North Carolina coastlineImage from Hurricane Florence.

North Carolinians Prepare for Hurricane Season As Pandemic Continues

By Tanya Svoboda
August 2020

Hurricane season has arrived with a vengeance. The tropical cyclone known as Marco brought “heavy rain, gusty winds and significant storm surge to parts of the gulf coast Monday night into Tuesday morning.” Hurricane Laura hit the US coastline last week as a major Category 4 hurricane.

When a hurricane strikes, homeowners who have not been ordered to evacuate can still take action to try and protect the investments they’ve made into their property before the storm arrives – and we’ve outlined some steps below. However, we encourage you to stay safe and protect people before property.

Putting a Plan in Place

Creating an evacuation plan is an essential part of any hurricane season. But given the unique circumstances surrounding COVID-19, and the effect on the country’s infrastructure, you’d be wise to revisit some key points.

  • Know your zone: Counties in the state of North Carolina have a designated evacuation zone. This program was piloted in 2019 in Camden, Craven, and Pasquotank counties. The full implementation of the system begins with the 2020 hurricane season. Understand where you reside so you can follow the correct evacuation orders.

    And, for those unable to evacuate due to limited resources caused by COVID-19, Caela O’Connell, an anthropology professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill who studied evacuation decisions in Texas during Hurricane Harvey, noted it will become more important to teach people how to safely shelter in place.

  • Plan your route: If you do plan to evacuate to a more inland hotel or motel, checking whether or not a particular location is operational is imperative during COVID-19. Various counties across the state have imposed curfews and travel restrictions so you should check along your route for any possible issues.
  • Understand your town’s emergency plan: During a typical large-scale evacuation, emergency managers have used buses to move people out of harm’s way and they have converted schools into shelters. But, given social distancing protocol related to COVID-19, Sam Rogers, the regional disaster program officer for the American Red Cross serving Eastern N.C., said they are considering the use of vacant hotels and dorms to provide evacuees with more individual space.
Protect your Investment

Preparing your home physically for hurricane season is important, but just as important is preparing your insurance policies to accurately reflect your home’s value and to properly cover the potential damage that typically comes along with a hurricane.

  • Don’t forget flood and windstorm insurance: Standard homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage, which is different than water damage from a burst pipe or leaky shower. “Homeowners with flood insurance experience faster recoveries,” said North Carolina Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry. “Flood insurance is key to recovering quicker and with more resilience.” It is typical for flood insurance policies to take up to 30 days to become effective, so waiting until the storm in on the horizon is not a smart choice.

Similar to flood insurance, most standard homeowners’ insurance policies do not specifically cover wind damage caused by hurricanes. You should contact your insurance company to find out the specifics of your policy.

  • Gather your documents: Information such as policy numbers, emergency contact information, bank documents, lists of household items, and more should be gathered and stored in a waterproof container, or on the Cloud or similar internet-based storage network. Ready NC provides homeowners with guidance for gathering your vital records.
  • Prepare your home: This is a great time to perform a check of the exterior of your home and remove any loose tree limbs, check for unsecured items, and ensure that your windows and doors are watertight. You may want to also consider installing hurricane shutters if your home doesn’t already have them.

Inside your home, you can prepare by creating an emergency kit containing essential food, water, and supplies to last at least three days. However, Sprayberry notes, “Other states are going to be loath to share resources because most people have been working pretty hard for a while now, and they’ve got their own problems.” Which means local response efforts will be stretched thin. Stocking up on extra non-perishable items in anticipation of the fact you may be without power for more than three days is a good idea during the unique landscape of COVID-19.

Stay Informed

During hurricane season, and all year long, you can sign up to receive weather and other emergency alerts through a variety of national and local apps and notification initiatives.

  • FEMA App: This app, available for Apple and Android, provides users with weather alerts for up to five locations, provides emergency safety tips, and helps you find emergency shelters and disaster recovery centers in your area.
  • County Emergency Management Agencies: Many North Carolina counties or municipal governments are offering free alters to your phone or email. An alphabetical list of services can be found on the North Carolina Department of Public Safety’s
  • National Weather Service: On this website, you’ll find a round-up of apps, websites, and services along with descriptions of services and price for the service (when applicable) in an easy to read chart.

Mother nature won’t change her plans because we’re dealing with a global pandemic. While preparation is always best at the onset of hurricane season, planning ahead, thoroughly prepping, and staying informed are the best ways to ensure the safety of you and your home.


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