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Tracking the Tropics: Hurricane hacks you should know before storms come your way

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — If you live in an area that’s impacted by tropical activity, you likely know the basics for hurricane preparation.

But over the years, we develop tips and tricks with each passing storm. Here are a few on an ever-evolving list of hurricane hacks to help make each season just a tiny bit easier:

Should I stay or should I go?

Several years ago, evacuation zones changed- have you checked your zone since then?

The rule is run from water, shelter from wind- in other words you should evacuate if the threat of flooding exists where you live. Evacuation zones are based on the propensity to flood for that area.

If your zone is activated as a zone that should be evacuated, it means that you are in danger of flooding from storm surge, which is the most damaging and deadly element of hurricanes. If you do not live in a zone that has been ordered to evacuate, it means that storm surge is not expected for your area and you should plan to shelter in your home from the wind. Evacuations aren’t necessary for you then – but the exceptions are manufactured homes and trailers, if you are medically dependent on electricity, or if you have large tree limbs over your home that may fall during the storm.

If you do live in an area that needs to be evacuated, keep in mind you do not have to leave town. You can ride out the storm with a friend or family member who does not live in an evacuation zone or go to a shelter.

Hurricane shelter hack

Hurricane shelters are designed to efficiently preserve your life – it’s not a luxury hotel. You’ll be more comfortable if you bring your own bedding.

My favorite hack, developed from sleeping on a cot at work during a storm, is to bring earplugs and a sleep mask. You’ll most likely be sleeping on a cot in a larger room with other people doing the same. But with earplugs and a sleep mask, you’ll sleep like you are in a 5-star hotel!

Before you leave home

The day before you plan to leave, place a small paper cup full of water in your freezer. Right before you leave, place a quarter on that now-frozen cup of water.

This will let you know if the food in your freezer is safe once you return. If the cup looks the same when you come back as when you left – with the quarter sitting on top of the frozen cup of water – your food is good. You either didn’t lose power or didn’t lose it long enough for your food to thaw. If you return and the quarter is just sitting in water – throw everything in your freezer out. Or if the quarter is now re-frozen and submerged in the cup, you still need to throw your food out because you lost power long enough for your freezer to thaw.

Ok, I’m staying…what else do I need?

Let’s say you don’t need to evacuate and are staying in your home. You’ve got the basics: flashlights, batteries, food supply, etc. What other things do you need?

When’s the last time you filled your bathtub up? Does it still hold water? If not, you’ll need a tub stopper. They are a big seller prior to storms for that reason.

Another question – are you on your own private well? If so, you DO need to fill your tub up so you can use the water to flush your toilet once the power goes out. If you are on city water/sewer services, you most likely DON’T need to fill your tub up. Even if the power goes out, you’ll likely still have running water.

Speaking of water – you DO NOT have to drink exclusively bottled water when you lose power. Everyone rushes out to purchase water before a storm but you can save money, and the frustration of empty shelves, by filling jugs and bottles with tap water before a storm for drinking.

Here’s another hurricane hack that came in handy during Irma: days before the storm arrives, start filling gallon plastic freezer bags with water. Lay them flat in your freezer one at a time and allow them to freeze. If you lie them flat, they freeze in a stackable shape. Fill up all available space in your freezer with frozen bags of water. The ice will keep your freezer frozen longer once the power goes out. You can also move a couple to your refrigerator to keep your food in there cooler for longer. Once the begs of frozen water melt, boom! You’ve got more fresh water that’s safe for drinking.

Another thing to consider is how’s your propane or charcoal level? Once the power goes out, you’ll need a way to prepare food. If you stock up on propane or charcoal well in advance of the storm, you’ll beat the crowd and the rush on supplies.

And here’s a hurricane hack for those who need their caffeine: a camping-style percolator coffee maker means you don’t have to skip your morning coffee once the power goes out. If that’s too much for you, the higher-end brands of instant coffee are a far cry from the last time you attempted instant coffee – in a good way.


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