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  1. Opinion

Column: Hurricane prep with no money

This is what a hurricane can do. These are the remains of a beachfront property in Mexico Beach that had yet to be demolished months after Hurricane Michael made landfall. [Times file photo by Douglas R. Clifford]
Published Jun. 18

The Federal Reserve says four in 10 adults don't have $400 for an emergency. If a storm is coming, what do you do? Most pre-storm lists are for people with money. What about those who don't have the cash to load up at Home Depot?

Should you ride out the storm? Homes built since 2008 under newer building codes are more likely to survive. Too bad most low- and moderate-income Floridians can't afford those homes. The next choice is a shelter. Call local emergency officials to get locations and transportation.

The two worst things that can happen to your house are the roof blowing off and storm surge. Either can tear your house apart leaving you exposed to the storm. Take your family to the strongest room at the center of the house so you have some walls protecting you. Crawl under a bed or get in the tub. Stay out of the wind and water.

If you live in a mobile home, then you must evacuate, no exceptions, says the National Hurricane Center. You must leave or you and your house could end up in Kansas.

Is your house hurricane-safe? Concrete blocks are better than wood, but even block homes were blown apart in Mexico Beach. Is your roof tied down? Are there hurricane-rated windows, a strengthened garage door? Maybe you can stay.

You can do some things a day or two before the storm. Keep the wind out by covering windows, which also prevents broken glass. Close up places where wind might get in — you don't want the wind under your roof.

You might be a week or two without electricity. You'll need foods you can prepare without cooking unless you have a propane stove. Have a way to entertain the kids, collect first aid supplies, and stock up on insect repellent. Don't get water. Instead fill containers at home. Get a saw or an ax.

Many of you aren't in safe homes, and this is not the time to be stubborn. Go to a shelter. You do not want to be caught having to walk or drive in the storm.

If you evacuate, think before you head in some random direction because hurricanes are unpredictable. Don't drive out on the interstate and run out of gas halfway to Georgia with the storm overtaking you. Your car is vulnerable and there is some discussion of reconsidering evacuations and improving shelter options.

Save money on tools at thrift or antique stores. Hammer, saw and nails can patch a hole in the roof or saw off a tree limb. A shovel or rake will reconfigure drainage. A gas chain saw, while very useful, is very expensive.

The most useful tool you have is on your shoulders. Your neighbors are like gold. Help them any way you can.

One more thing: Good luck!

Bill Newton is deputy director of the Florida Consumer Action Network, which advocates on issues including insurance, finance and utilities.

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