From severe floods to copious amounts of rain, hurricanes are disastrous natural disasters that we all should be on the lookout for. Because technology is at its peak, we are able to detect hurricanes beforehand and warn the general public through media outlets and online. While there is no shortage of warnings and emergency preparedness announcements messaged to the public before a hurricane strikes, we often neglect to guide the civilians on how they should recover during the aftermath of a hurricane. In this article, we talk about what happens after a hurricane passes and provide guidance on the next steps to rebuilding.
Measurement of intensity: How are hurricanes categorized?
For earthquakes, two scales are utilized to describe the natural disaster into two parameters: its strength and its effect on livelihood and infrastructure. However, for hurricanes, only one scale exists. It is the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, which measures the pressure, wind speed, storm surge and damage potential of hurricanes.
The scale separates hurricanes into five categories. Category 1 hurricanes have a wind speed of 74 miles an hour and Category 5 has 157 miles an hour. While higher category hurricanes are more catastrophic, Category 1 hurricanes can be just as deadly due to flooding. Currently, there is no scale that focuses description on the effect of the hurricane in terms of life loss, infrastructure affected, and livelihood demolishes like earthquakes.
What to expect after a hurricane?
After the devastating hurricane passes, it leaves behind traces of destruction and is challenging to rectify. The most common and vast type of hurricane destruction comes from the flooding.
Flooding typically is the direct result of heavy rains coming from hurricanes. While floods occur suddenly, it may take weeks or months to recede. With flooding comes the emergence of mud and contamination, making it very difficult to clean.
The next widespread challenge after flooding and mud is power outages. Due to high wind speed, hurricanes are capable of taking down power towers and posts.
This leads to a power outage, in which users have no access to electricity. Major problems can potentially arise from power outages, such as extreme temperatures that could be threatening to children, food and water safety, as well as accidents in using generators and light/power alternatives.
The majority of society relies on grid-electricity. In which case, society is bound to rebuild itself upon. On the onset of hurricane recovery, roads and freeways may be unavailable for use, due to safety reasons and road blockages (such as tree branches and electrical posts that have fallen down). Grocery stores might not be open for service immediately as well.
Hurricane Response and Recovery
The following are suggestions that the impacted community members must take after a hurricane strikes:
- Listen to local officials – While this phrase is often emphasized on hurricane disaster preparedness announcements, it is also heavily stressed for hurricane response and recovery. The general public should listen to the instructions of officials when it comes to going back to homes after evacuation. The officials disseminate information that is decided upon by meteorologists, and hurricane impact assessors based on the expected behavior of the weather in the following days.
- Keep out of floodwater – In the instance that you are face to face with floodwater, do your best to not come in contact with it. It may contain sharp debris, dangerous materials, and even bacteria that may cause infection – which all are invisible from the surface of the floodwater. Do not walk, wade, or swim in floodwaters.
- Response to power outage – When using a generator or other light/power alternatives (such as candles) which may pose a threat to the safety of your family with the improper use of it, be very cautious and watch these items closely. Do not put candles near flammable substances or near the reach of children. Do not also touch live wires that have been upheaved by the hurricane, regardless if there is a power outage or not. (especially if it is submerged in flood water!)
- Hurricane recovery clean up – Hurricanes are expected to leave a lot of trash and a lot of mud. This is why it is important to cover items that are too valuable to lose with a water-resistant storage device similar to ClimaGuard. For all other areas, the best situation is to take turns with other adults within the family to clean up the house while the others are watching the children in the evacuation centers. Children should be the last to go back home and should not be present during the cleanup process as they may slip through the muddy floors, touch dangerous hanging wires or come in contact with sharp debris. This clinical recommendation is available from the Pediatric Environmental Health Special Units (PEHSUs).
- Prevention of infectious diseases – Flooding from hurricanes provides the perfect breeding ground for bacterial and viral diseases which are easily transmissible. Preventive measures such as frequent hand washing and proper personal hygiene should be reinforced within the household.
- Prevention of mosquito bites – Flooding can result in the accumulation of floodwater in hard to reach surfaces. These stagnant waters can be the breeding ground for mosquitoes which cause diseases such as Zika, malaria, dengue, and others. Prevention includes the destruction of stagnant water areas within the neighborhood (to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs) as well as the cleanup of homes.
- Cash is king – It is best to have cash during this recovery period as your means of buying resources. Other forms of currency such as credit cards and bank transfer may be unavailable during this moment.
- Food and water safety – Do not eat or touch anything that was ever in contact with floodwater. It will be difficult to store food items at recommended temperatures because of the power outage but there are alternatives such as ice packs and coolers. If you are unsure about the safety of your water, boil it before consumption.