How to Prepare for a Hurricane: 10 Myths about These Deadly Storms
If you think you should tape your windows, crack them open or head to a high floor, think again
Hurricanes are one of the most terrifying of all natural disasters — and plenty of people misunderstand them and what to do if one of these storms threatens. What you don't know could kill you or cost you dearly financially.
Here are some myths you might mistakenly believe.
Myth #1: It can’t happen inland
Although it’s impossible to predict a hurricane’s path with certainty, you’re at greatest risk during hurricane season if you live along the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic coastline. Living inland is no guarantee of safety, however: Damaging winds can strike as far as 100 miles inland, according to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.
Myth #2: I have homeowner’s insurance, so I’m covered
Basic homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover flooding and usually has a big deductible for hurricane damage. Buy both flood insurance and wind insurance if you live in an area prone to flooding or hurricanes. For more information, visit the National Flood Insurance Program.
Related: Is Your House Hurricane-Ready?
Myth #3: High winds are the most dangerous aspect of a hurricane
Many people think high winds cause the most fatalities and damage. But the National Hurricane Center reports that only 5 to 10 percent of storm deaths are caused by wind. It’s surging water and flooding that causes the most harm. So remember the hurricane safety mantra: “Hide from the wind, run from the water." The water usually comes from a storm surge, a wall of water that rushes onto land as the hurricane approaches and increases the area's water level by 30 feet or more. But inland it's more likely to come from heavy rains that cause floods.
Myth #4: Taping windows prevents breakage
Tape will not protect windows from breaking in a hurricane, according to Hawaii state government agencies. Taping is a waste of time better spent in preparing for the storm, including installing hurricane shutters well ahead of time or putting plywood over windows. Even if the hurricane misses your house, you will have to scrape away tape afterward. If taped windows do shatter, the tape may create bigger and possibly more dangerous shards of glass.
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Myth #5: Opening windows a crack during a hurricane or tornado will help prevent damage
Opening windows does not equalize air pressure or give hurricane winds a means of passing through without causing damage, according to accuweather.com. If anything, you’ll just let in the rain. Instead, seal windows with hurricane shutters or (in a pinch) marine plywood to prevent flying debris from entering your home.
Myth #6: It’s okay to fill sinks and bathtubs with water to use for drinking
Use bottled water for drinking, advises the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Water-filled sinks and baths may not be sanitary. Instead, save the bathtub water for washing clothes, flushing toilets or taking a bath.
Myth #7: If a mobile home is tied down, you can safely ride out the storm
No. A mobile home is unsafe during a hurricane or tornado, no matter what precautions you take according to numerous government agencies. If authorities order an evacuation, mobile home owners should take heed and seek shelter elsewhere.
Myth #8: The upper floors of an apartment building are the best place to be during a hurricane
This is just bad logic. Wind speeds are greater at higher elevations, increasing the risk of shattered windows and property damage, according to accuweather.com. If there’s a flood and rescuers can’t reach you, you’ll be trapped in a tall building.
Myth #9: A hurricane is strong enough to destroy my house, so I shouldn’t waste money protecting the property
No one can predict the severity of damage prior to a hurricane, and you can usually minimize potential damage by taking precautions, according to U.S. government agencies. Seal windows with hurricane shutters or plywood. Store lawn furniture and other outdoor belongings that could turn into missiles during a hurricane. Trim trees around the property to reduce risk of tree limbs breaking off and hurtling against your windows.
Myth #10: I don’t live on the coast, so I don’t need to evacuate
High winds, pounding rain, tornadoes and flooding can occur hundreds of miles inland from a powerful hurricane, causing death and destruction. If your local emergency management agency reports a dangerous storm is coming and you should evacuate, skedaddle.