Buffeted by wind and pelted with rain, Jamaica braced itself for landfall by Hurricane Sandy, which became the season's tenth hurricane earlier today. The storm is predicted to hit the Caribbean island and then spin over Cuba. A tropical storm watch is in effect for southeast Florida, the Florida Keys and southeast Bahamas, according to the National Hurricane Center. After that Sandy's track is less predictable, the storm may go out to sea or tack closer to the coast affecting states in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Because of the uncertainty, forecasters are advising residents along the coast to stay informed and make basic preparations now.
Hurricane veterans know to rid their property of lawn furniture and other things that can become projectiles during a storm. Also check for tree branches that could damage your house in high winds. Fill your car with gas because the pumps may not be working during a power outage. And make a family plan in the event you need to evacuate.
Federal authorities recommend putting together a basic kit that will last three days, but you should tailor yours to your family's needs, especially if you have small children.
- One gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation;
- Non-perishable food and a manual can opener;
- A battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA weather radio with tone alert and extra batteries;
- Flashlight and extra batteries;
- First aid kit;
- Whistle to signal for help;
- Filter mask or cotton t-shirt, to help filter the air;
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation;
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities;
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place;
- Important family documents in a waterproof container;
- Items for unique family needs, such as daily prescription medications, infant formula or diapers.
If you have a generator, start it up to make sure it's working and use the transfer switch that enables the generator to take over the circuits it would manage during a real emergency. If you don't have a generator, check the results of our latest generator tests for models that reliably deliver power but keep in mind they may be scarce during a real weather event. Another option is to buy a power inverter. These small gadgets that hook up to your car's battery can't handle the load of a portable or stationary machine but they can get you through a short power outage without losing all the food in your refrigerator.
For updates on Sandy, check the National Hurricane Center.
—Mary H.J. Farrell