If you live in the South, you and your family must be prepared for a natural disaster from a hurricane. Between June 1 – November 30 is hurricane season, and for the Gulf Coast, the height of Atlantic Hurricane season starts Mid-August and lasts through Mid-September.
Each Hurricane Season, your evacuation plan may change, but there are a few simple things you should include when packing for a hurricane evacuation.
You need to realize that you need to pack for a hurricane evacuation, no matter if you are hunkering down or evacuating. If you plan to stay, you might need to quickly evacuate your house due to flooding, storm surge, or other natural disasters.
This is when you will want to pack a bug-out bag.
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What is the different terminology that evolves a Hurricane?
Hurricanes can be stressful if you do not know how to prepare. There is a lot of terminology surrounding an event of a hurricane that could confuse people who are new to the area or have never lived through a storm.
It is a good idea to know what one of these critical terms is before the beginning of hurricane season.
Hurricane Watches – A Hurricane Watch is when a tropical cyclone contains winds of at least 74 miles per hour (MPH), and there is a threat within 48 hours. Just because there is a watch doesn’t mean the hurricane is headed there but that the conditions are possible.
Hurricane Warning: A Hurricane Warning is more severe than a Hurricane Watch. It is when a storm with winds of at least 74 MPH is expected to hit the area within 24 hours. Final prepayment of your house and belonging should occur.
Evacuation route: An evacuation Route is typically located on a highway which is used as a specific route for hurricane evacuation. Many routes from New Orleans will guide locals North or West to the safest major city.
Mandatory Evacuation or Evacuation Order: An Evacuation Order is issued when weather conditions can seriously imperil or endanger the lives of those in the designated area. Typically when a Mandatory Evacuation is issued, people are on their own until it is safe for first responders to rescue those affected. Wind, flooding, and storm surges are some natural disasters that could endanger your life.
Emergency Evacuation: An Emergency Evacuation may happen if your house is uninhabitable. First responders will have to rescue you and your family when this happens. Your family needs an evacuation plan to get out of the house and onto a roof in case of flooding.
Emergency Shelters or Local Shelters: Many areas will designate Emergency or Local Shelters as a place for last resort. You should know where these shelters are and make a plan to get to one if needed.
What to Pack for Hurricane Evacuation
Packing for a Hurricane Evacuation doesn’t have to be stressful if you are prepared. Packing for a Hurricane Evacuation is different than packing for a vacation because it is typically done quickly with no idea how long you will be out of your house.
This checklist is what I bring with me when I pack for an evacuation. Since I had gone through Hurricane Katrina – I packed as if my house had flooded.
Just remember – If you are evacuating because it is too dangerous for you to stay, there is the possibility of your home getting ruined by the hurricane or looters will break in and steal.
If there is something small that can fit into your suitcase that is irreplaceable – make sure to pack it.
What preparations do I need to make to my house before a Hurricane Evacuation?
If you are evacuating, there are a few things that you need to do to prepare your house entirely. If you have outdoor furniture, grills, or other decorations in your backyard, bring them inside or store them in your garage or house.
Many like to board their windows to prevent projectiles from breaking the glass. We haven’t boarded up our windows since Katrina (2005) and have only had one broken window from hurricane damage.
Lift anything that is on the floor onto a higher surface. If you have anything under your bed, place it on top in case of flooding.
Take photos and videos of your house before leaving. Pictures of how you prepared the house will help with any insurance claims.
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What preparations do I need to make to my car before a Hurricane Evacuation?
Even if you have a newer car, you should bring your car in for a tune-up in the summertime. I typically schedule my appointment for May or June, so I know my vehicle is Summer ready.
Ensure that all of the tires are properly inflated with a tire pressure gauge. You might be on the road for a few hours longer than anticipated due to other people evacuating.
Keep your gas tank full. This might be hard with high gas prices, but keep your gas tank full.
Nothing is worse than waiting in line at the gas station for hours to fill your tank with gas.
Check your emergency kit in your car – make sure your vehicle has jumper cables, emergency flares, and a jug of water just in case you run into any issues while on the road.
You will also want to ensure that your car’s first aid kit is complete.
What clothes should I pack for a Hurricane Evacuation?
Typically you will want to pack 3-4 changes of clothes per person. Bring a variety of clothes like yoga pants and t-shirts for lounging around the hotel.
You may also want to pack regular clothes, like dresses or shorts and shirts, in case you want to go out to eat or do something to keep your mind off the stress.
If you are close to a beach or your hotel has a pool, pack at least one swimsuit. One to Two pairs of pajamas should be enough to pack.
If your house is damaged, you want to ensure you have some clothing items on hand so you can start with the clean-up.
Pack a pair of work gloves, socks, and tennis shoes if you have to clean up from flooding or a damaged roof.
Make sure to pack a few Tide Pods while evacuating.
What type of food should I pack for a Hurricane Evacuation?
Hurricane evacuations can get expensive. It is an unplanned trip at the last minute that no one wants to go on.
We typically try to keep our freezer and refrigerator pretty bare and pack everything into one or two ice chests to bring with us.
You can always put nonperishable food in a plastic waterproof tub full of hurricane food filled with jerky, dried fruit, nuts, energy bars, canned meats, pasta, soup, and peanut butter.
If you stay in a shelter or hotel, you will also want paper plates, paper towels, and plastic utensils.
When it comes to a Hurricane, you must prepare your house as if it will lose electricity for at least three days.
Throw away (or bring with you in an ice chest) any meat and dairy in the refrigerator and freezer.
What Important documents should I pack?
The first thing you need to pack is all of your essential documents. A Just in Case Binder is perfect to gather all of your important documents.
Even though many of these documents can be found online or replaced – it is easier to have these essential items packaged together for a swift evacuation.
Documents for the whole family can easily be stored in a fireproof and waterproof plastic containers. The best way to keep this is to put any updated documents into the files once a year.
The following items are considered essential documents:
- Birth certificates
- Marriage Certificates
- Social Security card
- Immunization Records
- Financial Records
- Bank account information
- Copies of your insurance policies and insurance information
- Copy of driver’s license
- Medical records
What should I pack for my kids for an evacuation?
Packing for kids for a hurricane evacuation is pretty simple. Make sure you pack everything you would for yourself, but also bring lots of entertainment for your child.
Bring some quiet toys and books to entertain your child in the car.
If you have a portable DVD player or an iPad to give your child while evacuating, that is perfectly fine too!
While at the hotel, you will want to have some entertainment options for your child. You can bring coloring books, crayons, and puzzles to entertain.
What should I pack for my Pets for a Hurricane?
Packing for pets is just as important as packing for humans. The barometric pressure drops and the unexpected travel to a hotel may stress your pet out.
To make sure your pet has everything they need, make sure you have a disaster plan for your pet.
If possible, get your pets microchipped.
There are plenty of times when a pet will escape while the family is packing up or will get lost during the evacuation, and a microchip can help vets identify where the pet belongs.
Make sure you bring Pet food, Veterinarian info, medications, bottled water and bowls, a carrier and crate, bedding, plastic doggie bags, or litter with litter box.
What did I forget to Pack for a hurricane?
Just like packing for a trip, packing for an evacuation can be stressful because you must bring many daily items.
My family takes a carry-on and throws everyone’s personal into the suitcase to ensure we do not forget to pack soap or toothpaste.
Make sure you pack these items if they pertain to you
- Contacts and Glasses
- Personal hygiene items, like tampons and pads
- Supply of prescription medications
- Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Mouthwash
What are some unnecessary items I might want to pack?
If you still have room in your car, there may be some “Unnecessary” items that you will want to pack.
Take special considerations of what items you bring and which items you leave behind.
If there are any personal items you want to bring – such as irreplaceable items – and there is a room, make sure to pack them.
Other items I like to bring when evacuating if room permits are extra toilet paper, a coffee pot, coffee grounds, and water bottles.
We evacuated – Now what?
After evacuating, you might not know what to do. Hopefully, the storm has dissipated, or damage is minimal to the area, and you can return home quickly.
When we evacuate, we always plan to stay 3-4 days in a hotel or a VRBO.
Make sure you keep track of every single receipt for every purchase you make.
One of the best tips I have is to place everything on the same credit card, and as soon as you get a receipt, take a photo of it and save it in a digital folder on your phone.
Also, put that physical receipt in a file folder to ensure the physical copies are all together.
Evacuation is expensive, and it is not a vacation. With insurance, you never know what they will or will not reimburse, but you need to ensure you have all of your receipts in case they do.
Being displaced is not fun and is a stressful situation. After the storm passes and you learn more about your case, make sure you come up with a plan on what to do.
For Hurricane Katrina (2005), we had to find additional housing in Baton Rouge because our FEMA trailer wasn’t slated to come for months.
For hurricane Ida (2021), we evacuated Destin, Florida, then had to move to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, because we were not allowed back to our house for two weeks due to no power and sewage.
Packing for Hurricanes
Packing for hurricanes is not fun and stressful for everyone involved. You will want to ensure that your family is physically and mentally well after the hurricane.
Being able to leave for a hurricane has become more and more expensive throughout the years with rising gas prices and hotel prices.
If you have a year where you do not have a hurricane, I suggest saving an Emergency Fund for evacuating.
For a hurricane, I would start budgeting $200 per day for evacuation and add another $50 per person over a family of two.
For example, if you are evacuating for 5 days with 4 people, try to save $1,500.
Over time, this Emergency Fund will grow; if you need to evacuate, you will have the funds to do so.
Insurance doesn’t always reimburse clients who have to evacuate for a hurricane.
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