Hurricane Irma is among the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. Currently, it is a Category 5 storm that has managed to sustain speeds of up to 185 mph. Hurricane watchers expect the storm to cause untold destruction when it hits the coast of Florida because of its high wind-speeds and potentially devastating storm surge.
The hurricane’s strong winds and low pressure are projected to cause a dangerous storm surge along the coastline. Already, authorities have instructed residents in many major cities of the Florida coast to move to safer areas urging them to heed the directions on evacuation.
The southern coast of Florida has been under constant hurricane warnings and watches which means the storm is expected to imminently hit the area. Apart from Florida, the effects of the storm may extend to the neighboring states of South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina. However, Hurricane monitors are unable at this point to specify the magnitude of the impact or the locations that will most likely be affected.
It is important for people in these areas to be ready and take the necessary precautions.
What is a Storm Surge?
A storm surge occurs when the powerful winds of the Hurricane push ocean water onto the shore. Many people describe it as a wall of water, but this is actually not the case.
A storm surge is simply a rapid rise in water levels caused by a hurricane or powerful storm that can raise ocean levels by several feet within just a few short hours. The rising water moves at the speed of the Hurricane making it powerful, with often devastating effects.
The surge is so strong that even one-foot of water can sweep a vehicle off the road. The water also carries with it a lot of debris that can batter into buildings and any other obstacles it finds in its way, causing further damage. Structures of any nature, infrastructure and even vegetation can suffer from the force of the wind-driven waters.
Storm Surge Dangers
By nature, a storm surge can be extremely dangerous, as it can cause large amounts of property damage, and even claim lives within a few hours. Historically speaking, a majority of hurricane related deaths result from storm surge waters as opposed to all other components of the cyclone. During Hurricane Katrina for example, a number of people ignored evacuation warnings and chose to remain in their homes. As a result, unfortunately, a large number of citizens were killed by the effects of the storm surge.
What to do if Stuck in Your House During a Storm Surge
The fast rate at which the waters rise during a Hurricane’s storm surge is very so quick and powerful that it can be easy for one to get trapped in their home. It is advisable to heed evacuation warnings and move to safer grounds as soon as possible if a major hurricane is expected to hit your area. However, in the event you become trapped by the water inside your house, you need to focus on safety.
First, make sure you do not walk around in the water barefoot. Wear rubber boots or rubber soled shoes to protect your feet from the dirty water. Furthermore, ensure that all electric cables are unplugged if the water is likely to reach the sockets. Keep in mind that it is better to switch off electricity at the main switch, so this is a last resort.
If your house has an upper floor, go to there before the water rises too high and look for a possible escape route through the roof or a window. You may need to bring some tools that will help you make an opening through the top of the house, such as an axe, pry-bar or other sharp objects.
While you are under the threat of drowning, you may face risks from dangerous animals and other creatures escaping the stormy waters. Therefore, it is advisable to keep all exterior doors and windows closed. If you can make it to your roof, try writing “help” in an area that will be visible to aircraft passing by. If you don’t have the proper tools to make a help message, consider hanging a white or brightly colored towel on the roof. This will increase the chances of a rescue helicopter or aircraft spotting you.
If you have a battery-operated communication device, tune in to the local emergency broadcast or news station for the latest updates on the storm. You can also learn about possible evacuation missions in your area that may get you to safety. As you remain in the house, avoid drinking tap water because of possible contamination during the storm.
After you have escaped the dangers of the storm surge, it is imperative that you either have access to a shelter facility in your area or you are prepared with a hurricane kit, emergency foods and water. Services like the Red Cross, FEMA and even local organizations often assist in natural disasters like hurricanes. To locate the nearest shelter, make sure to check all local news stations on the TV, Radio or ask a neighbor for help.