Texas has gotten a break from major hurricanes in the past few years, and some forecasters say we’re overdue to a large storm.  It’s extremely important to plan for one this year. With Hurricane Preparedness Week underway, it’s a good time for those living near the coast – and those who have loved ones in that area – to make sure they are ready to deal with the disruption and potential devastation that these massive storms can dish out. It’s also a good time for those living inland to prepare for the possibility of severe weather by putting together plans to deal with flooding or high winds.

June through November are typically the prime months for hurricanes to form in the Atlantic, prompting Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to issue a notice encouraging Texans to be prepared.

“While Texas has experienced several other major disasters in recent years, this September will mark the 50-year anniversary of Hurricane Beulah striking the Rio Grande Valley and claiming the lives of 58 citizens,” Abbott said in a proclamation urging people be aware of the dangers presented by hurricanes, as well as tropical storms. “I caution citizens not to become complacent. When hurricanes do occur, they can produce heavy winds, storm surges, torrential rains, inland flooding and tornadoes. It is important that all Texans, particularly Gulf Coast residents, be aware of the hazards hurricanes present.

Governor Abbott also talked about the growth of Texas’ coastal communities, adding that some new residents may never have experienced the effects of a hurricane and may need advice on how to plan and prepare. He encouraged people to know the difference between a hurricane watch and warning (a watch means conditions are favorable for the development of a storm, while a warning means that a storm is in progress and threats are imminent). The governor also advised families to develop disaster plans, including how to communicate, care for pets and seek safety.

As part of hurricane preparedness, Texans should put together a disaster preparation kit, which should include a weather radio, three-day supply of food and water for each person, a first aid kit, prescription medicine, flashlights and batteries. Food, water and medicines for any pets in the home should also be included. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) National Hurricane Center lists the first part of preparing for a hurricane as gathering information. “Know if you live in a hurricane evacuation area,” the center says. “Assess your risks and know your home’s vulnerability to storm surge, flooding and wind. The center also encourages people living in coastal areas to contact their local weather service office and local emergency management office to find out what emergencies are likely to occur in their area, and the best way to respond.

Probably most important for those living in coastal areas is to learn the areas evacuation routes. Waiting until a mandatory evacuation has been ordered may be too late to access the internet or television stations for recommended routes.  The Texas Department of Transportation utilizes Twitter and Facebook to deliver storm preparedness, road conditions and evacuation information.  They also provide hurricane evacuation maps for specific areas of the Gulf Coast.  If you are elderly or disabled, you should know that evacuation assistance is available by dialing 2-1-1.  You can learn more about evacuation routes here. FEMA also provides information on evacuating here.

Before a hurricane threatens the Gulf Coast, prepare yourself and your family.  Start by learning as much as possible and putting together the things you’ll need before disasters strike.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a list of what to do before, during and after a hurricane by going here.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also provides information about preparing for and recovering from hurricanes here.

More information about hurricane preparation, including links to more detailed pre and post hurricane planning, is available here and here.