I spent my entire career in and around the news business. I started in journalism (radio and newspaper) and after additional schooling, ended up in broadcast meteorology (TV and a little radio). For 18 of my weather years I lived and forecast in Central Florida, which means I’ve covered 298 tropical depressions, storms or hurricanes. With that much “tropical trouble” under my belt, I’ve learned a few things along the way. There are numerous guides and websites to get tips and information on where to find a shelter, what to put in your hurricane kit, and how to best stay safe before, during, and after a storm. I won’t waste your time with advice on things you can find with a quick internet search. Instead, I’ve taken my experience as a meteorologist, combined with my experience of living in a tropical location, to create this list of the TOP FIVE BEST WAYS to weather hurricane season with ease.
1. Find a trusted source and stick with it.
It could be a website, a Facebook page, or a TV meteorologist, but pay attention to what they say, how they say it, and whether they usually get it right. They won’t always be spot on, but find someone who has a pretty good accuracy rate.
A real person is always better than a computer, which means a person will out-forecast an app every time.
Try to avoid the hype. There is so much out there. Did you see the network that actually nicknamed Hurricane Isaias, “Covid-Cane?” That made me cringe. And made me glad I worked at stations that never forced me to hype something up just to get viewers to watch. Sometimes TV stations encourage it, but sometimes it comes from the forecasters themselves. Trying to keep up with the competition, wanting to be “first” with new information, needing to “prove yourself” when you’re young or to new managers when you’re seasoned, can lead to blowing things unnecessarily out of proportion.
I know the media gets a pretty bad rap these days, and the weather forecasters have long been the ones who “get paid to lie.” (Yes, I’ve heard all the jokes). Weather is an inexact science and, once in a while, your favorite forecaster WILL get it wrong. It’s the nature of the beast. It’s a constantly fluid situation, but if they are wrong every single day, find a new source before a big event happens. Find someone who is calm and factual rather than someone who yells a lot and makes you feel nervous. Land-falling hurricanes are scary enough. You don’t need the one person you rely on to tell you where it is and where it’s going to add to your fear and worry. Watch out for the “boy who cried wolf” syndrome. Trust the person who only gets “excited” when actual bad weather is coming. If someone is freaking out over a little rain storm, how will you know to trust them when a real disaster is impending?
Look out for phrases like, “I told you this was going to happen,” “I have been telling you for days this was coming…” Braggarts are usually one step away from hype-masters.
2. Turn it off and stop scrolling.
In this digital age, information is available at your fingertips. Watching a TV forecast isn’t as important as it used to be when it was the ONLY way to get information. As a hurricane approaches, the amount of TV and online coverage escalates. By the time a storm nears, the reporting goes to nonstop inundation. If you find yourself getting upset watching too much news and weather TURN IT OFF and PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE. Find the National Hurricane Center’s website for regular updates you can read for yourself. Before a storm nears, gather a list of your favorite reliable websites where you can go if you need a break from the constant influx of details.
Remember there are a LOT of fake weather sites out there and armchair ‘meteor-LOL-ogists’ who will post forecasts without any education or experience. Please do not share these! I’m amazed at the thousands and thousands of followers and shares I see for sites with zero credibility.
3. Don’t be scared. Just prepare.
Find the information you need for YOU and YOUR FAMILY. If you are a caregiver, think about what everyone in your care might need if a storm hits. Being fearful keeps you from taking action. If you have everything ready before the storm arrives, your mind will be at ease and you can wait it out without worry. Answering the questions in the next section will give you specific action steps for preparing.
4. Know the answers to these important questions.
- What county do you live in? (Watches and Warnings are issued by county name)
- Are you in a flood zone or an evacuation zone? (Which one? Zones are labeled A, B, C or maybe red, yellow, green. Each county is different. Know your zone!)
- If you must evacuate, where is the closest shelter? What are their rules? Do they allow pets?
- If you go to a shelter, what are their COVID-19 requirements? Do you need/have extra masks and hand sanitizer?
- How much water do you drink? How much non-perishable food will you need for 3 days?
- What will happen if your house loses power for 3 days, 5 days, a week?
- Do you need a generator? Do you have gas for the generator and your car?
- Do you have a prescription to fill in advance?
Write down what other things you would need to know if a storm hit.
Now go find the answers to your questions BEFORE the next storm arrives. Check ready.gov/kit for more about building a hurricane kit.
5. Watch out for scammers.
Without fail, after each land-falling tropical storm or hurricane, news coverage turns from the where and when of the wind and rain to the aftermath and cleanup. From there it quickly transitions to the victimization of people being scammed. From price gouging to gas skimmers to unlicensed and uninsured workers, everyone is at risk from shady people looking to take advantage of others. Before you hire a tree removal service or a roofing repair company, check them out. Just because their business card says “licensed and insured” does not mean they actually are! Look them up at http://www.myfloridalicense.com/DBPR/ to confirm.
Although an “active” season is not connected to the number of storms that make landfall or impact YOU directly, knowing more storms are possible makes it even more important for you to be ready. If you get your plan in place early it takes the fear out the unknown and the scramble of last-minute supply hunting.
Amy’s Favorite Hurricane Websites:
Amy Sweezey recently joined Growing Bolder as a Special Projects Producer and writer after retiring from a 25-year broadcast meteorology career. She has authored 2 children’s books about weather and created 2 weather workbooks for elementary students. Amy and her husband live in Central Florida with their 3 children.