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    WHEN THE STORM THREATENS: Refill special medications. Get cash (ATMs may not work for days after). Don’t charge credit cards to the limit; you might need extra cash after the storm. Get supplies. Follow instructions in this guide for food and water. Don’t fill gasoline cans until right before the storm; they are a fire hazard. Fill vehicle fuel tank. Gas stations could run out and some will not have power to run pumps. Check your car’s battery, water, oil. Make sure you have a spare tire and buy aerosol kits that fix and inflate flats. Check fire extinguishers. If you own a boat, make necessary preparations. Prepare your pool. Don’t drain it. If you own a plane, have it flown out or secured. WHEN THE STORM IS APPROACHING: Get shutters, storm panels or plywood in place on windows. If you haven’t installed sockets, attach with wood screws; they’re better than nails and do less damage. Don’t tape windows; tape can create daggers of glass and in the heat can later bake onto panes. Remove swings and tarps from swing sets. Tie down anything you can’t bring in. Check for loose rain gutters, moldings. Move grills, patio furniture and potted plants into your house or garage. If you do any last-minute pruning, take clippings inside so they don’t become hazards in the wind. Disconnect and remove satellite dish or antenna from your roof. Check your mailbox. If it’s loose, secure or remove it. Remove roof turbines and cap holes with screw-on caps. Unsecured turbines can fly off and create a large hole for rain to pour through. Prepare patio screening. It usually is built to sustain tropical-force winds, but with higher winds, it can separate from the frame. Officials recommend you remove a 6-foot panel on each side to let wind pass through. Pull out the tubing that holds screening in frame to remove screen. Secure and brace external doors, especially the garage door and double doors. Move vehicles out of flood-prone areas and into garages if possible. If not, park cars away from trees and close to homes or buildings. Don’t turn off your natural gas at the main meter. Only emergency or utility people should do that.
  • Shutters and window coverings Shutters require regular maintenance Do a trial run now to make sure your shutter system is functioning properly. If you have removable panels, get them out to see if any are missing or bent. Make sure you have enough mounting fasteners. If not, hardware stores often carry extras. Make sure mounting tracks are clean and debris-free. Apply some light machine oil to lubricate parts and deter rust. Permanently applied shutter systems, such as roll-up, Bahama or accordion shutters should be serviced yearly (twice yearly, if you live on the beach) by a professional, especially if the system is motorized. If rollers are accessible, they can be sprayed with aerosol “white grease,” according to Bill Feeley, president of the InternationalHurricane Protection Association. All motors should be professionally serviced. Owners of newly built homes with shutter systems should make sure their builder demonstrates how to use the system and that all parts are provided before moving in. Missing or wrong-sized components are common, according to Feeley. “The homeowner assumes they fit and then when the storm is bearing down, they find out they don’t,” he said. — Barbara Marshall Contact numbers International Hurricane Protection Association: (844)516-4472, www.inthpa.com American Shutter Systems Association: 800-432-2204, www.amshutter.org   Least expensive option: Plywood Shutter orders and backlogs rise near the height of storm season. So the time to choose your coverings, if you haven’t already, is now. The least expensive option is plywood. Plywood does not meet Florida Building Code specifications unless it’s installed according to code. To ensure code compliance, you’ll need a permit from your local building department. However, if a storm is close and survival is the goal, follow instructions in the accompanying graphic for correct installation.
  • Age and improper installation caused most roof failures in the 2004 and 2005 hurricanes. Which kinds survived? Metal roofs had the fewest problems, followed by tiles applied with concrete or foam adhesive. Nailed-on tiles didn’t fare as well. Shingle roofs came off in the thousands. When was your roof installed? Roofs installed after the mid-1990s, when building codes began to change statewide after Hurricane Andrew, survived better than those installed earlier. Shingle roofs How old is your shingle roof? Shingles become brittle and lose adhesion in the Florida sun after about 12 years even if they were properly installed. Has your shingle roof been re-roofed on top of old shingles? If so, beware. Large segments of those newer layers flew off in the high winds. Tile roofs How was your roof tile applied? Tiles applied with only concrete or foam adhesive fared better than nailed-on or screwed-on tiles, which can begin leaking after seven to 10 years. As with shingles, age affects performance. Flat roofs How many layers or ‘plys’ make up your flat roof? A three- or four-ply interlining (under the roof coating) is generally better than two. Expect a multi-layered flat roof to last 15 to 18 years. Metal roofs Is your metal roof properly attached? Metal roofs are the most expensive but also proved to be the most hurricane-resistant. If the roofers used the correct attachment method, either screws or clips, the wind will have a difficult time getting underneath metal roof panels. Sealants Do roof sealants and coatings help protect roofs from high winds? “I don’t recommend them,” says Joe Byrne, a roofing industry consultant and owner of Byrne Roofing in West Palm Beach, who says sealants can make shingles more brittle, affecting adhesion. Where to verify a roofer’s valid license: State licenses: www.myflorida.com Palm Beach County: (561) 233-5525, www.pbcgov.com/pzb Martin County: (772) 288-5482 St. Lucie County: (772) 462-1672 or (772) 462-1673 Okeechobee: (863) 763-5548 Price-gouging hot line: (866) 966-7226 Report unlicensed contractors at (866) 532-1440 — Barbara Marshall
  • Trees should be trimmed by early June, before storms threaten. Many municipalities have “amnesty” weeks before storm season, when you can deposit more than the allowable limit of yard debris. Call municipalities for more information. Call a professional. Trees trimmed by a professional arborist are far less likely to go down in a storm. Thinning a tree allows wind to blow through its canopy, offering less wind resistance in a storm. Prune young trees to create a single leader, which will grow into a strong trunk. To minimize damage to a mature tree, eliminate weak branches and reduce the length of limbs at a tree’s sides. Don’t remove interior branches, as this can make a tree unbalanced. Hatracked trees become sails. Removing a tree’s canopy encourages bushy growth, which makes a tree top heavy and wind-resistant. Some hatracked trees “sailed” directly to the ground. Hatracking is illegal. ‘Lifted’ trees mean broken branches. “Lifting” is a common practice where the lower branches are removed to provide clearance underneath. Lifting contributes to branch breakage and makes the tree top heavy. Don’t wait until the storm is threatening to prune. If the trash pickup doesn’t get to your curb before the storm strikes, you’ve created a pile of potential missiles. Coconuts behave like cannonballs in high winds. Remove them well before a storm hits. If trees are too tall for you to reach, hire a tree trimmer. More hurricane tree protection tips Tips for your yard Take in hanging pots and baskets. Secure or take in pots from shadehouses. Secure young trees with additional stakes. Don’t remove fruit. If you put it in a trash pile and the pile isn’t picked up, the fruit may fly around in the wind. Tree-dwelling bromeliads, staghorn ferns and orchids can be secured with fishing line. Take in or tie up any piles of yard or construction debris. Take in all garden furniture, grills, tiki torches and other outdoor items. (Do not sink furniture in swimming pool.) Consider removing gates and trellises. Palms, native trees fared best through 3 hurricanes In high wind, palms will bend but not always break. Since they originated in the tropics and subtropics, their supple trunks have adapted to hurricanes. Plant palms in clumps around the edge of your garden (not near the house) to block the wind and protect more fragile plants inside. Although fronds will be damaged in a storm, most of these palms will recover. Ficus trees come down easily in storms Ficus trees are not meant for residential yards. They grow to 70 feet with a massive span of shallow roots, and come down easily in high winds. If you already have a ficus, have it professionally trimmed before hurricane season begins. (If you have Australian pine and ficus in your yard, consider removing them.) Stake small trees as a storm approaches with stakes driven at least 8 inches into the ground. Trim large masses of vines so they don’t pull down fences. Lay arches and trellises on the ground and anchor with rope. Fast-growing, brittle trees should never be planted in hurricane country, no matter how quickly you need shade. STRONG TREES Gumbo limboCocoplumCypressDahoon hollyGeiger treeButtonwoodJamaica caperMasticIronwoodLive oakSand oakRed bayRed mapleCypressSea grapeStopperStrangler fig BRITTLE TREES(Consider removing these trees from your yard.) Australian pineEarleaf acaciaFicus (ficus benjamina, weeping fig)Bishopwood (Bischofia)CarrotwoodHong Kong orchidTabebuiaLaurel oakMelaleucaScheffleraBlack oliveJacarandaJava plumNorfolk Island pineRoyal poincianaSilk oak STORM-SAFE PALMS Cabbage palm (sabal palm)Canary Island date palmChristmas palm (adonidia)Coconut palmFlorida thatch palmFoxtail palmRobellini palm (Pygmy date palm)Royal palmMajesty palmPaurotis palmThatch palms Note: Queen palms are the exception. They have a very low wind tolerance.
  • Boat insurance: Coverages vary widely See if your policy covers you for moving your boat out of danger when a storm is approaching. Boats are a unique line in the insurance industry, one that is not regulated. It is insurance for watercraft, whether a powerboat, a sailboat, a yacht or some other marine vehicle. What does boat insurance cover? Insurance needs differ depending on the type of watercraft that you own. Your policy will explain what is covered and what is excluded. It is getting easier to find limited coverage, for example the amount of the loan the vessel secures if it is less than book value and liability coverage. By limiting coverage, insurance can be more affordable. Check with your agent. Most policies cover physical damage to the hull, sails, machinery, furniture, and other equipment normally used on board. Most perils are covered, including vandalism, malicious mischief, even damage from latent defects of workmanship. Policies also cover damage to another boat or dock, and injury or death to another person as a result of your negligent operation or ownership of the boat. Most policies cover boat trailers against physical loss or damage from any external cause. If you, your guests or family are injured while on board, the policy provides payment for incidental medical expenses. The policy coverage provides compensation liability for injury to persons employed by you who may work on your boat, but are not crew members. To be covered, they cannot be employed by your boat yard. Most importantly, understand what your insurance includes when you purchase it. Make sure you have contractual liability coverage, which many marinas now require. Boats out of water fare better in storm Don’t ever consider staying on your boat in a storm. Make arrangements now for how you will store your boat. Here are the types of places you should try: A garage or a storage building inland. Studies show boats stored ashore are more likely to survive than those in the water. Try to store boats above the anticipated storm surge level. Storing on high-rise racks is high-risk. A “hurricane hole,” which is a small, protected body of water, such as one of the small coves naturally protected off the Intracoastal Waterway or St. Lucie River. A well-protected marina or dock. If the marina is too close to open bodies of water or protected only by a low sea wall, it can be vulnerable to large waves and storm surge. Note: State law lets marinas, at the owner’s expense, remove or secure vessels left at their docks when a storm is approaching. It also helps marinas and municipalities clean up wrecked or abandoned boats. Finding a secure spot for boat on land Remove outboard engine if possible. An engine might help weigh down a lighter boat but could cause a heavier boat to damage its trailer. Pick a site away from trees and power lines. Do not park between buildings, where wind tunnels can develop. Remove electrical equipment and strip all loose gear. Use wooden blocks at the trailer’s wheels. Deflate tires. If your boat is on a trailer, lash it to the trailer and tie trailer down to something secure. Ground anchors are best. If you don’t have a trailer and your boat is small (does not have electrical gear and carpeting), fill it with water and tie it to the most secure thing you can find in your yard. If the boat is very small, turn it upside down and lash it to the ground or put it in the garage and leave the car outside. In-water boats If you are taking the boat out of the area, leave well before the storm. Once an evacuation is ordered, bridges may be locked down. Don’t anchor or tie up near a floodgate. When the gate opens to allow water out, your boat will be crushed or sunk. Use lines on both sides. Use double bow and stern lines. Use spring lines fore and aft. Don’t tie up too close to the sea wall. Water level could rise 10 feet to 20 feet above normal. If in a canal or waterway, run at least eight lines to the shore. Set them so the lines form an X. Wrap the line several times around cleats or pilings before tying off on the ground anchor. Your boat should look like a spider in a web. Use oversized lines, as large as cleats can handle, but no more than two lines per cleat to spread the tension. Anchor only to pilings and deep-rooted trees (low on tree to avoid rope slipping off if top of tree snaps.) Install fenders or even tires to protect boat from collisions. Leave just enough fuel in your boat to get it back to its normal berth after the storm. Set bilge pump on automatic. Leave cockpit drains open. Close all intake valves below the water line. Seal hatches, ports, windows, doors and vents with duct tape. Remove all gear affected by wind. Disconnect shore power to your boat. For a free guide to securing boats, contact the Boat Owners Association of the United States (BoatU.S.).  
  • Don’t drain water from pool Leave water level alone. Draining, so it won’t overflow, is pointless. If you drain it more than a few feet below normal and the ground gets saturated, the pool’s shell could pop out of the ground (even with concrete pools). Water provides weight to hold the sides and bottom in place. Turn off power to the pump motor, lights and other equipment at circuit box. Disconnect gas from heater; if possible, have your gas supplier or pool service disconnect it to be safe. Consider removing diving boards or slides if you fear they won’t be secure in high winds; if you decide to remove them, try to have a professional do it. If the motor is exposed and you live in a flood-prone area, remove the pump and store it indoors. Otherwise, try to wrap it up with a waterproof cover and tie securely. Remove automatic pool cleaners, pool blankets and covers, and take inside. Super-chlorinate or double chemicals you normally add to reduce contamination and infestation by insects. Stock up on chemicals to “shock” pool after storm. Don’t throw patio furniture in pool to keep out of the wind; pool chemicals will harm the furniture and can mar the pool finish. After the ‘all clear’ Call gas company or a pool company to reattach gas line to heater. Don’t reconnect electrical equipment until you’ve removed debris from the pool with a net and power has been restored. Make sure electrical equipment is dry. Do this as quickly as possible before bacteria starts to grow. Don’t use your vacuum; debris will clog it and the pump. Then, if the area around the pool is dry, start the pump. When draining the pool to proper level, remove cartridge filter or bypass the filter system. Super-chlorinate again. Remove vegetative debris before treating water. Add 5 gallons of chlorine (based on a 15,000-gallon pool) and start pump after inspecting electrical equipment to be sure it’s dry. Reset timers, if necessary. Closely watch the pump system through complete cycles for any problems. Wait 24 hours to see whether water clears and turns blue. If it does, test water and follow instructions. If water is darker or black, pool may need to be drained, or partially drained, treated and refilled. Call a professional Balance pool chemicals and monitor a few days. More resources: Florida Swimming Pool Association
  • Gas storage requires caution If you plan to stock up on gasoline before the storm, follow these critical safety rules: Don’t smoke near it! Store in an approved, properly labeled metal or plastic, tightly capped safety container made specifically for gasoline. Never store gasoline in glass or in non-reusable plastic containers such as milk jugs. Keep out of children’s sight and reach. Children should never handle gasoline. Never store in your home. Store outside, in a garage or lawn shed. Don’t store near a grill or a fuel-burning appliance, such as a natural gas water heater in a garage. Do not store near possible ignition sources such as electrical devices, oil- or gas-fired appliances, or devices that contain a pilot flame or a spark. Fill containers outdoors only. Place container on the ground before filling. Never fill containers inside a vehicle or in the bed of a pickup. Always keep cans tightly closed. Clean up spills promptly and discard clean-up materials properly. If a fire starts while handling gas, it’s best not to try to put it out. Leave the area immediately, and call for help. If you do try to extinguish a small fire, do not throw water on it. Try to smother it with sand or cat litter. Don’t fill cans until right before the storm. Stored fuel will grow stale and is unsafe in a hot garage. Sources: Consumer Product Safety Commission, National Fire Protection Association