Hurricane Dorian skirted Puerto Rico Wednesday as it moved northward, on pace to make landfall in Florida by Monday morning, strengthening as it does so.
The National Hurricane Center warned Thursday that Dorian could swell into a Category 4 storm in the next 72 hours, with winds around 130 mph. Those winds could potentially begin to reach Florida as early as Saturday evening:
Coastal sections of the southeastern United States should expect to see Dorian drop four to eight inches of rain, with isolated regions seeing as much as 12 inches.
In advance of the storm, which, due to its unpredictable nature, could make landfall almost anywhere along Florida’s eastern coast, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) declared a state of emergency Thursday that includes all of the state’s 67 counties.
“It’s important for Floridians on the East Coast to monitor this storm closely,” DeSantis said in a statement announcing the declaration. “Every Florida resident should have seven days of supplies, including food, water and medicine, and should have a plan in case of disaster.”
Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz echoed that caution and encouraged Floridians to pay attention to updates on the storm’s trajectory given its uncertain path.
With that in mind, here’s some basic hurricane preparedness advice:
The government recommends that you have at least three days’ worth of food and water on hand (budget one gallon of water per person per day), plus medications, first aid supplies, a flashlight and batteries, and cash (ATMs may not work during or after a storm).
Don’t forget to account for others who rely on you, including pets. Do you have enough food, water and other supplies for them, too?
For a more thorough list of recommended items ― like can openers, hand sanitizers, a wrench, etc. ― see the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s recommendations here.
Refill your prescriptions and your car’s gas tank. Charge your devices. Fill up your bathtub with clean water and crank your freezer to the coldest setting. If the power goes out, open your fridge only when necessary to preserve the temperature (and the food) for as long as possible.
Secure or store items that could become dangerous debris in high winds. Patio furniture, trash cans and pieces of wood traveling at speed can seriously injure you and damage your home.
Install exterior-grade or marine plywood that’s a minimum of 5/8 inch thick over your windows.
Learn how to turn off your house’s utilities (natural gas, water and electricity) and when it’s appropriate to do so. Read more on that here.
Is your insurance coverage adequate? There are big differences between hurricane insurance and flood insurance, and those both differ from the coverage needed for a tropical storm. You might need all three. More on that here.
Gather together important documents ― like passports, birth certificates, etc. ― in a portable, waterproof container you can take with you if you need to evacuate. Xavier University has a handy list of what documents you should consider for safekeeping.
Back up any important digital files to either the cloud or an external hard drive you can stash in a safe, waterproof spot. Make sure that spot is different than the place where you store the computer it’s backing up, lest you lose both to the same rising waters or leaking roof.
While you’re at it, move family heirlooms and other valuables you can’t take with you to a second floor, attic, etc.
Figure out ahead of time where to go ― and how to get there ― if you have to evacuate. A safe route should steer clear of potentially flooded areas, which you should never try to walk, swim or drive through.
Learn ahead of time how to receive emergency notifications. If you’re using a radio, figure out the station that’s broadcasting weather alerts (here’s a search tool to find the best station for you).
Tell family and friends about your plan and coordinate ahead of time how to stay in touch during the storm if, say, you need to evacuate. Note that text messages may work even when phone calls do not.