A list of some of the things that can help people be prepared for hurricane season.
NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- With the development of powerful storms such as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma this year, now is a good time to make sure you're prepared for any possible tropical system, and have a plan in place to keep you and your family safe.
Here are some links and guides to help you plan ahead.
See Also: 13News Now Hurricane Center
Hurricane Plan Checklist
Know your area:
- Check evacuation maps for your county and know what zone you are in.
- Know where a shelter or other safe places are located in case you need to leave your home.
Know your supplies:
- Be sure to have plenty of water
- You should have a gallon of water per family member per day
- Stock up on non-perishable foods
- DOWNLOAD: Printable Hurricane Checklist
Important supplies to have during hurricane season:
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Battery operated radio
- Fire extinguisher
Have a communication plan:
- Have plan set up for you and your family.
- Complete a contact card for all family members with names, numbers and email addresses.
Prepare a first aid kit filled with:
- Bandages, antiseptic wipes, instant ice pack, adhesive tape and scissors
Virginia's New Evacuation Zones
Virginia has a new plan for dealing with hurricane evacuations that uses a zoned approach to prioritize getting the most vulnerable residents away from major flooding and reducing unnecessary travel.
It's the most significant change in decades to the state's evacuation system, which computer simulations showed was unrealistic.
Jim Redick, Norfolk's Emergency Preparedness and Response director, says the new plan should help prevent over-evacuation.
"If we don't over-evacuate the area, then we'll just get those who really need to go out of the area. But it's still gonna be a cantankerous issue when you have this much population, and this little infrastructure. It's going to be a challenge," said Redick.
The new plan breaks down coastal Virginia into four zones designated A through D. In the event of a hurricane, residents in certain zones may be directed to evacuate, while others could be asked to shelter in place. The state says the plan will reduce traffic, promote highway safety and lessen overcrowding at storm shelters.
Residents can visit a website, call 2-1-1 or contact their local emergency managers to find out their zone.
KNOW YOUR ZONE: Find your nearest hurricane evacuation zone by clicking here
Virginia gets new zoned hurricane evacuation plan
How flood insurance works
We asked an insurance expert to explain the government program and its challenges.
What is flood insurance?
Homeowners’ insurance does not cover damage to a home caused by flooding. A homeowner must have a separate policy to cover flood-related losses, defined as water traveling along or under the ground.
Most such policies are underwritten by the National Flood Insurance Program, which is part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The National Flood Insurance Program was established in 1968 to address the lack of availability of flood insurance in the private market and reduce the demand for federal disaster assistance for uninsured flood losses. Another purpose was to integrate flood insurance with floodplain management, which includes such things as adopting and enforcing stricter building codes, retaining or restoring wetlands to absorb floodwaters and requiring or encouraging homeowners to make their homes more flood-resistant.
The National Flood Insurance Program’s activities are funded largely by the premiums and fees paid by its policyholders, supplemented by a small amount of general funds to help pay for flood risk mapping. Because the National Flood Insurance Program serves the public interest, some believe that more of its funding should be borne by taxpayers.
Homeowners can purchase a federal flood policy directly from the National Flood Insurance Program or through a private insurer. Separately, some private insurers sell their own flood policies on a limited basis for properties that are overcharged by the National Flood Insurance Program.
How many American homeowners have flood insurance?
It is difficult to determine exactly how many homeowners have flood insurance.
The National Flood Insurance Program had just under five million policies in force as of June 30. Of these policies, approximately 68 percent were on single-family homes and 21 percent on condo units. There is no source on how many private flood policies are in force, but my sense is that it is very small relative to the number of National Flood Insurance Program policies.
In recent years, the number of such policies has been dropping across the country. Some of the counties hardest hit by Harvey, for example, such as Harris (which includes Houston), have experienced significant declines.
A more revealing – and more difficult to ascertain – stat is the share of homeowners in a disaster area who actually have flood insurance. In Harris County, for example, experts estimate that only about 15 percent of homeowners are insured for floods – though the percentage should be higher in areas near coastlines.
Real estate data company CoreLogic estimates that approximately 70 percent of flood losses from Harvey will be uninsured.
Why do people at great risk of flooding forgo insurance?
A number of factors affect a homeowner’s decision to buy flood insurance (or not).
People who perceive that their exposure to floods is high are more likely to buy it, all other things equal. And the mandatory purchase requirement forces owners of mortgaged homes located in Special Flood Hazard Areas – areas at high risk for flooding – to buy insurance.
However, 43 percent of homeowners incorrectly believe that their homeowners’ insurance covers them for flood losses.
Other factors also come into play, such as a lack of information, the difficulty of calculating flood risk and the expectation that the government will provide disaster assistance – which is rarely the case.
What does flood insurance cover?
With a National Flood Insurance Program policy, a homeowner can purchase coverage on a dwelling up to US$250,000 and the contents of a home up to $100,000. It does not cover costs associated with “loss of use” of a home.
The National Flood Insurance Program policy limits have been in effect since 1994 and need to be updated to account for the increase in the replacement cost of homes and the actual cash value of their contents. Although not the best measure of the replacement cost, the median price of new homes sold in the U.S. has soared 132 percent since 1994.
Some homeowners buy additional flood protection from private insurers to make up any shortfall.
Why is the National Flood Insurance Program underwater?
The National Flood Insurance Program has faced considerable criticism over its underwriting and pricing policies, which have resulted in a substantial debt. Essentially, its premiums are not high enough to cover how much it pays out on claims and its other costs.
Part of the problem is that about 20 percent of the properties the program insures pay a subsidized rate. But many other National Flood Insurance Program policyholders are also paying premiums substantially less than what it costs to insure them because the rates do not adequately account for the catastrophic losses incurred during years when more major storms than normal strike, such as Katrina and Rita in 2005 and Sandy in 2012. As a result, the National Flood Insurance Program owes an accumulated debt of $25 billion to the U.S. Treasury.
Hurricane Harvey (and potentially other storms such as Irma that may follow) will substantially increase this debt. CoreLogic estimates that National Flood Insurance Program-insured flood losses from Harvey alone will be $6 billion to $9 billion.
In the short term, Congress will have to increase the National Flood Insurance Program’s borrowing authority for it to pay the claims that will result from Harvey and other storms this year. Lawmakers could make a general fund appropriation to forgive all or a portion of the National Flood Insurance Program’s debt, but it has shown no interest in doing so.
These inadequate rates also exacerbate the moral hazard created by flood insurance. People are more likely to buy, build or rebuild homes in flood-prone areas and have diminished incentives to invest in flood risk mitigation, such as by elevating their home, if they can buy insurance at below-cost rates.
What can be done to fix the program?
Legislative efforts to reform the National Flood Insurance Program to put it on firmer fiscal footing have produced mixed results.
The Biggert-Waters Act of 2012 made a number of changes to the program, such as increasing premiums and other changes to make it “more financially stable,” that would have gone a long way to restore its fiscal solvency. However, an outcry from homeowners in high-risk areas such as coastal Florida led to the Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act, passed in 2014, that limited or rescinded many of the Biggert-Waters rate increases.
Fundamentally, the program millions of Americans rely on to help them rebuild their lives after a devastating flood needs to be fixed. Its dire financial straits could be resolved by either making taxpayers foot more of the bill or increasing premiums closer to full-cost rates for most homeowners, while also raising total coverage levels.
At the same time, the government needs to do more to convince or compel more at-risk homeowners to buy flood insurance – which would be harder to do if it were to raise rates. To me, this suggests that increasing taxpayer support for the NFIP will have to be part of the solution so that pricey premiums don’t become a deterrent to someone buying insurance.
With the likelihood of much more flooding in the coming weeks and years, more needs to be done to mitigate the risk, including producing more accurate and timely maps of the flood risk in various areas, especially high-risk areas, educating people about what those risks really mean and helping relocate homeowners as necessary.
4 household hacks to make sure you're hurricane ready
Preparing for a hurricane can be stressful, but it doesn't have to be difficult.
Here are some hurricane hacks you might've never thought of–using items you've likely got at home–to help make sure you're prepared.
-Turn your washing machine into a cooler: Fill it up with ice and close the lid to keep items cool. And don't worry about what to do when the ice begins to melt, the machine is designed to drain water.
-Your dishwasher can be a waterproof safe: It's sealed to keep water in, so it should do just fine keeping it out too. Just make sure all your dishes are taken out before loading up important documents or belongings.
-Water bottles and flashlights make great lanterns: Instead of purchasing an expensive lantern, try taping a flashlight to the bottom of a water bottle to illuminate a room. For a bigger glow, try a larger water jug with a head light strapped onto it.
-Aluminum dish pans can keep your furniture out of water: It might do much in major flooding, but if water begins to pool on your floor, placing those disposable aluminum cooking pans around the furniture legs can help minimize water damage.
Here are some hacks to help prepare your home for a hurricane.
Some other tips to keep in mind:
-Plastic bins and bags are your best friend: They are water tight and can store a variety of items you either want to keep safe or cool.
-Make extra ice ahead of time: Freeze it in bags, freeze it in bottles, use it when the power goes out, you'll likely need it.
-Fill up the tub with water: You might not need it for drinking, but it will come in handy if you're looking for water for cleaning, boiling or flushing!
-Take pictures before the storm: It'll be a big help for insurance purposes, in case you have to make a claim because of damage. All you need is your cell phone. The best thing to do is to walk through each room slowly, narrating what the camera is looking at and take a visual inventory of things covered by your insurance policy. Make sure to send that video to someone or upload it to the cloud, so you have it when you need it.
Next, if you're trying to make sense of some of the terminology for tropical weather:
It's not just the strong winds and heavy rain from a tropical system that you need to be concerned about. In fact, the most deadly part of a hurricane is the storm surge.
It's not just the normal high tide that varies from day to day and place to place. It's the surge in advance of a hurricane, the abnormal rise in water as a tropical storm is approaching.
It's not just the strong winds and heavy rain from a tropical system that you need to be concerned about. In fact, the most deadly part of a hurricane is the storm surge.
So we have the strong winds that push the water towards the shore. Whether it’s a tropical storm or a hurricane. And depending on the continental shelf, the slope of the land under the water's surface, and the shape of the coast line, that can directly impact the significance of the storm surge.
But whatever it is, 3 feet, 6 feet, or more, water has a lot of force behind it. In fact, one cubic yard of water, that's 3 feet by 3 feet, and 3 feet deep, weighs almost a ton! 2000 lbs! And that's the force pushing the water towards the land.
If that's not enough, all of that water coming ashore has floating debris in it. Flotsam and jetsam, trees, boats, and cars. And all this debris acts like battering rams. With everything rushing ashore that battering ram is going to eliminate anything in its path.
Storm surge is something you need to pay very close attention to.
Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale: How to measure a tropical cyclone's strength
The easiest and most straightforward way to measure a hurricane's strength is to use the Saffir-Simpson scale.
Divided into five categories, the scale designates each hurricane based on its sustained wind speed and estimates what kind of property damage could occur. Category 1, for example, is considered "very dangerous" while a Category 5 storm is "catastrophic."
The Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale is the scale we use to categorize hurricanes. It was developed in 1971 by civil engineer Herbert Saffir and meteorologist Robert Simpson, who was director of the U.S. National Hurricane Center at the time.
Here's a breakdown of the Saffir-Simpson scale, according to the National Hurricane Center:
Category 1 - 74-95 mph sustained winds: Very dangerous winds will produce some damage
Category 2 - 96-110 mph sustained winds: Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage
Category 3 - 111-129 mph sustained winds: Devastating damage will occur
Category 4 - 130-156 mph sustained winds: Catastrophic damage will occur
Category 5 - 157 mph or higher sustained winds: Catastrophic damage will occur ("a high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed)
A tropical cyclone that hasn't reached hurricane strength is considered a tropical storm (39-73 mph wind) or a weaker tropical depression (less than 38 mph).
Despite what you might see on social media, there is no such thing as a Category 6 storm nor is there any consideration to create such a category. The bottom line is a Category 5 storm, whether at 157 mph or Hurricane Allen's 190-mph wind (1980 season), it likely will completely destroy your home anyway.
- Hurricane Season: What's the difference between a Watch and a Warning?
- Why do hurricanes even exist? The science behind these monster storms
Track the tropics: Download the 13News Now app
13News Now Meteorologist Iisha Scott explains how hurricanes can bring increased tornado risks in addition to high winds and storm surge.
How do hurricanes get their names?
Matthew, Harvey, Katrina; three random names that incite memories of a deadly, destructive, powerful force of nature.
So, how did these hurricanes get their names?
When storms first were named, they were named arbitrarily, experts said. For example, if a storm ripped off the mast of a boat named Antje, the hurricane would become known as Hurricane Antje. Eventually, meteorologists wanted a more organized naming system.
Today, storm naming is determined by an international committee of the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The group meets annually to discuss all things hurricane related.
Facts you may not have known about hurricanes.
According to the World Meteorological Organization, Atlantic tropical storms have been named from a list that originated from the National Hurricane Center in 1953, which is now kept up by the WMO.
"The original name lists featured only women's names," the WMO said. "In 1979, men's names were introduced and they alternate with the women's names. Six lists are used in rotation. Thus, the 2015 list will be used again in 2021."
The organization said the only time there is a change in the list is if a storm is extremely deadly or costly. The WMO said they retire the name due to it being inappropriate for reasons of sensitivity.
"If that occurs, then at an annual meeting by the WMO Tropical Cyclone Committees (called primarily to discuss many other issues) the offending name is stricken from the list and another name is selected to replace it. Infamous storm names such as Haiyan (Philippines, 2013), Sandy (USA, 2012), Katrina (USA, 2005), Mitch (Honduras, 1998) and Tracy (Darwin, 1974) are examples for this."
WTSP 10 News and The Associated Press contributed to this report