While hurricanes and their destruction can start out small, the issue resides in the fact that Mother Nature refuses to be controlled…and can often result in home damage, fatalities, and overall devastation.
In the United States, The Outer Banks of North Carolina has endured many of these natural disasters. Many islanders would tell you they consider themselves experts on hurricanes and safety.
“We handle hurricanes from an element of experience from the 7 unincorporated villages that makeup this 56 mile long island. There are about 4,000 people…little over 4,000 people that live here. If you were to take a phone book, about half…maybe a little more…can actually trace their ancestry back 8- 9 generations or more. Therefore, that experience, that innate knowledge of living here gives us an edge in preparing for the storms.”– Danny Couch, Dare County Commissioner
When preparing for hurricanes, it often involves knowing what to do if an evacuation takes place. The main goal, according to Hatteras Island Volunteer Fire Chief Jeremy Hicks is to keep the information flowing to the public, especially when the weather becomes dangerous. He says they’re not only in touch with the public, but also emergency management outlets like the National Weather Service.
Aside from personal safety, property safety is important to many people too. Couch pushes for people to take proactive measures with insurance so that you can do everything in your power to protect your personal property. This means to also keep cars elevated, as well as make sure things like air conditioners, heating, and other forms of air units aren’t compromised by floodwaters. Making sure that loose items are securely stored, as to not blow around and cause any damage. In short, prepare your house for wind and water events.
When it comes to the construction of a home, Tim Midgett of Midgett Realty, says that he tries to make sure that his over 480 rental homes are safely and securely built to withstand the hurricane’s power as much as possible.
“And of course what we build, and a lot of what does get built out here is like a velocity flood zone, so that requires additional pile penetration and things like that. So uh, there’s a lot of wind related and flood related regulations that are already in place, and there’s a lot of things that are coming down the pipeline that I think will further enhance and better that side of the business.”– Tim Midgett, Midgett Reality
Others haven’t been so lucky with flooding, like Dennis Richardson. In 2016 his home was flooded by Hurricane Matthew. His home, which was originally ground level, suffered 6 to 12 inches of water. They also had to cut off 4 feet of the wall and put it back together.
However, Dennis didn’t let this situation get to him, and took matters into his own hands. While living in his garage for a full year, Dennis continued working with an insurance company to file a claim. He then hired a house mover to lift his home 8 feet above the ground. Since the incident in 2016, Richardson’s home hasn’t suffered storm damage since.
Richardson now uses the knowledge he acquired from going through a personal home flooding experience to help others.
“I help people with their insurance process and everything after the storm. That’s probably why mine took a long time, the contractor is a friend and he was able to go to some elderly people’s houses first and get them back in their property before mine. So it’s the good part about living in Hatteras is everybody’s a real team player.
The community is really strong you know before a storm, but after everybody really comes together to help each other and to support one another.”– Dennis Richardson, Hatteras Home Owner
After a hurricane, clean up is the next step. Hicks says they try to get water and MRE’s, as well as clean up kits from emergency management (like the Red Cross). He also says they rely heavily on volunteers, and that the village of Hatteras is lucky because people often come from areas all over North Carolina, as well as other states like South Carolina and Virginia.
Lastly, Hicks suggests that people who don’t have access to immediate emergency units, make sure that they have back up water, food, and a plan. He says that ready.gov is a helpful website, with tools to help people through natural disasters.