In this guide, you will find tips and advice for protecting your family and property during the Atlantic Hurricane Season. We are breaking down this guide into five parts:
- The Dangers of Hurricane Season
- What To Do Before a Storm Approaches
- What To Do When a Storm is Approaching
- What To Do After the Storm
- The Best Way To Limit Hurricane Damage
Here is your comprehensive guide for preparing your home and family for hurricane season.
1) The Dangers of Hurricane Season
Hurricanes and tropical storms are not just problematic for properties on the coastline. Historically, the Myrtle Beach area is not as prone to damaging tropical systems. No two storms are the same. Some of the storms that have had direct and indirect impacts on our area include:
- Hurricane Hazel – 1954
- Hurricane Hugo – 1989
- Hurricane Floyd – 1999
- Hurricane Charley – 2004
- Hurricane Matthew – 2016
- Hurricane Florence – 2018
It was Hurricane Hazel that brought the most devastation of any hurricane to strike Myrtle Beach in recorded history. However, the one that stands out to most in the area is likely Hurricane Florence. While it was a relatively weak category one storm when it made landfall, it moved at a snail’s pace, allowing it to drop 40-inches of rain in some places.
Here are the primary dangers you can expect from a tropical system approaching the area:
- Wind: Wind is the most publicized threat from tropical storms and hurricanes. Storms get their strength rating from their estimated strongest sustained winds. The wind must blow at a steady speed for at least a minute to be considered sustained.
- Tropical Depressions: Sustained winds of less than 35 mph.
- Tropical Storms: Sustained winds of 36-73 mph
- Category 1: Sustained winds of 74-95 mph
- Category 2: Sustained winds of 96-110 mph
- Category 3: Sustained winds of 111-129 mph
- Category 4: Sustained winds of 130-156 mph
- Category 5: Sustained winds of 157 mph or higher
Storms with ratings of category three and higher are considered major hurricanes. The strongest winds will typically be in the eyewall, which is essentially a ring of violent weather near the center of the storm. However, a category three hurricane, for instance, can have winds equivalent to that of a category one hurricane or tropical storm hundreds of miles from the center. Your house can be damaged by wind directly or by wind-driven debris such as trees, tree limbs, and furniture.
- Storm Surge: This is water that is driven onshore by the wind and energy from a tropical storm or hurricane. It is literally water from the ocean or sound surging onto the shore. Storm surge typically only affects properties closest to the ocean or sound; however, it can be devastating. It is vital to know whether your house is within a storm surge zone.
- Tornadoes: Tropical systems move directionally (north, south, east, and west) while they rotate around a center of low pressure. As they move inland, they interact with other forces of nature and terrain, often creating enough localized rotation to spawn tornadoes. Most hurricane-related tornadoes are relatively weak, but it is not out of the question for even a weaker tropical system to spark a large, devastating tornado. It is important to pay attention to all watches and warnings issued by the National Weather Service during a hurricane.
- Heavy Rain and Flooding: This is by far the most dangerous and life-threatening part of hurricanes. When tropical storms and hurricanes make landfall, more lives are lost due to heavy rain and flooding than from any other hazard. While wind and storm surges get all the attention, even a weak tropical system can drop epic amounts of rain on our area. Rain will cause rivers and creeks to break their banks and flood entire communities.
Our distance from the steering currents of the Gulf Stream helps us avoid many of the storms that impact areas farther north, such as the Outer Banks. Unfortunately, when tropical systems are infrequent, it is easy for us to let our guard down. As new homeowners come to the area, they will not remember the profound effects of hurricanes on the entire region.
2) What To Do Before a Storm Approaches
The Atlantic Hurricane Season runs from June 1st to November 30th every year. It usually begins and ends slowly, but from the middle of August through October, it is not uncommon to have multiple systems churning in the ocean at any given time. At the same time, it is not out of the question for storms to form as early as May and as late as December. You do not want to wait until a system is bearing down on Myrtle Beach to begin your storm prep. Here are seven things you should do before a storm threatens:
- Perform routine home maintenance: Make sure your home’s exterior and interior systems are well-maintained long before a storm approaches.
- Repair your gutters: Your home’s gutters are necessary for properly channeling water away from your house. Clogged or damaged gutters can cause issues when heavy rain falls.
- Make sure your property drains properly: If you notice standing water on your property that never seems to drain, you can imagine how much a hurricane will exasperate those issues.
- Get the right insurance: Check and double-check that you have all the insurance you need. Depending on your area, you might need flood and hurricane insurance in addition to traditional homeowners insurance.
- Keep all your important paperwork in a safe place: When a storm is approaching, you do not have time to try to locate all of your important paperwork. Make sure it is all in a safe and easily-accessible location.
- Make sure your yard and landscaping are ready for a storm: An approaching storm is not the right time to notice you have dangerous limbs or leaning trees on your property. It is vital to prepare your yard for a hurricane long before the season gets underway.
- Know your evacuation route: Before the season starts, familiarize yourself with evacuation routes so that you are not trying to navigate blindly when evacuation orders are issued.
Preparation prior to the season is key to minimizing damage and protecting your family.
3) What To Do When a Storm is Approaching
Should our area be threatened by a tropical system, there are several steps you can take to help mitigate and reduce damage on your property, protect your family, and ensure the fastest possible recovery. Here are ten steps to take when a storm approaches:
- Assess the Forecast and Potential Impact: Unlike severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, tropical systems may be around for weeks before they make a direct impact on our area. There are often false alarms at least once per season. It is easy, therefore, to become nonchalant about an approaching system. However, for those with property on the coast, it is vital to remain vigilant about following forecast updates and making sure a hurricane does not sneak up on you.
- Learn How To Read the Cone: The National Weather Service will typically issue a forecast cone with an approaching storm. Most media outlets use the NWS’s cone or a version of their own. Essentially, the cone tells you the certainty of the center of the storm passing over a given area from hours to days in the future. The confidence of a storm’s position is much greater within 24-hours than several days out. For property owners, the cone helps you determine how closely you should monitor the situation within a week of potential landfall. However, within 24 to 48-hours, even if your property is not within the center of the cone, if it is close, it could be impacted.
- Follow Your Weather Forecast Resources: The National Weather Service is the authority on tropical systems. You can use their website, purchase an NOAA weather radio, and follow local meteorologists for the most detailed and up-to-date hurricane forecasts.
- Determine Whether You Should Evacuate: If your local officials issue a mandatory evacuation order, it is vital to follow it. However, some may choose to evacuate even in the instance a voluntary evacuation is recommended. If you think you might need medical care, your health would be impacted by being without power, or your house is in a flood zone, plan to go safely inland. You will never regret choosing safety; however, when people die during storms, it is often because the weather makes it difficult or impossible for paramedics and firefighters to reach people that need rescue.
- Board Your Windows and Doors: If high winds are expected, it is a good idea to board-up windows and doors. Alternatively, you may consider investing in storm shutters before the storm. Be aware, plywood is often in short supply when storms are approaching.
- If Your House Is on Stilts: If your house is on stilts, move vehicles and valuables inside or away from the coast if at all possible. Not only can these items be damaged, but they can also become missiles of debris that damage your neighbors’ homes.
- If Your House Is Inland, Move Valuables to the Top Floor: During Hurricane Florence, people experienced unexpected flooding throughout the Carolinas. Hurricane Matthew and Floyd produced Thousand-Year floods (the type of flooding that people do not expect because they only happen once-per-millennia) in eastern North Carolina. For properties within flood zones, it is definitely vital to move valuables upstairs, but it is a good practice for any house in the flat, low coastal plains of North and South Carolina.
- Move Vehicles and Boats Inland: If you have a car, camper, or boat that would typically be on your property, wind, and flooding could cause catastrophic damage. Make sure you move those items inland before the storm.
- Take Your Paperwork With You: If you evacuate or your coastal property is not a primary residence, make sure your paperwork comes with you. You do not want to leave behind vital documents in a house that could potentially be damaged.
- Have Emergency Supplies On-Hand: If you are staying in your home during a storm, it is likely you will be without electricity for some time. Make sure you have emergency supplies on hand, such as:
- Flashlights and extra batteries
- Candles (be especially careful)
- Non-perishable food items
- Water and ice
- Fuel for generators
- First-aid supplies
- Backup battery chargers for phones
- Books, board games, and other activities
We cannot emphasize enough how important it is to evacuate if the order to do so is issued. There is no reason to risk your life and the lives of emergency personnel to stay behind. Beyond initial preparations, there is nothing you can do to protect your property during the storm.
4) What To Do After the Storm
Impacts from tropical storms and hurricanes can range from inconvenient to life-changing. Here are five steps to remember after the storm:
- Take Time To Be Grateful: Things can be repaired and replaced, but if you survived a hurricane, make sure you take time to be grateful for the health and safety of your family.
- Take a Lot of Pictures: It is vital for the insurance claim to document as much of the damage as possible. Take pictures of anything and everything as quickly as possible. Depending on the level of devastation, you may not be able to get back to your property immediately.
- Contact Your Insurance Company: You will want to begin a dialogue with your insurance company as soon as possible.
- Pitch In and Help Clean Up: Whether it is chainsaws and tree removal or tearing out walls, your neighbors will need plenty of help.
- Get Rid of Water: You will want to dry any water in your house as soon as possible. Also, if at all possible, try to reduce the amount of time standing water is in your yard. Standing water will attract mosquitos.
5) The Best Way To Limit Hurricane Damage
While beach vacations have long been a custom in our culture, coastal regions are becoming increasingly popular places to live. There are a lot of home builders in our area. If you want to give yourself and your family the best chance of minimizing the impact of a hurricane or tropical storm is by choosing to work with a builder committed to constructing safe, strong homes.
Realstar Homes has decades of experience building homes in our area. We have weathered many storms, and so have our homes. We have communities throughout Myrtle Beach and the coastal Carolinas. We would be happy to answer your questions about how you can have a home ready for the storm. Contact the team at Realstar for more information about our homes in and around Myrtle Beach, SC.