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Waiting for Tropical Storm Erika

This Monday marked 23 years since Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida. Some of us remember all too well, while for others, it’s just another historical footnote. Still, the hurricane gods have decided to spend this week reminding us that, yes, even though it’s been 10 years since the last major hurricane hit Miami, we’re still right in the middle of a major storm corridor.

And the last time we were struck, it was a hell of a season, back in 2005 when Florida was hit by six hurricanes, including Wilma and Katrina. Miamians who lived through that exhausting season have their own stories of what it felt like to be battered by storm after storm. However, Florida’s more than 3,594-day streak of hurricane-free days can breed a lot of complacency.

Don’t panic, but be prepared

Tropical Storm Erika is still playing “will she or won’t she” with us, and we won’t know whether it’ll miss us completely, brush by on its way north, or make direct landfall until the weekend. If it does hit, it’ll likely be a tropical storm or strengthen to a Category 1, but conditions can change pretty fast. Now’s not the time to panic, but you also don’t want to be stuck trying to buy water and batteries at Publix Sunday afternoon while we’re under a hurricane watch. Because even seemingly normal people can go nuts when when a storm threatens, and trust us when we say supplies go fast. Get your hurricane kit ready.

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Plenty of natives or long-term Floridians can feel nonchalant about storm warnings. And yes, hurricane parties seem fun, and joking about them is definitely a bit of a tradition. Just make sure you’ve got all the supplies you need both during the storm and in the days after. Check whether work or school will be closed ahead of time, before the power goes out. And make sure you’ve got contingency plans in place in case something major goes wrong. If a flash flood hits your neighborhood, a tree crashes into your living room, or a tornado starts barreling down your street, be ready to react. As of Thursday, Erika had left at least four dead, with many missing and widespread flooding in Dominica.

If this is your first storm, relax. We’re just trying to shake up some of our fellow overly complacent Floridians. Most of the time, and for the vast majority of people, a tropical storm or low level hurricane usually just means a lot of wind and rain, and that you may lose power. Nobody’s predicting this could suddenly turn into Sandy or Katrina. The problem is you don’t know how hard you’re going to be hit until it happens, and if you’re not prepared ahead of time, well… If you think pre-hurricane shopping is bad, it’s got nothing on the post-hurricane chaos. Make a hurricane checklist of everything you’ll need. A few things you should never forget? Water, food, medicine, gas, and a full tank of gas. And a cellphone charger. Cell service is one of the very last things to go, and often, even if you can’t make calls, you can still text and sometimes even go online.

Knowing when to leave

If you’re told to evacuate, do it. There’s no reason to stay and no excuse not to go. Stuff is just stuff. Very few things are as terrifying as watching your home flood and knowing it’s too dangerous to evacuate in the middle of a hurricane. Storm surge is legit, guys. Storm surges are the deadliest threat during a hurricane, causing far more deaths than wind, and they can happen even if the storm never actually makes landfall.

 

 

So if you’re in an evacuation zone, make plans to leave, just in case. Hit up your friends, call your mom, make a hotel reservation, or if all fails find the closest hurricane shelter. If you’re not sure what zone you’re in, simply plug your address in this nifty website if you live in Miami-Dade, or check out this map if you live in Broward.

The National Hurricane Center’s forecast models predict we’ll experience at least some of Erika’s effects no matter what happens, but we’ve got our fingers crossed that she breaks up. Hopefully the worst that’ll happen is we’ll all be well-prepared for the next hurricane — or a zombie apocalypse. Either way, stock up and stay safe.