Hurricane Safety Reminders

As this post is being written on Sunday August 26, we join everyone in our community in watching closely to see how Isaac will impact our region's weather. Our Panama City personal injury law firm knows that, while the beautiful climate is a hallmark of our region, the threat of storms is always a reality. Life in Florida carries the risk of severe storms, and it is crucial that residents be aware of and prepared for the possibility of inclement weather.

Hurricanes in General

Tropical cyclones are rotating organized systems of clouds and storms that form over tropical or sub-tropical waters. Storms reach hurricane status when the system's strongest sustained winds exceed 74 miles per hour (in other regions, the term typhoon can apply). There are 5 categories of hurricanes based on wind strength and the term "major hurricane" applies to Category 3, 4, or 5 storms where winds top 111 miles per hour. For the Atlantic region, the hurricane system spans from June through November.

For coastal regions, storm surges and large waves carry the greatest threat to life and property. Storm surge is the abnormally large rise of water generated by the storm winds. Surges can top 20 feet and impact hundreds of miles of coastline. Storm tide combines that threat with the astronomical tides to create even larger expanses of water. Waves can claim lives, destroy buildings, and erode land. Additional threats related to hurricanes include high winds, extreme rainfall, and dangerous rip currents. Hurricanes can also spark tornadoes that may lead to additional damage.

Before, During, and After the Storm

People in hurricane-prone regions, including here in the Florida panhandle, should have emergency kits prepared in case a hurricane becomes stronger than expected. This should include a three-day supply of both water and non-perishable food for all members of the household. A family communications plan is another key piece of advance preparation. You should also consider dangers specific to your surroundings, such as the location of levees and dams. If a strong storm is predicted, you should secure your home and property, including covering windows with storm shutters, clearing gutters and downspouts, and bringing in any outdoor furniture or other loose items. Those in high-rise buildings should plan to shelter below the tenth floor.

It is vital to listen to news outlets and obey any instructions from local or state authorities. They will let you know whether it is necessary to evacuate or if you should remain sheltered in your secured home. In some cases, you may be asked to turn off utilities. If you are not evacuated, you should remain indoors and keep all doors, curtains, and blinds closed for additional safety. A small internal room, even a closet or hallway, is generally the safest place to wait out a storm. Filling a bathtub with water to be used for cleaning or flushing is another good precaution, although you should stick to bottled water for drinking.

You should continue to exercise caution after the storm. Roadways can be flooded, and driving through water is always dangerous. You should carefully inspect your home for damage, especially problems relating to gas or other utility lines. Listen for specific instructions from safety personnel about resuming normal activities.

Storms often leave both injury and property damage behind. If you receive a denial on an insurance claim, consider contacting a skilled Panama City insurance lawyer. While policies may have weather-related exclusions, you should never rely on the word of an insurance company when it comes to a denial of coverage. Simply put, the insurance company is a business and never wants to pay if they can get away claim-free. Read your policies carefully and call our team. Attorney Pittman can help you understand your policy and your rights.

For more information on hurricane safety (and other types of emergency preparedness), see the Federal Emergency Management Agency's ready.gov website.

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