Florence hit the North Carolina coast in September, 2018.  
(NOAA via AP) Hurricane Florence
Florence hit the North Carolina coast in September, 2018. (NOAA via AP)

Don’t be fooled by a calm early summer. Forecasters say it could be a busy few months for storms.

Hurricane season started in June, but we’ve not yet had a named storm of any significance. But don’t get fooled. While early summer is usually relatively quiet, we’re about to enter peak season, when things are often anything but.

Peak season runs from mid-August to late October, and forecasters still expect a busy 2022 for hurricanes, so here’s a reminder via the North Carolina Department of Public Safety’s guidance of what you should do, and should not do, to best keep your family safe.

The most important thing to remember? Now’s the time to prepare.

It’s too late to plan once the hurricane’s here. It won’t wait for you to pack your bags or look up evacuation routes. So do these things now, and you’ll be ready if the storm looks bad.

  • Know Your Zone:  If areas are deemed too dangerous, local officials will order evacuations through the “Know Your Zone” system, designating Zone A as the areas at highest risk, then Zone B, the next highest, etc. When a storm is close by, check the find your zone website to see which zone you live in, then monitor local officials and news reports.
  • Warnings vs. Watches: Just like with tornados, warnings are more immediate. A hurricane warning will be issued when hurricane or tropical storm conditions are expected within 36 hours. A watch is issued when such conditions are possible within 48 hours. “If a warning is issued,” the NCDPS says, “dangerous weather is imminent.”
  • Beware Rip Currents: Even before the storm hits proper, it can cause dangerous conditions on the coast. “Winds from tropical systems can cause dangerous waves and deadly rip currents,” state officials say, “even at large distances from the storm.”
  • Check Your Flood Insurance, or Buy it: It’s much better to know what your insurance will cover before any damage is done.

If Staying at Home:

  • Whether you are evacuating, going to a shelter or staying put at home, make an Emergency Kit of all the things you might need. Keep it in one place and make sure everyone in the family knows where it is. 
  • The kit should include: Face coverings / masks; hand sanitizer; a gallon of water per person per day; enough non-perishable food for up to 7 days; a battery-powered radio and extra batteries; a cell phone charger; a first aid kit; flashlight and extra batteries; a manual can opener; changes of clothes and sturdy shoes; fire extinguisher; cash; all prescription medications; toothbrush and other personal care items.
  • If you have a generator do NOT run it indoors. The carbon monoxide it produces can be fatal. And if you smell gas, get out of the house. 
  • Once the storm hits it may be too dangerous to drive, but make sure you know where the shelters are in your area, just in case.

If Evacuating:

  • Again, make your kit.
  • Then sit down with your family and decide where you will go if an evacuation order is given or if you don’t feel safe. If you are not together when the storm hits, make sure everyone knows the address and phone number of the place you are going. 
  • Staying with family or at a hotel outside the danger zone is better than staying at a shelter, especially during the pandemic.
  •  Make a plan for your pets. Most shelters won’t take them. Make sure you know whether they are allowed at the hotel or spot you are going to.
  • If you have older adults or anyone with disabilities in your family, make sure all medications and devices are up to date and fully charged before the storm hits.
  • Put important documents like insurance cards, passports, wills, marriage licenses, etc. in one place so you can easily take them with you if you need to evacuate or leave your home. 
  • If you have an infant or toddler, make sure you have diapers, formula, bottles and other important items.