If -- and this is a big if -- Hurricane Maria hits Virginia, here are some easy, common-sense things you can do to be prepared.
For a while, it looked like Hurricane Jose could slam into Virginia or Maryland. Thankfully, the storm stayed out at sea and will likely stay there. The worst it will do to us is bring some scattered showers. However, another hurricane is right behind Jose and could put D.C., Virginia, and Maryland back in the crosshairs.
Hurricane Maria is barreling through the Caribbean as we speak, and both the American and European models predict that the storm will follow almost an identical path as Jose. However, some of the models do warn that the storm could make landfall in the mid-Atlantic region.
It is too early to say with any sort of certainty whether or not Maria will hit the DMV area. There are far too many variables that can influence the storm's path between now and early next week. As we saw with Hurricane Irma's path through Florida, storm paths can quickly shift -- and rather dramatically.
If Hurricane Maria does hit Virginia or Maryland, it would make landfall early next week.
Still, there are common-sense things you can do in the meantime to prepare for the worst-case scenario, especially if you live on the coast. These common-sense preparations can get you ready for a storm without having to buy anything out-of-pocket that you wouldn't already be using.
No. 1 -- Do a walkthrough of your yard and look for potential dangers.
If Hurricane Maria hits Virginia, it will not be nearly as powerful as it is right now in the Caribbean. While it is unlikely that Virginia will face 160 mile-per-hour winds from a storm, it doesn't take wind that strong to cause serious structural damage. At this point, there's no need to run to Home Depot to buy plywood to board up windows. But you can take simple steps on your property to minimize the likelihood of damage to your home if a storm does hit.
Look for dead or dying trees. If there is a branch dangling over your home and looks vulnerable, consider taking it down on your
terms. Again, this doesn't have to be this week, but it is far easier to cut down a tree branch than it is to repair a broken window or damaged roof.
Take a good hard look at your lawn or patio furniture. Consider bringing the furniture into your house to prevent the wind from picking it up and causing damage to you or your neighbors' homes. Even if it doesn't look like your belongings would be able to cause damage, you can take steps to make sure your property doesn't get blown away.
No. 2 -- Refill your prescriptions.
This one is really easy to do, but most people forget to do it until it's too late. One of the biggest humanitarian emergencies in the Houston area after Hurricane Harvey made landfall last month was figuring out how to get life-saving prescriptions to the victims living in shelters. With tens of thousands of people fleeing their flooded homes, many forgot to bring their prescription medications with them. With hospitals and pharmacies flooded as well, it was incredibly difficult in the early days of the disaster response to keep all of the displaced victims medicated. So, if you can, get your prescriptions refilled this week. God forbid, if you have to evacuate, make sure that you bring your prescriptions with you. If you aren't able to refill your prescription in the event of a natural disaster, bring along an empty prescription bottle with your name on it. That way, if you end up evacuating, you can prove that have been prescribed specific doses of medication.
Steps 3 and 4 are so simple, it is amazing how many people forget.
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No. 3 -- At the grocery store? Buy an extra case of bottled water.
If you have a large family or multiple pets, your water needs during a disaster would likely be significant. While it is relatively easy and affordable to stockpile a "just in case" water supply, not everyone is interested in becoming a prepper.
The next time you are at the grocery store, pick up an extra case of bottled water. If the storm misses Virginia and Maryland, then you have a case of water bottles to put in your car or give to your kids for soccer practice. But if the storm does make landfall here and ends up knocking out water treatment facilities, this $3 case of water could be worth its weight in gold for you and your family.
The same goes for other non-perishable foods. If you hit up a grocery store on Friday, buy a couple extra bags of chips. Worst-case scenario, you have extra snacks for when company comes over. But if Hurricane Maria or some future storm hits and you happen to live on the coast, you'll be glad you picked up that second bag of Doritos.
No. 4 -- Keep your gas tanks full.
We saw in Florida that by the time a storm's path is eventually determined, it can be too late to stock up on many of the necessities. That includes gasoline. Hundreds -- if not thousands of Floridians -- were limited in their preparation and evacuation efforts because gas stations ran out of gasoline days before the storm even hit. For some, that meant they didn't have enough gas to drive out of the state. Others had to ration their generators' gasoline consumption.
As we saw with Irma, it doesn't take a lot for a storm to knock out power for hundreds of thousands of people. Earlier this year, almost 250,000 Virginia residents -- mostly in the Richmond area -- lost power when a thunderstorm rolled through the central part of the state. Power was out for more than three days. A hurricane or even a tropical storm would do untold damage to Virginia's power grid if it made landfall here.
So as you drive this week, especially as we get closer to the weekend, make sure your vehicles' gas tanks are full. If you have a generator, make sure that you have enough gasoline on hand to keep it running for at least whole day, especially if you have fully stocked fridges or freezers. Again, it is too early to tell whether Maria will hit Virginia, but once landfall is certain, it will be too late to stock up on gasoline.
There is no reason to panic. At this point, there is no telling whether Hurricane Maria will make landfall or follow Hurricane Jose and fizzle out in the middle of the Atlantic.
However, if the storm does make landfall -- which some models say is possible -- taking these four easy steps can make you measurably more prepared for if and when a disaster does strike.