A Word From the Wise

Legendary hurricane expert Bryan Norcross offers tips on being prepared for storm Irma.



Bryan Norcross gained fame when he helped South Florida residents weather Hurricane Andrew a quarter-century ago.

the weather channel

There’s probably no more trusted weather guy than Bryan Norcross, senior hurricane specialist for The Weather Channel.

Twenty-five years ago last month, with Hurricane Andrew bearing down on South Florida, Norcross became a hero of sorts. At the time, he was a meteorologist for WTVJ television in Miami and he stayed on the air for 23 hours straight, providing advice and reassurance to those caught in the path of the devastating storm.

So when Norcross speaks, people tend to listen. And Tuesday morning, with Hurricane Irma growing more dangerous by the hour, he posted a wealth of advice on his Facebook page that’s received tons of hits. It’s a combination of tips on supplies, drawn from a government agency, plus thoughts from Norcross himself.

First, here’s advice on what you need to stock up on, specifically issued by Brevard County Emergency Management, a compendium that Norcross refers to as “a good shopping list.’’

 It’s broken down into two parts:

Basic:

1 gallon of water per person per day for at least three days
At least 3 days of non-perishable food
Battery-powered or hand-crank radio, a weather radio, and extra batteries
Flashlight and extra batteries
First aid kit
Feminine supplies and hygiene items
Moist towelettes, garbage bags, plastic ties
Manual can opener for food
Local maps
Cell phone with chargers
Cash
Copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records

Additional:

Prescription medications and glasses
Infant formula and diapers
Pet food and extra water
Shot records for pets
Sleeping bag/blanket per person
Changes of clothing
Fire extinguisher
Matches in waterproof container
Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
Whistle to signal for help
Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
Paper and pen/pencil
Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

For the record, Norcross recommends food and water for at least seven days and an AM/FM portable radio with plenty of batteries. He also suggests only LED flashlights and lanterns with lots of batteries. Yes, batteries, batteries and more batteries. You can’t have too many.

Here are some other tips verbatim from the hurricane expert:

1. You can order supplies from Amazon today (Tuesday) and have them delivered on Thursday at the latest. Local stores might be out of good LED flashlights and lanterns, for example. Have at least one flashlight for every person in your family, and ideally have a lantern or two for general lighting.

2. Take photos today or tomorrow of every room, every piece of electronics, and everything valuable. Upload the pictures to the cloud—Dropbox, Microsoft Cloud, iCloud, Google Drive, etc. —before the storm.

3. Also take photos of key documents and upload them as well. You can do that today.

4. Save your contacts in your phone to the cloud. If you don’t know how to do that, frame grab your screen or have someone take photos of your contacts with their phone and email or text the pictures back to you to or a friend. Don’t take a chance on losing your contacts if something happens to your phone.

5. Secure your photographs and albums in double plastic bags.

6. Plastic bags and duct tape are your friends. You can’t buy too many of them. Put documents in gallons-size (or larger) Ziploc bags. Put larger items in double large trash bags cocooned so the opening of the first bag is in the bottom of the second bag. Put some clothes in plastic bags in case you get a roof leak. Duct tape bags closed. Put valuables on a high shelf in a closet.

7. Think now about where you are going to park your car. A parking garage is ideal. Outside in a low-lying area or under a tree is the worst. Think about all of the cars you’ve seen ruined in storms because people made bad choices about where they parked the car before the storm. When we know the storm track, we’ll have a better idea which side of a building will give the best protection. Next to a building on the downwind side gives you the best chance if you have to leave your car outside.

8. Do your laundry and wash your dishes before the storm.

9. Your dishwasher is an excellent “safe” in your house if you need someplace to put valuables. Your washer and dryer can offer good protection as well. These could be good places to put your bagged-up photos, for example.

10. Fill Ziploc bags ¾ full of water and stuff them in your freezer to fill up the space. The less air you have in the freezer, the longer your refrigerator will stay cold. Do NOT turn your refrigerator to any lower setting than normal—that can damage the unit.

11. Choose a friend or relative out of town to be the contact point for your family or group of friends. After a storm, it is always easier to get a call out of the area than within the storm zone. Be sure everybody has the out-of-town number and make a plan to check in ASAP after the storm.

12. If you live in a high rise, be sure you know what the procedures are going to be in the building. Will the building be evacuated? Will the water continue to work? Will elevators work? What is on a generator? If you can stay in the building (if it’s away from the water) find an interior hallway on a low floor where you can set up camp during the storm. It will not be safe to be on a high floor or near windows, even with modern hurricane impact windows. A hallway surrounded by concrete is your best bet.

13. Think about what you will sit on if you are in a hallway or other safe spot for a number of hours—maybe 12 hours or more. Consider comfortable folding chairs. Take food to your safe spot. Have books or other non-electronic amusements, including for the kids.

14. Do NOT count on your cellphone for communications. When Harvey hit Texas as a Cat 4, it knocked out the mobile phone system. In addition, your battery may run down and you may have no ability to charge it. In any case, it’s essential you have a portable AM/FM radio that you can leave on so the entire family can hear what’s going on with the storm.

15. Most importantly, be sure you know a safe place where you and your family can ride out the storm, if it comes. This is the most critical decision you can make today. There almost certainly will be evacuations ordered for parts of Florida. If you live near the water, put together the food, clothes, valuable items, and important papers you’ll take with you NOW. Leave as early as possible. There will be a crush on the road and you may not find a hotel in the entire state of Florida.

The veteran forecaster closes his post with this wake-up call:

“We are all hoping that Irma turns early or otherwise weakens or stays away, but the odds don’t favor that at this point. The hurricane is most likely to have some effect on a significant part of the state, and damaging impact on the lives of many people. Therefore, we are confronted with an undisputable fact: What you do before the storm has everything to do with how you and your family will fare after the wind stops blowing. Today, you are in control. Take action calmly but resolutely. Don’t set yourself up to be a victim. Your full attention is required immediately."

You can access Norcross' Facebook page here.

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