Sometimes, survivalist enthusiasts develop a sense of invulnerability through sheer preparation. This mental framework may work well in some situations, but it can be dangerous to compete against Mother Nature herself. This article will discuss a deadly phenomenon that affects thousands of Americans each year: tropical storms. In addition to discussing the storm itself, we will also look at a storm’s second-cousin, which is a flood.
Hurricane Flood in the United States
Since 2010, there have been 15 massive tropical storms affecting the United States, accumulating 390 fatalities. It is impossible to estimate how many total people directly faced the effects of the hurricane flood; however, with nearly 100% certainty, each of these 390 people were either unable to evacuate the affected area in time, or chose to take their chances and ride out the storm. In either case, if you are truly interested in surviving, your highest probability of success is to simple avoid doing battle with Mother Nature, and evacuate to a safe area. If you are unable or unwilling to do so, then read on….
Use of modern meteorology
Modern meteorology generally gives us a few days’ worth of warning of an impending storm. If you are in a hurricane-prone area, you should already have some basic home preparations in place: storm shutters (or plywood), secure roofing, and a yard relatively free of debris. Tree branches should be trimmed and objects secured to minimize home damage from high winds and floods. Within the house, prepare for some flooding on lower floors by securing furniture and elevating valuable items. Maintain digital cloud-based copies of important documents in the event your computer and physical files perish. And as with most natural disasters, keep at least a 5-day supply of non-perishable food and fresh water (1 gallon a day per person for drinking, plus extra for hygiene) and flashlight/lantern batteries available near your hole-up area. Have a plan for personal sanitation, and establish an eating-sleeping routine.
As the storm picks up, the safest areas in a house are usually interior ground-level rooms. Stay away from doors and windows, even if they are boarded up. It is common for structures to sway in high winds, as they are designed to bend before they break. Consider tap water to be contaminated, and expect electrical power and telecommunications to go dark. If the wind appears to die down suddenly, remember that the eye of the storm may be calm, and remain prepared for a resurgence in chaos.
After the storm dies down, you may not be out of the woods yet. As dangerous as high winds are, it is actually flooding that claims the most lives in a tropical storm. The major dangers here are drowning, blunt force trauma, and infection. This phase of a storm may last days, or even weeks.
By this point, it should be safe to enter higher levels of your home. It may be tempting to jump from a second-story window into the standing water; don’t do it! Most floods have swift currents that may not be visible from the surface, and you don’t know how deep the water is, or what objects may have drifted below the surface. Any time you leave your home (even a patio or roof), wear floatation devices in case of an accidental swim.
Strong currents tend to carry objects into other objects at high speeds, and they don’t discriminate between humans and trees. If you inadvertently enter the water (with your floatation device), you are now in danger of being unpleasantly swept into an unforgiving object, or to having such an object be swept into you. Keep your head above the water, and try to keep your feet downstream to absorb any impacts until you can latch on to a stationary object (pillar, light pole, tree). Once you can get stabilized, try to secure yourself, and be on the lookout for other fast-moving objects being carried your way. To Mother Nature, you have become a bowling pin. Try to remain secured until help arrives, or you can safely make your way to a more advantageous position.
The longest-lasting and least-obvious impact of flooding is the risk of infection. Flood water tends to carry all sorts of obnoxious contaminants: mud, garbage, sewage, oil, and more bacteria than hand sanitizer knows what to do with (including that pesky 0.1%). Absolutely do not drink it, or use it for personal hygiene—even if you boil it first. Discard any food that has come into contact with flood water, and do not trust your tap water. Wash or sanitize your hands to prevent ingesting residue when you eat. Wash your body with soap and water; prolonged contact with dirty water can lead to skin and facial infections.
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Whether you are caught by circumstance, or you want to test your skills, you should now have the information you need to have the best chances of besting Mother Nature in a tropical storm. Now hang on, because there’s always another storm brewing just over the horizon.