What to Do During a Hurricane

The Definitive Guide to Protecting Your Home and Car During a Hurricane

Hurricanes are one of the scarier natural disasters and they seem to be getting worse. Hurricane season is traditionally from April 15th (in the Pacific) or  June 1st (in the Atlantic and Caribbean) through Nov 30th. Studies found that last year was the most active hurricane season on record. 

Another recent climate study suggests that hurricanes are expected to not only increase in frequency but they’re likely to be much more severe as well. They’re costly too. A CBO study found that, on average, economic losses stemming from hurricanes amounted to $54B. Of that amount, $34B was attributed to household losses. 

Narrowing down specific impacts, the range of costs to repair a home after a storm runs from $2,500 to nearly $18,000. Given how devastating hurricanes can be, repair costs are likely to be on the higher end of that range.

To better prepare you for any hurricane, we put together this guide on what you can do to protect yourself and prepare your home in advance of a hurricane.

Frequently Asked Questions About Hurricanes

  • How do I know if a hurricane is coming? Your local government and weather officials will provide a warning or watch 36-48 hours prior.
  • How can a hurricane damage my home? A mild hurricane will damage your home like a rain or windstorm will, while a more severe one can damage and even destroy the foundation of your home, making it uninhabitable.
  • How can I prevent a hurricane from damaging my home? Insulating your home, sealing gaps and cracks, installing storm shutters, and roof clips can help defend against the wind and rain that comes with hurricanes.
  • Does home insurance cover hurricane-related damage? Your insurance may cover damage caused by wind and rain and they may be able to help you find a place to stay if you can’t return to your home. Flood damage isn’t covered by home insurance and requires a flood insurance policy.
  • Does my auto insurance cover storm-related damage to my car? Comprehensive auto insurance will cover damage related to hurricanes. Standard collision coverage won’t.

What should I do to prepare for a hurricane?

Before anything, make sure you know that a hurricane “watch” is different from a hurricane “warning.” A watch is often sent out 48hrs in advance and is a sign that hurricane conditions are possible in your area. A hurricane warning is often given 36 hours in advance and is a sign that hurricane conditions are expected.

To know what you should do during a windstorm, check out our blog post here, as many of the tips apply in the case of a hurricane. However, hurricane conditions can be much more severe and may even require you to evacuate the area.

This is why having a plan and being prepared is the most important step.

Make sure you’re stocked up: Have a ready supply of emergency-use food, water, medicine and first aid, and power sources.

Secure your most valuable possessions: In worst-case scenarios, your home can be extremely damaged, causing loss and irreversible damage to certain possessions. Ensure your important documents and assets are kept safe somewhere. Place these items in watertight sealable bags to prevent moisture and water from reaching them and keep them in watertight containers. Keeping documents dry and in a container you can access will help you recover faster after a storm. 

Prep your car: Move your car indoors if you can and make sure your car is filled with gas and has an emergency kit stored inside so you can evacuate quickly if needed. Your car’s emergency kit should have jumper cables, flares, an ice scraper, blankets, and sand, which can be used to add traction when driving in hazardous conditions.

Protect your home: As during windstorms, you should clear or secure your backyard and frontyard of objects that may fly towards your home and windows. Install storm shutters on your windows, roof clips on your home, garage door braces, anchor your fuel tanks, and disconnect as many appliances and fixtures as possible. If there’s enough time, install surge protection on your electrical panels to further protect your home.

Secure your interior: You’ll have to be prepared for the very real chance that your home will flood and that the winds will damage the structural foundation of your home. Rearrange furniture and items to keep them above a certain height, board up your doors, and move any furniture or items that may fall and harm you or someone else in your household. 

What should I do during a hurricane?

Your biggest priority during a hurricane is to keep you and your loved ones safe. Most importantly… 

Be prepared to evacuate: Make sure you’re paying attention to local alerts and guidelines and have an evacuation kit or bag ready. If you have to evacuate, take only the most essential supplies, unplug your appliances and turn off the power, gas, and water, and know what roads are available to take (as some may be flooded).

If you’re being asked to evacuate, flooding is much more likely. Help prevent damage to your appliances by unplugging your devices, and shutting off power, gas, and even water to help make recovery easier and smoother.

What should I do after a hurricane?

If you’re still at home… 

The first thing to do is to make sure your carbon monoxide detector is working in case any equipment is damaged and leaking CO2. Avoid using any wet electrical devices and opt for flashlights over candles to prevent the risk of anything catching on fire. Stay inside until the storm has completely passed. Be wary of using tap water as the water may not be appropriately filtered or cleaned.

If you were forced to evacuate…

Stay on top of alerts so you know if and when it’s safe to return to your home. Avoid downed power lines and similar hazards like damaged property and broken gas lines.  When you do return to your home, board up any broken windows, dispose of any furniture that has been overly saturated (like rugs and bedding), and work on drying the rest of your furniture and walls to minimize water damage and prevent mold from building up.

If your home is uninhabitable…

If it seems like there’s no chance of you returning to your home or, if in the worst-case scenario, your home has been extremely damaged, reach out to your insurance company to find accommodations. If any emergencies have been declared, by local government or the president, look for existing resources that may have popped up in the response (FEMA may be able to help). You may also be able to pause or delay mortgage payments due to the hurricane, so reach out to your mortgage provider to explore your options.

Filing insurance claims after a hurricane

Whether you stayed indoors, are returning to your home, or are looking for other accommodations (referred to as additional living expenses, or ALE), make sure you’re documenting your efforts, the resources spent (including time and money), and taking photos of all the damage your home sustained and any damaged furniture, goods, and items.

Remember that while your homeowner’s insurance policy will cover wind and rain damage, it won’t cover flooding without an additional policy so set your expectations accordingly. As you begin the repair process, work with your insurance provide to find the right contractors as scams are known to increase after major natural disasters

If you’re considering switching home or auto insurance or just want to make sure you have the right coverage (for the right price), check out Branch to see if it’s right for you.

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