it up. One less thing to worry about.

From random pieces of wood left behind from old projects to empty flower pots that have been overturned by my toddler, my backyard is kind of a mess. My husband and I are doing what we can now to pick up the random pieces of debris that could go flying during a storm.

I know, I know, what’s the rush? I’ve been through enough hurricanes to know that the days and hours leading up to the storm’s arrival are stressful and busy. There are always last-minute tasks to be done, and picking up around the perimeter of your house doesn’t need to be one of them.

So, if you’re like me and have been putting off picking up the random pieces of junk in your yard, now’s the time to get ahead. This is also an ideal time to double-check outdoor structures like sheds and pergolas to make sure they’re secured in place.

3. Buying plywood for windows

Boarding windows
Credit: Getty Images / Kurgu128

Plywood is commonly used to board up windows during storms.

Hurricane wind speeds start at 74 miles per hour and can exceed 150 miles per hour, sending debris swirling through the air. One way to protect your home from flying fragments is to board up the windows (if you don’t have storm shutters).

I speak from experience when I say this project isn’t something you can realistically get done in the days leading up to a hurricane, as home improvement store shelves are usually pretty picked over by this point. That’s why you should take the necessary steps now to measure your windows, buy plywood and other supplies, and cut the boards to size, so you can have everything ready to go should you need to board up your windows.

The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes recommends using exterior-grade plywood that's 5/8 of an inch or thicker.

If you have a house with a lot of windows, it may seem daunting to get all of this done in a day or two. My husband and I split up the project into several tasks, spanning a few weekends, so we didn’t feel too overwhelmed.

4. Start building your supply now

Checklist
Credit: Getty Images / fstop123

Flashlights, a weather radio, and batteries are common hurricane supplies to keep in your emergency kit.

When a storm is on the way, people stock up on cases of water, batteries, weather radios, flashlights, and other hurricane preparedness essentials. Shopping for groceries and supplies when a hurricane is on the way isn’t all that much different than trying to get what you need during a pandemic—shelves are empty and items are out of stock online.

To avoid this fiasco ahead of a hurricane, start building your supply now. It can be as simple as adding on an extra case of water during your next round of groceries or adding an extra pack of batteries to your next online purchase.

This way, you won’t be scrambling at the very last minute. Instead, you’ll have a decent stock of necessities to help you weather a serious storm.

5. Check your current stock of supplies

Check supplies
Credit: Getty Images / fstop123

Recheck all of your supplies from last hurricane season to make sure everything works properly.

You should check leftover hurricane supplies from the previous season to make sure they are still in good working condition. I learned this lesson the hard way when going through our hurricane kit ahead of Hurricane Dorian last year.

Our portable LED lanterns were no longer working because the batteries corroded, so we ordered more. Our lanterns arrived on time, but it’s not uncommon to encounter shipping delays as a hurricane draws near.

6. Organize your garage or shed

Garage
Credit: Getty Images / PeopleImages

Hurricanes produce a lot of wind, so you'll want to have space in your shed or garage organized to accommodate for outdoor patio furniture, potted plants, and other items that may go airborne during the storm.

No matter how many times my husband and I organize our single-car garage, it somehow morphs back into a giant mess. We’ve waited until the day of a hurricane to reorganize our garage to make room for one car and an outdoor patio set, and it was incredibly stressful trying to get it all done in a matter of hours. I don’t recommend doing this, especially when you’re already tying up loose ends before the storm makes landfall.

Instead, we’re taking a more proactive approach and organizing the garage now. We’re adding overhead storage racks and adjustable shelving to help make the most of our 250-square-foot garage. No more playing Tetris with the patio furniture before a hurricane strikes—phew.

7. Get your documents in order

Document storage
Credit: Getty Images / piyaphun

Make sure you have a way to access important documents without WiFi or cell service.

We rely on our phones, computers, and tablets for almost everything, but when the WiFi is out and the cell reception is spotty, it can be hard to access important documents digitally. If a storm causes damage to your home, you’ll want to have your insurance policy information handy to file a claim.

Print out a copy of your policy and store it in a waterproof document holder. Consider printing out other documents you may need to access in the event of an emergency like health insurance cards, and vet records (including vaccination history) for pets.

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