Being ready for natural disasters is part and parcel of prepping, and there are few preppers out there that will not be making ready for the variety that is most likely to affect their area
From wildfires and floods to tornadoes and blizzards, all are dangerous and can put your skills and preparation to the test. But there are few natural disasters that will ever come close to rivaling a hurricane for sheer destructive potential.
Any coastal area in the U.S. is vulnerable to hurricanes and, in the right conditions, they can sow havoc far inland. Producing powerfully fast winds, extreme rainfall and pushing deadly storm surge far past the beaches, a hurricane is a triple threat.
Beyond its first order effects, hurricanes spawn tornadoes, wash away roads and inundate entire swaths of a region under feet of water, hampering any response efforts, knocking out utilities and creating sunken ruins of civilization that are dangerous to navigate.
Hurricanes indelibly scar the areas they hit, and make survival far from guaranteed no matter how prepared you are. If you live in an area that can be affected by these powerful seasonal storms, you need to read this article.
Hurricane Nomenclature and Behavior
Hurricanes are known by many names around the world and a few euphemisms that altogether belong to the United States.
If you want to get technical about it, hurricanes are actually a class of storm called tropical cyclones, and hurricane is more of a “local” name, local in this case meaning cyclones that form anywhere in the Atlantic Ocean or northern Pacific Ocean.
The exact same type of storm that forms in the Indian Ocean or elsewhere in the Pacific is just called a cyclone (which sounds rad) and in the western Pacific Ocean off the coasts of East Asia they are called typhoons.
A quick point of clarification: though hurricanes are called tropical cyclones, this has nothing to do with the areas they’ll affect, but rather where they are born. All cyclones the world over form in warm, tropical bodies of water, hence the name.
And make no mistake these storms have no love nor mercy for their paternal spawning ground- they can grow strong enough, quickly enough to utterly devastate tiny island nations as much as major continental landmasses.
No matter what name one of these monster storms are called by and where they spawn, all are supremely destructive, and can reach truly catastrophic levels of danger and damage once they grow large.
All proper hurricanes (those that form in the Atlantic, recall) begin life by forming in the middle of the ocean over warmer waters as simple storm systems.
Once the roundish mass of the storm gains strength from the rising, evaporating water coming off the water’s surface, it will turn into a tropical depression.
Don’t let the name fool you, these are active storms, though nowhere near as potent as their final evolution.
The cycle continues, with warm vapor rising until it recondenses into clouds and with those clouds comes more rain and potency.
Our bouncing baby tropical depression has become a tropical storm, taking a more structured shape and showing the bands of intense weather.
With more time and continuing ideal conditions, the active tropical storm will begin to rotate steadily and rapidly, drawing yet more energy from the water.
The hurricane is forming and, with it, several of its signature features: the immense, dense body and bands of storms flanking the distinct inner eye, an area of low pressure ensconced by the strongest part of the storm near the center. Once stabilized, we are now dealing with a proper hurricane.
With that hurricane comes pandemonium: positively mythical quantities of rain and attendant flooding, the flooding made worse by the influx of storm surge far beyond the beaches, constant lightning, immensely powerful sustained winds and gusts that are stronger yet and secondary tornadoes, each a minor disaster unto itself.
If a hurricane sounds like a sort of mothership of mayhem, you aren’t wrong.
Hurricanes mercifully only form, typically during the season, which for Atlantic and North Pacific hurricanes lasts roughly from the middle of the year, around June, though the end of November and even into December depending on the climate.
The first third to middle of this “season” is often when we’ll see the most intense and most frequent hurricane formation.
Hurricanes are classed similarly to tornadoes when it comes to their strength and damage potential, though hurricanes put any tornado to shame when it comes to energy output, area of effect and destructive capability.
One possible point of confusion for the uninitiated is that cyclones of all kinds have a regionally applicable intensity scale dependent on where they form in the world.
I will not be delving into all of them for any kind of comparative analysis since here in the U.S. we are only predominately concerned with true hurricanes; those that form in the Atlantic and North Pacific.
The prime factor for judging a hurricane’s intensity is the sustained speed of the wind it creates. Higher sustained speeds means a stronger hurricane and a commensurately worse ass-whipping when it draws close to land.
Recall the nascent form of a hurricane, the tropical depression. These weather systems will produce sustained winds up to 33 MPH. That’s sustained winds, not gusts.
While they can drop some serious rain and potentially down limbs and weakened small trees, most people won’t get out of bed in America for a mere tropical depression coming ashore.
Beyond a tropical depression we move into true tropical storm territory with winds anywhere from 35 MPH to 63 MPH.
These are serious storms, true to their name, and can easily bring down trees and damage roofs. But beyond this category we get into real hurricane strength.
The categories of hurricanes and their sustained wind speeds are below.
Category 1 – Sustained Wind Speed: 64 MPH to 83 MPH
While coastal long-timers will likely just hit the snooze button, snowbirds and vacationers alike will scurry for higher, drier ground far inland and with good reason.
By the standards of any thunderstorm, this is pretty serious, and can last for days unlike a mere shower.
This category of hurricane will produce significant local flooding and not insubstantial localized damage wherever the eye makes landfall.
Category 2 – Sustained Wind Speed: 84 MPH to 96 MPH
With winds significantly faster on average than the previous category and tropical storms, and applying wind and rain in equal measure to its area of effect over days in some cases, you can expect plenty of damage and significant disruption or cessation of local infrastructure, capsized roads and downed power lines will be frequently encountered.
Your seasoned hurricane veterans will not get too bent out of shape, but will probably want to avoid being struck by the eye wall.
Category 3 – Sustained Wind Speed: 97 MPH to 113 MPH
It is at this level you can say the fooling around has officially come to an end. Any storm of this strength will produce a track of mayhem across any populated area.
Trees will be felled left and right. Roofs of any but the sturdiest or hardened buildings will be sent flying. It is here that storm surge becomes a major threat statistically and will sweep inland to completely inundate the land. A bullseye hit on a major city will likely be a national news event.
Category 4 – Sustained Wind Speed: 114 MPH to 137 MPH
Now we arrive at seriously monstrous weather events – proper disasters, for sure. Titanic amounts of rain and viciously powerful winds will level entire stands of trees, and damage the vast majority of structures.
With enough “steam” built up, storms of this magnitude can often make it well inland doling out damage the entire time, flooding rivers and other tributaries to further hamper relief and evacuation efforts.
Category 5 – Sustained Wind Speed: In excess of 140 MPH
Storms of this magnitude achieve legendary infamy. Entire tracts of humanity will be wiped off the earth. Cities will be left in drowned ruin. Small communities might simply vanish, never to be rebuilt.
Plants, topsoil and timber will be blown away or washed away by turns. The breadth and depth of destruction will be so grave that even federal aid will be hard pressed to respond to the event in its entirety.
Any storm in this category is a seriously life-threatening event, and will put any survivor to a severe test.
Hurricane Effects and Damage
You must never make the mistake of underestimating or downplaying the destructive might of even a small hurricane, especially if you live on a coast, or in a state prone to receive them.
Even if you live quite a ways from the shore, a powerful hurricane can barrel inland near full potential, ruining your smug attitude of superior intellect. You’d be spared the storm surge, but nothing else.
The precise degree of risk you’ll be facing with a hurricane coming ashore depends on the confluence of several factors. Your location, specifically the lay of the land and how close to sea level you are is a big one, as is how close you are to the coast, obviously.
Your proximity to the eye of the storm, most often the strongest and most sustained part of it, is also an important concern. No matter what, if the storms bands can reach you, you are under threat.
The closer you are to the organized and powerful center the worse off you’ll be. The closer you are to the shore or a low-lying area, the worse off you’ll be.
No matter where you are, and how close to the eye you have the misfortune to be, the chief hazard of any high-wind event is airborne debris, blown at high velocity. Just like a tornado, it is not so much that the wind is blowing that poses a threat to human life, it is what the wind is blowing.
Especially with Category 4 and Category 5 storms you will see wind effect and damage comparable to a fairly strong tornado. The strongest hurricanes will level buildings just the same.
For those nearest the shore and living in nearby, low-lying areas the storm surge will likely be the most potent of the ruinous forces a hurricane can bring to bear.
Statistically, it is one of the deadliest effects, as it causes near instant flooding, and will sweep away or crush anyone caught by it.
Storm surge also causes drastic erosion and will buckle roads or completely submerge thoroughfares.
If you came for the storm surge you’ll stay for the rainfall. Rain, rain and more rain. Rain without end or reprieve. The biblical kind of rainfall that will see you wishing for an ark of your own is the calling card of any hurricane.
Even the wimpiest of hurricanes can cause flooding that is a proper disaster all by itself, and hurricanes won’t stop even long after ever river and reservoir has breached its banks.
On the backside of all this rain, mudslides, landslides and hydraulic soil action is a given, and will only contribute more destruction and death to the proceedings. These effects are destructive enough all on their own, and will create untold havoc and infrastructural collapse.
Even when the very soil stops heaving, the morass left behind is a major hazard, containing all manner of biohazard and dangerous debris in the muck, from sewage to shards of glass and twisted metal.
Beyond the land-bound existence, hurricanes pose substantial risks to even the largest of ships at sea, and are historically responsible for capsizing many vessels and disrupting shipping for leagues around.
Airplanes, too, avoid hurricanes, with most being unable or unwilling to fly over them since a hurricane can top 15 kilometers in height.
All told, and as you can see, hurricanes are catastrophic threats, true natural disasters, and trying to endure the worst of them when escape or evasion is an option is the very summit of foolishness.
You must take decisive and diligent action before and after landfall if you hope to stand a chance.
We’ll get into the steps and procedures that will help you do that, but first let’s have ourselves a look at some of the nastiest historical hurricanes that reshaped coastlines to their elemental whim.
Historical Hurricanes and their Aftermath
Don’t think hurricanes are anything to worry your prepper-‘jammies over? Think again.
There have been plenty of hurricanes in the history of the U.S. and the world that have turned entire regions into properly apocalyptic dystopias, including several in very recent memory.
Have a look at some of these monster bangers.
Unnamed Category 4 Hurricane, Galveston, TX, September 1900
“The Great Galveston Hurricane” as it came to be called struck at the turn of the century before last, in an era well before hurricanes were given darling names by meteorologists.
While historical accounts are many, the sheer amount of devastation it sowed makes comprehensive analysis of it in totality difficult.
What we do know is that this monstrous cyclone struck the highest toll in lives of any to make landfall in the U.S. and remains the single deadliest natural disaster in American history.
The official death toll is still in question to this very day, but one thing we do know is that it was immense.
Galveston back in that day was a real up and coming place in the big state of Texas, enjoying enormous wealth, and a posh and populous business district.
A sort of Big Apple of the southwest, if you will. Add to that a thriving port that never closed and the future of Galveston shone brightly indeed to residents and visitors alike.
But it was not to last. This gleaming gem of prosperity and plenty was built almost entirely on lowlands.
With sandy, loose soil and no seawall whatsoever to shield the relatively shaky foundations of the city, the stage was set for tragedy as a devastating hurricane offshore gained strength and hurtled onward.
What people did know about the oncoming storm were not concerned: after all, Galveston had weather plenty of tropical storms great and small with no lasting effect. This hubris would prove fatal.
When the Great Hurricane of 1900 blasted ashore with titanic force, it brought with it a shockingly high 15 foot storm surge, and annihilating sustained winds topping out with gusts over 145 MPH.
In a blink, the majority of the city was wiped off the map, sandblasted and drowned by the killer hurricane.
It is estimated that over 80% of the population was made homeless, either by damage or total loss of their homes.
There are plenty of recorded accounts from survivors that the dying shrieks and groans of trapped and dying residents were heard day and night before an eerie silence descended on the remains of once proud Galveston.
Rescuers and clean-up crews were then forced to deal with the stench of rotting bodies in the weeks ahead. The miasma was reported to be smelled for miles beyond the ruins.
What dead could be recovered were so numerous and city infrastructure so totally ruined that the bodies were dumped en masse at sea or burned in huge communal pyres.
The estimates of the dead resulting from the storm are currently tallied anywhere between 8,000 and 12,000 souls, nearly a quarter of the city’s population. Galveston was obliterated, suffering approximately $750 million in adjusted damage.
What’s worse, after erasing Galveston, the storm plowed well inland, releasing tornadoes, flooding rivers and other tributaries and generally sowing carnage and confusion in its wake.
The Great Galveston Hurricane remains today the most all-encompassing and lethal storm to ever reach U.S. shores.
Category 5 Hurricane Camille, Pass Christian, Mississippi, August 1969
A hurricane far less lethal than the Galveston Killer Hurricane above, but one that wrought mind-boggling damage all the same, the Cat 5 storm Hurricane Camille is also notable for its titanic storm surge and blistering winds, as well as its persistence.
It tracked inland across nearly a quarter of the United States, claiming lives the whole way, before finally fizzling out.
Camille wallowed ashore as a major surprise in the August of 1969, striking land and sowing terror near Pass Christian, MS as a bruising Category 5 hurricane.
I say surprise because a few short days earlier, Camille had plowed across Cuba as a comparatively sedate Category 2 storm before growing geometrically in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, strengthening into the dreaded cyclone she was at landfall.
Get this: the official measure of Camille’s storm surge is an unbelievable 24 feet, quite literally over the roofs of even the taller buildings in Port Christian in its day.
This storm surge, alone, leveled quite literally every single thing along the gulf coast of Mississippi. The storm left a standing 15 feet of water behind it, but by that time it was covering only the rubble of cities and towns left in its wake.
Of note, Camille plowed far, far inland, eventually dumping so much water onto the Appalachian mountains that flooding there alone killed over 100 people and brought her death toll up to 259 souls.
Trivia: no weather sensors of the day endured her passage intact, and so the final measure of her strength is unknown, but scientists have extrapolated what data they do have and have estimated Camille’s winds to reach a mind-bending 175 MPH, sustained.
While it cannot be declared official, if true it would make Camille’s winds the strongest ever in this hemisphere.
The real kicker is the cost in material for the day: Camille inflicted damage across her passage totaling $9 ½ BILLION in adjusted dollars.
Category 4 Hurricane Michael, Mexico Beach, Florida, October 2018
Michael might was been the second storm of the season, but it was Number One when it came to death and destruction and is the third most powerful storm in U.S. history to have struck land.
It also has another infamous feather in its cap: official, recorded, sustained winds of 155 MPH, which scoured the Florida panhandle and parts of Georgia down to topsoil.
Michael made its way on land at Mexico Beach, Florida, nearly wiping that little resort destination off the map. Leaving off, it gouged a track of mayhem all the way up to the Carolinas
Michaels remarkably strong winds were responsible for the lion’s share of the damage, flattening entire counties, buildings and trees alike.
Some forests in Michael’s path simply ceased to exist. Even as far inland as Georgia, Michael’s winds still topped 100 MPH, and there it inflicted horrible damage to livestock and agrictulture.
Michael racked up a surprising amount of damage; $8 billion plus, and caused directly the deaths of 55 people.
Also unhappily, hundreds of people went missing as a result of Michael, with the majority today presumed dead.
Category 5 Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, Louisiana, August 2005
You knew this was going to be the undisputed queen among the ranks of terrible hurricanes.
The nearly mythical Katrina was not the only storm of note in the memorably rough 2005 hurricane season, but she was the worst by an enormous margin.
Katrina completely ravaged entire swaths of the Gulf Coast, with Louisiana bearing the brunt but Texas and Florida both catching plenty of flak also.
But it is the devastation wrought on beleaguered New Orleans that makes Katrina so noteworthy.
Dikes and levees failed utterly in New Orleans, and resulted in nearly the entirety of the city becoming completely flooded for weeks after, thanks to Katrina dumping titanic amounts of rain on top of a massive storm surge.
Katrina was a singular hurricane as far as flooding and water effects were concerned, with her deluge reaching over 10 miles inland.
This state of affairs saw New Orleans a complete ruin, with people completely on their own for weeks, and the best federal assistance worth little to curb the loss of life.
The rule of law was also tenuous in the weeks after, in most parts of New Orleans, as many parts of the city simply could not be reached or navigated without a helicopter.
Citizens found themselves relying on their wits and their guns for defense as looting and raiding raged in the aftermath.
All told, Katrina inflicted a gobsmacking $128 billion in damage across the U.S. and tallied 1,836 dead from the storm. Most of the deaths were caused by flooding from rain and storm surge.
I hope the preceding sections have impresses upon you just how dangerous these huge storms are, and how seriously you must take your preparations.
The wide variety of their effects means you’ll need to employ all your tricks and procedures you’d use to deal with various other disasters; some for high winds, some for floods and others for simple self-sustainment in the aftermath.
Even covering your major bases, the amount and variety of the damage as well as second and third order effects wrought by a hurricane means you’ll need to employ everything you know as a prepper in order to survive.
Hurricanes are comparatively slow moving, multi-day events. You can quite literally time their passage with a calendar.
This means you will be afforded some warning thanks to the omnipresent weatherman and his radars and planes, but also that you must be prepared to really take a pounding from the storm as it rumbles past; it will not be a here-and-gone again event like a tornado, for instance.
Take the time to implement you strategy in multiple phases, specifically the General Readiness phase, the Landfall phase and the Aftermath phase. You must be ready for all three, or your chances of survival decrease!
The time to understand a hurricane’s potential effects, gather your needed supplies and cook up your plan is not when the storm is two days from landfall. You want to do all of this well before the beginning of hurricane season.
Assess Your Chances – Some places on the coasts are simply far more likely to take a hit from a hurricane. If you live along the coasts of Florida or Georgia, you are statistically going to get hit more often than Virginia or a New England state.
Analyze the Risk from Flooding – On a similar note, you should study up on how quickly and how badly storm surge and traditional flooding from rainfall will affect your neighborhood, city, county and region.
Flooding is a major threat anytime it occurs, and especially in the case of hurricanes it can go from “not so bad” to “blowing bubbles” seemingly in seconds thanks to the synergistic effect of storm surge, rain and flooding of waterways.
Assemble Your Survival Kit
I have included an entire section on what you should have in the section after this one.
Consider a 3-Day kit the absolute bare minimum; you may well need to last a lot longer on your own with no resupply after a major impact.
And don’t forget to stock it early, cheap, and deep! You’ll see supplies vanish as soon as a hurricane is announced.
Prep Your Property
If you cannot or are simply, against all common sense, unwilling to abandon your property in the face of an encroaching hurricane, you’ll need to take measures to help it survive the onslaught.
You should install storm shutters, have pre-sized, and fitted plywood or fiberglass shields for all windows and doorways and install high-capacity gutters and drains around the perimeter of your property to make sure that you move as much water away from the foundation as possible.
Identify Shelter Locations – Despite your best efforts you might end up losing your home or getting caught away from it. It pays to know where the closest and best shelters are throughout the area you typically live, work and play in.
Always look for FEMA-designated safe rooms. No matter where you decide to or wind up sheltering at, you must ensure it will not be underwater in case of (inevitable) flooding!
Make Early Warning a Priority – We all grow deaf to the ceaseless squawking of weather radios and weathermen alike after they make their 3,912th prediction of where a storm will be heading, but nonetheless, you should still ensure you have some means to get early warning about a hurricanes activity.
The National Emergency Alert System and NOAA severe weather alerts are good places to start. Check in with your county or city officials to see if they offer any kind of localized system, also. Something like text messages or prerecorded phone calls.
The Landfall Phase takes place when the hurricane is a “go”, i.e. is going to make landfall at or near enough to your location.
Since hurricanes are tens of miles wide, they only need to get close, though you will be spared the worst the farther the eye is from you.
The Landfall phase is divided up into sub-phases, Prior to Landfall and Landfall ‘X’ Days/Hours Away. You should be familiar with all of them.
Prior to Landfall
Since hurricanes move slowly compared to other storms, you will have days worth of notice before they are upon you, and even with a day or two to go before landfall you will have time to do something to improve your situation.
The best thing you can do when you have plenty of time to spare is evacuate! The farther you are from the eye, and the farther you are from shore the safer you’ll be, statistically.
Do keep in mind that the larger and more powerful the hurricane, the stronger the weather will be farther inland based on size alone. It will also remain stronger, comparatively, as it loses steam once it is no longer over water.
Don’t depend on the storm weakening, turning, or dissipating! It will be too late if you are wrong, and you can count on shortages of fuel and insane traffic jams as enormous swaths of the population tries to skedaddle.
Also, do not fall prey to a devil-may-care attitude about a hurricane: the news is always showing pictures and video of carefree surfers out enjoying the waves ahead of a hurricane’s arrival, and cavalier locals in such hurricane infested places as Florida and the rest of the Gulf Coast having fun with “hurricane parties” ahead of landfall. Don’t become complacent!
Landfall – 2 Days Away
Stay tuned in – Stay abreast of the storm’s track and changes in heading or strength using any of the systems recommended in the General Readiness phase.
Check all supplies and equipment – Make sure your vehicle is fueled and all systems are in good shape. Make sure you have a BOB in case you have to flee with the clothes on your back. Get any last minute items now!
Update Family and Group members – Ensure you have at least a basic plan for remaining in touch with people you care about. Establish primary, alternate, contingency and emergency methods of communication; text, email, etc.
Landfall – 1 Day Away
Secure all windows and doors – Proper storm shutters are the best bet if you have and can afford them, but chances are you will not have time to install them right now.
Plywood, thick plywood, is another traditional and effective item. Consider 5/8” or ¾” the minimum thickness acceptable for protecting your windows.
Use high-quality, lengthy builder-grade screws of the appropriate type for your home’s exterior to fasten the plywood to your windows. Reminder: you should always pre-cut and label your panels ahead of storm season to save time and confusion when time is running out.
Remove potential missiles and trim branches.
A powerful hurricane will generate winds strong enough to launch anything not nailed down that is smaller than a car, and a lot of things that are nailed down. Preemptively bring them in your house to reduce the chances that they will become deadly missiles.
Warning: do not bring in any hazardous or flammable materials in canisters, e.g. propane, gasoline, etc. You must utilize strong yard anchors and sturdy cable with the appropriate fasteners instead.
Landfall – 12 Hours Away
Stay tuned in – Again, keep an ear on whatever emergency weather alert system you prefer that is functional. You will want all the info you can get on the storm and any local issues it is causing.
Juice up – No, not ‘roids to battle mobs of looters, I am talking about your phones and electronics. Charge all phones, GPS’s, radios, power banks and more while you still can. Try to use them as little as possible and only for critical functions.
Button Up and Stay Away from windows – Shutters and plywood or not, keep clear of your windows. They are still likely to break, and flying residential glass can cut or impale you badly.
Freeze it! – You will lose power in a hurricane. Remember to set both your fridge and freezer to their coldest settings before that happens so you can keep your food inside at a safe temperature for a little longer.
Reach/Stay in Shelter – You must be in place at your selected shelter location by the time the hurricane nears land. Make sure you have your survival kit or bug out bag with you.
Flooding is almost always an issue with hurricanes, so you must never, ever, shelter in an attic! At first, it will look dry and inviting as the waters rise, but the chances that you’ll get trapped up there are simply too high.
Hurricanes, as I mentioned earlier, are a sort of “mothership” of disaster: only a hurricane lets you experience the misery and ruin of a flood with the widespread, colossal wind damage typical of hurricanes.
Plus, in the aftermath, you’ll be left to survive in the rubble of a city that once held promise, hopes and dreams, with commerce and the niceties of civilization soaking and unusable.
The wide reach and geometrically larger area of destruction wrought by hurricanes means that, compared with smaller scale natural disasters like tornadoes and normal flooding, there will be many more people competing for the same emergency services, aid and attention.
So many “squeaky wheels” means you are likely to go longer without rescue or assistance. You have to plan on being completely self-reliant in the wake of a hurricane.
If cops and EMTs are available and working, great. If they can reach you, even better. But don’t depend on it!
Once the storm passes, your affair is only just beginning. Flood waters will hold every kind of hazard and obstacle, from sharp nails, glass and sheet metal to biohazards like every kind of chemical, dead bodies, sewage and more.
Traversing the gloomy water will be fraught with peril, and the smallest cut or scrape will become infected with shocking speed.
That little prick you felt was probably nothing to worry about, but the raging infection that will follow definitely will be. You must also be alert to potentially live power lines downed in the water!
Even after the swirling, filthy water starts to recede, you won’t quite be safe yet.
You’ll have to deal with a morass of mold, decomposing flesh and other organic matter and the sodden, rusty remains of machines now ruined by the water.
If you did not take pains to keep something high, dry and preserved, toss it out; you cannot trust it.
Below are some action items to help you survive the aftermath of a hurricane unscathed.
Use Extreme Caution when Cleaning Up Debris – Remember that so much of what you’ll be dealing with will be sharp or pointy, and the chances of infection are astronomical.
Take no chances, and remember there is always the possibility that some downed power lines could be energized.
Wear Protective Equipment – Including sturdy boots. Don’t forget a respirator if mold and other hazards are present. A helmet is not a bad idea if many structures have taken critical damage.
Don’t Clog the Airwaves – Stay off your phone unless it is an emergency, and consider sending texts if they work; they use much less bandwidth than phone calls and keeps lines clear for serious emergencies.
Never enter floodwaters if avoidable – Moving or standing, floodwater is bad news for all the reasons mentioned above.
Also, moving water packs phenomenal force; a few inches of rushing water will knock over an adult while a little more than a foot will lift and move cargo containers and cars. Serious stuff. Also be especially wary of any bridges over moving water- there is a good chance they were damaged by the storm.
Get updates as soon as possible – When you are able, tune back in to your local emergency weather source or news station for updates on everything from relief efforts to important secondary hazards caused by the storm- gas and sewage leaks, electrical issues, etc.