As Hurricane Matthew makes its way slowly over the Caribbean, Southerners along the Atlantic Coast are preparing for what is projected to be one of the biggest hurricanes in nearly a decade.
Although the Category 4 storm’s path still remains somewhat uncertain, Florida and North Carolina have both declared states of emergency as the storm is predicted to move near southern Florida and travel up the coast, hitting cities like Jacksonville, Savannah, Charleston, and Wilmington.
Coastal Southerners are no novices when it comes to evacuations, but here are five things to check off your list before a hurricane makes landfall— whether you need to evacuate or you can remain in your area
What to do if you evacuate
- Download the Red Cross app on your smartphone so you have a mobile way to track the hurricane and let others know you're safe or need help even if the power is out. This is especially helpful if you live alone. Make sure to keep your phone fully charged and buy a car charger if you don’t have one.
- If you can, don’t wait for an official evacuation order to leave. The sooner you can get to a safe location inland, the better; you’ll also lessen your chances of having to stay in an emergency shelter. Once an evacuation order has been instated, leave the area as soon as possible. Make sure to bring important documents (insurance papers), prescription medicines (refill them before the storm), and any irreplaceable items like that box of family recipes.
- Get your house in order by clearing your fridge and kitchen of any perishable food as well as trash; unplug electronics and move them into your second floor or lift them off the floor; turn off your electricity, water, and gas if officials say to do so; and most importantly, board up your windows and brace your door with plywood. For instructions on how to do so, visit this guide.
- Make sure you have a plan for your pets too. If you’re evacuating to a hotel, check about their pet policy (some don’t allow them or charge more for dogs over 25 lbs.) and be aware that only service animals are allowed in evacuation shelters. Make sure your pet has clear identification and you have enough food and water, bowls for both, and small trash bags for any waste. Keep a current photo of them on hand as well in case they get lost during the evacuation process or during the storm.
- Don’t return back home after evacuating until officials say it’s safe to do so. Post-storm flooding and damage can remain dangerous for several days after a big storm.
What to do if you stay
- Don’t stay if you’re under an official evacuation order. While it can be tempting to hold down the fort and hope for the best, you should never take chances with your life or your family.
- Keep the following items in your home’s supply kit and replenish anything left over from previous storms like expired pharmacy items or food. Also keep cash on hand in case of a power outage since ATMs likely won’t be able to function and some stores might not be able to accept cards.
- If you can, fill your bathtub with clean water for an extra reserve, and make sure to stockpile as much drinkable water as you can.
- Secure any larger items in your yard or on your porch, like furniture, grills, or anything else high winds could damage or fling toward your home or those of your neighbors.
- Turn your refrigerator to the coolest setting. If the power goes out, it’ll be able to keep food colder longer. To avoid opening the fridge door, make sure to have a couple coolers for extra storage of perishable foods or medications.
For a complete guide to hurricane preparedness, refer to this guide compiled by Charleston’s WCBD News 2 or FEMA’s official hurricane guide here.