Simple Steps Can Help You Be Prepared for a Major Hurricane

Aug 10, 2018

 

Matt Mitko, expert tree climber, removing a tree at a home in Falmouth, MA.
Credit Hayley Fager

If you drive around the Cape this time of year, you’ll probably hear the tree crews before you see them. Matt Mitko does residential tree removal, and he’s exhausted.

“We’re barely done with our winter emergencies and people are already concerned about hurricane season,” he said.

Mitko's been cleaning up damage from winter storms for months.

“And of course hurricane season is always bad, too, because the trees are full of leaves. When we get those kind of storms, or even the remnants of a hurricane that gets downgraded to a tropical storm, they can be ferocious and cause tons of damage.”


Some people get sentimental about cutting down trees. It is hard to watch this huge maple come down. But once people talk to their insurance agents, it’s easier to bring in the chain saws. I spoke with John DeMello, the CEO of a home insurance agency on the Cape.

“The biggest vulnerability, the biggest driver of damage, are trees.”

DeMello says cutting them down could save your home.

“And what I would say to a homeowner is: 'It’s not only is it going to save your home, it’s going to potentially save your life.' Everybody can look around their home, look around their property, and identify the trees that are within striking distance to the home.”

He also tells people to make sure they don’t have missing or old roof shingles. And to protect openings like garage doors and windows with plywood.

Maybe you’ve cut down your problem trees and now you’re wondering what to do when the storm actually hits. Maybe you’re someone like Barbara O’Connor. I met her at her home in Orleans.

“My husband and I built this house 22 years ago when he retired. He passed away 8 years ago, and so I'm here living alone,” she said.

O'Connor is 77. People in her demographic are especially vulnerable to major storms. The Orleans Council on Aging recently organized a panel on emergency preparedness to help their members get ready.

“People were really intent on learning what they can do," Barbara said of the event. "I think we all got a little taken aback by this past winter. So, we have to be ready. And at this age, you want to be ready.”

The panel listed specific dangers for hurricane season. People should look out for high winds, flooding, flash floods, power outage and downed trees and wires. They also explained how to get to shelters, and they warned people that when the power is off-and-on, don’t trust food that’s been in the food or the freezer.

 

O'Connor took home some information packets, including a list of things to have in her emergency kit.

She read some items from the list: “Water. A gallon per person per day for at least three days. Well, that’s three gallons of water. Ready to eat canned meats, fruits, vegetables, juices, oh granola bars that’s a good idea. I didn’t think of that. Personal things, eyeglasses, prescription medicines.”

These information packets and the event at the Orleans Center for Aging were organized by two Americorps Volunteers, Cynthia Slemmer and Conor Terry. They started the presentation as a side project, but they found a big need and it became their capstone project of the year.

“I think that it’s important to make sure that everyone is informed so that when these storms do hit that they are as prepared as they possibly can be to make sure that they’re safe,” Slemmer said.

Terry talked about the importance of staying calm when a storm comes. “We recommend if you’re going to go to a shelter you bring books, you bring music, you bring games. You can bring your pets. It’s a requirement that the shelters have to accept them. Keeping yourself entertained. Bringing a crossword puzzle stuff like that,” he said.

Barbara is ready for that part. Last time the power went out during a storm, she was huddled in her bed reading and eating peanut butter sandwiches.

For Barbara, it was helpful to go through the steps of making a plan. She’s going to invest in a generator and knows who to call if she needs help. Her worst case scenario doesn’t seem so scary, now that she’s ready.