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Vacationing in a Hurricane Prone Area
As most of my readers know, I live in New Orleans and we are in the height of hurricane season (I would say mid August-Mid September, but some meteorologists say Sept 7-13 is the actual height of hurricane season) for the Gulf.
With Hurricane Harvey and Irma on everyone’s radar, I wanted to give some tips about vacationing and living in a Hurricane Prone Area and how to be prepared.
Vacationing During Hurricane Season
If you planned a vacation in the Gulf South from Mid-August to Mid-September, I hope you booked traveler’s insurance. Seriously.
I vacationed in the Bahamas in 2015 – my first time. The game plan was to be in the Bahamas from September 28-October 3 at the end of Hurricane season. Hurricane Joaquin had a different idea and became a tropical depression on September 28, a hurricane on September 30 and a Category 4 on October 1, wobbling over southern Bahamas. Obviously, our trip was shortened, and we only stayed from September 28-October 1 because we had to evacuate quickly.
On September 30th, we were in Staniel Cay and our guide was telling us how strange the waters were behaving and the clouds were acting. Us New Orleans ladies looked up at the clouds and said: “Um those look like feeder bands.” After our excursion was over, we went into the bar for some Pina Coladas and that is when we found out Joaquin was coming and coming fast.
October 1st we woke up and found out that none of the workers were able to boat into Staniel Cay. To us, this was a bad sign. We walked over to breakfast to talk to the owner of the Yacht club and they ensured that everything was going to be fine and we would make our 9:20 am flight.
Due to all the flooded docks. Everyone (about 9 of us) had to get into a golf cart, to go to a boat, to teeter on some rocks, to walk to a pickup truck, to drive to the airport. Let’s just say that 9 adults with suitcases in one truck, was a quite interesting ride.
Once at the airport, the group picked up two more passengers. The problem? The plane only had 9 seats. After claiming my seats and leaving two honeymooners behind (The airline went back and got them) we boarded our 20-minute flight turned 45 minutes.
This was one of the scariest flights ever because this 9 seater did not have the top of the line navigation system. luckily, our skilled pilot flew between the clouds and feeder bands so we were able to have a semi-smooth ride. We continued our evacuation non-reving to Atlanta and finally to New Orleans.
Not only have evacuated from vacation, I’ve evacuated from major hurricanes and hunker downed during a few tropical storms and minor hurricanes.
My Tips for vacationing during Hurricane Season
- Don’t book a vacation in the Gulf Coast from August 15 – October 1 – I would just avoid it if you can. Yes, cruises may be cheaper but there is a reason for this, it’s called Hurricane Season.
- Buy Travel Insurance – if you plan on coming down here, book yourself some travel insurance. If you are going to be the least bit upset losing hundreds to thousands of dollars on non-refundable bookings, get the travel insurance. You will thank yourself later.
- Check daily if your flight or hotel is closing – when it comes to a hurricane, especially a major one, locals and people want to get out. Most airlines will post an alert and waive fees during a time of distress.
- Watch the news and obey the warnings – If you are debating if you should still try to make the flight – let’s say to Disney World – it’s probably a good idea to not take that flight. Yes, Disney and other large organizations in the Gulf know how to deal with these types of disasters, but there is no reason for you to try to get on Splash Mountain when a Cat 4 or 5 is bearing down on you.
- Do not go out in the storm – I don’t care if it is calm (it is probably the eye) or if the meteorologists are doing it. If you have to hunker down, do just that and stay inside.
- If you become stranded – so you booked a trip to a hurricane prone destination, hunkered down, and now you are stranded – what do you do now? Make sure your loved ones, friends, and employer knows you are safe and stranded. It will be difficult to get back home. Make sure your bags are packed in case you have to leave quickly during or after the storm.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved my time in the Bahamas, it was shoulder season, the prices were a little lower, but evacuating without a plan and in a foreign country was one of the scariest things I experienced.
Living in New Orleans during Hurricane Season
Hurricane Season is from June 1 through November 30 with the most active month being mid-August to Mid-September. I have family and friends all over the Gulf Coast. Two weeks ago, one of my cousins in Houston sent me a photo of the empty bread shelves.
- It is okay to not feel safe hunkering down – Y’all let’s be serious. When it comes to a storm, I always have 3 refundable hotels booked ‘just in case.’ I have some unique needs where I need to be close to an airport, need to be able to have pets in the hotel, and have three adults in the same room. With the state of our power system (for Hurricane Isaac in 2012 my house was without power for seven days and we had to evacuate to a hotel on day 5). I typically book with IHG because I like their cancellation policies.
- Plan your evacuation route – New Orleans participates in contraflow, so make sure you know how to evacuate. I typically evacuate through Hammond taking I-55 all the way out of town.
- Have Cash and tell the credit card company where you are going – just like a vacation, you need to make sure you can pay for evacuation. Also, make sure to keep all receipts, no matter how small.
- Get a tune up before hitting the road (if you have time) – Make sure your car is full of gas, check the tires and change the oil. Many times when evacuating, you will sit in a lot of bumper to bumper traffic.
- If you cannot replace it and you will be devastated, bring it – After losing a lot in Katrina, I’ve realized that almost everything in your house is replaceable. There are very few items that my family won’t part with and when we evacuate those items come with us.
- Bring the Pets – listen, they are as scared as you. Bring them. If you do not have a hotel that is pet-friendly, you can board them; however, most hotels waive their, pet policies during acts of emergency.
- Copy of your medical records and medicines – this is especially important if you have a rare disease or disability. Luckily, most hospitals are able to easily tap into your electronic health records but it is always a good idea to have a copy of your records or know how to log into your patient portal.
- Keep your important papers with you – yes, you can probably access everything electronically or request additional records but make sure to keep a few key important papers with you. What are important papers? Bank account numbers, Birth Certificates, Cash & Checkbooks, Court Documents, Deeds, Death certificates, Diplomas, Family Photos, Living Wills, Marriage Certificate/License, Immigration papers, Passports and Visas, and the list goes on.
- Tell your family and friends – let your family and friends know where you are evacuating to. Luckily technology has developed over the past years and you can mark yourself as “safe” on Facebook, but not everyone will check that or know how you are doing. Also, if your friends are not from the area, they may think that a storm that is impacting Florida is affecting Louisiana.
- If you are concerned about flooding – if you are worried about your hometown flooding, just get out. Messing with a storm surge or
Living and Staying through the storm
- Keep your house full of water and non-perishables – The worst thing to do is to have to get in a line at 5 in the morning to fight over a couple of cans of Vienna sausages and bottles of water. My family makes sure we have 3-5 pallets of water in our garage at all times.
- Fill up a plastic cup with water and put it in the freezer with a quarter on top – if the electricity goes out you want to make sure that the items in the freezer are still good. A full freezer (that you do not open) is usually good for about 48 hours, the fridge stays good for about 4 hours.
- Learn how to use the generator – yeah, I have a generator and I still don’t know how to use it. Someone, please teach me, SERIOUSLY. If you are staying, you should probably learn how to do it.
- Make sure you have your battery powered electronics – Radio, Flashlight, etc. When the power goes out, you can’t plug these items in but you still need to be able to listen to the news.
- Shutter windows and doors and bring patio furniture inside – yes it’s going to be uncomfortable to be in a house (or garage) with all of your patio furniture inside and the windows shuttered, but do you honestly think that the windows won’t break with debris flying around 74-155+ mph?
Tip for everyone
- DO NOT SAY HOW MUCH YOU LOVE HURRICANES BECAUSE IT IS LIKE HAVING A FREE DAY OFF OF WORK – Y’all. New Orleans is full of “transplants” who have either never gone through a bad hurricane or know someone who’s gone through a storm. It is insensitive to be excited about having a “free day off of work” especially in the situation like Harvey. I know some people whose houses are fine and they are working from home, where other people had to evacuate their house that was swelling with water. Same city, same storm, two different stories. People lose lives, loved ones, pets, and belongings in hurricanes, so please just use common sense.
My Main Advice: If you are vacationing in a hurricane-prone area, make sure you have travel insurance and be sensitive to those who live in the area. You might be having a week of your life ruined, but some of these people may have their entire livelihood ruined.
If you live in a hurricane prone area, be prepared to evacuate and limit large vacations during this time frame.
Do you have any tips for hurricane season?
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