It's amazing what people will believe about how to stay safe in a hurricane. Here's what's true and not true about protecting your windows and yourself in a big storm.
Hurricane season 2016 is here. It starts in mid-May in the Eastern North Pacific Ocean, begins in early June in the Atlantic Ocean, and ends in both regions in late November.
People from hurricane country — including the U.S. Eastern Atlantic and Gulf Coast region — know a lot about protecting lives and property ahead of a big storm. And yet, a few dangerous myths about storm preparation live on.
Here are four, and the truths they obscure:
Myth No. 1: Taping windows prevents breakage
Windows and glass doors crisscrossed with electrical tape or duct tape are a familiar sight when a hurricane is coming. But tape doesn’t protect glass.
“The problem of taping windows is that instead of little pieces you get big shards of glass,” says Tommy Patterson. He is a technical expert who trains glass repairers at Glass Doctor franchises across the United States.
People sometimes use tape because it’s what they can afford. But if you work ahead you can buy or scrounge cheap 5/8-inch plywood for the job, doing one window at a time.
Boarding up windows only works, though, if your board is attached to the window frame. Otherwise, a boarded window can fall out.
“Look at storm shutters,” Patterson says. “They are designed to be attached to the frame of the window, not just the glass.”
A better plan:
- Prepare boards in advance because, in an emergency, supplies are scarce or overpriced and you’re under pressure. Follow directions in this Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel guide for hurricane protection for windows.
- Measure windows separately and accurately, recording measurements.
- Next, cut 5/8-inch plywood into coverings that protect the window and overlap at least part of the window frame.
- Store the coverings in an easy-to-reach, clean, dry spot with the tools and supplies you’ll need for quick installation.
- Replacing windows with hurricane-proof glass is another option. Cost: $35-$50 per square foot (includes new window frames and layered hurricane glass).
Myth No. 2: Crack a window so glass won’t implode.
Another popular myth advises opening a window or two just a crack when a storm is coming, to equalize inside and outside air pressure and prevent windows from imploding.
It’s true that air pressure can be low in a hurricane. “The atmospheric pressure is so low that it can suck the windows into the house,” Patterson says. Still, cracking a window won’t prevent that. He explains:
“The wind is going to be 100 miles an hour. Think about something 100 miles per hour going into your house. Cracking a window is not going to make a hill of beans difference.”
A better plan: If you have the funds, install steel or aluminum storm shutters on the exterior of your home’s windows. Cost: $7-$8 per square foot and up, according to the Sun Sentinel.
Myth No. 3: Leaning against glass prevents breaking
You probably don’t need me to explain why leaning against glass in a storm is really dumb idea. But just in case: Low pressure could blow broken glass into the home, and high winds turn ordinary objects into flying weapons that can penetrate a window, injuring you.
A better plan: Another window protection uses panels of super-tough, translucent fabrics like Kevlar. Grommets in the textile attach to fastenings or tracks on the house. The Sun Sentinel says one brand, Armor Screen, costs about $15 a square foot. See photos of installed screens on the website of AstroGuard, another hurricane fabric company.
Myth No. 4: High winds are the biggest danger
Storm-force winds seem scariest and most-dramatic. The fact is, though, that water — storm surges and inland flooding — are responsible for more deaths in hurricanes than the wind, says the National Weather Service.
Either is a bad way to die, though. Hurricanes are seriously dangerous. Only fools ignore evacuation warnings.
A better plan: No amount of home preparation will save you if you don’t leave when you should. Patterson, whose uncle died in Hurricane Katrina, says:
“His neighbors, everybody, they did all the normal stuff they’re supposed to do to protect their property and their homes but they neglected to protect their lives.
“He lived there for 40 years and he’d been through so many hurricane seasons and he thought, ‘Oh, I can wait it out.'”
Looking for more hurricane planning tips? You’ll find them here:
- The 4 Essentials for Surviving a Hurricane
- 6 Ways to Ready Your Home for Hurricane Season
- 3 Steps to Prepare Your Family for a Disaster
What’s the state of your hurricane planning? Share it with us by posting a comment below or at Money Talks News’ Facebook page.