18 Common Hurricane Myths and Mistakes that Get People Killed

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, we saw a lot of video clips from people who, while we won’t call them idiots, were certainly doing a lot of stupid things.

Like the guy who went kitesurfing in the hurricane …

The men riding bikes in 100mph winds…

The guy who got knocked over by a wave while taking a photo…

But I don’t want to talk about these types of stupid hurricane mistakes.  Hopefully I don’t have to tell you that you that hurricanes aren’t the best time to go for a bike ride!

Even the well-educated among us can make a lot of mistakes when it comes to hurricane preparation.

Recommended Reading:

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Hurricane Mistakes before It Hits

1. Not Evacuating in Time

hurricane evacuation through heavy rains
Wishful thinking won’t help your chances of survival.  When the officials tell you to evacuate, you need to get out of dodge NOW.

2. Not Having a Bug Out Bag Packed

The faster you leave, the less likely you are to encounter traffic jams and make it to safety quickly.  Make sure you have a Bug Out Bag packed.  Don’t forget about emergency documents either.  You’ll need these later to return to your home, get medical help, or apply for assistance.

3. Not Having a Plan for Pets

Your pets are part of your family, so you need to prepare for them as well.  Read about how to make a disaster plan for your pets

4. Not Making Medical Preparations

After a natural disaster, hospitals and clinics are often filled to the capacity with victims.  There is little time or resources for patients who require regular medical care – such as if you are on dialysis or need prescriptions renewed.

Make plans for any special medical conditions you have.

  • Stockpile extra medications
  • Have a backup battery ready for wheelchairs, breathing machines, and other powered medical equipment
  • Talk to your doctor about what steps to take during emergencies

5. Not Preparing for Power Outages

A lot of people will take steps to protect their home from physical damage.  Yet, it is the power outage that gets to more people.

During Hurricane Sandy, 60-70% of their clients didn’t have any structural damage to their homes but did have power outages. This includes banks and stores.

Make sure you are ready to handle a power outage.  Read these First 12 Steps to Take After a Power Outage.

6. Taping Windows

taping windows for hurricane

There is a common myth that you should tape your windows before a storm to prevent them from shattering.  But, according to the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes taping windows is a terrible idea.

When you tape your windows, the window will still break – it will just break into huge pieces.  Those pieces of glass can fly around and result in deadly cuts.  It is better to have the windows shatter into small pieces than be pummeled by large pieces of glass!

7. Not Securing Home

Want to be responsible for accidentally killing your neighbors when your patio furniture flies through their window and impales them?  Probably not.

It is crucial that you take steps to prepare your home ahead of the hurricane. These include:

  • Boarding up windows – or use window security film
  • Turning off gas and water
  • Turning off electricity at the main if flooding is likely
  • Bringing in lawn furniture and any other items outside
  • Unplugging appliances

8. Inadequate Emergency Supplies

empty shelves before hurricane

In case you aren’t able to evacuate, you need to have hurricane supplies ready.  Stores are always wiped out days leading up to the hurricane, and won’t restock for up to weeks afterward.

Bottled water and non-perishable foods are obviously needed but don’t forget about other hurricane supplies like a bucket toilet, water purification system, and first aid kit.

Mistakes Made During the Hurricane

9. Going to the Attic

First, the water breaches the doors, so you head upstairs.  You think you are safe until you see the water coming up the steps.  Not believing it will rise any higher (and wanting to stay dry), you head up to the attic.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that they’d be better off on the roof.  There you can be spotted by rescuers.  And you don’t want to be trapped in the attic when it floods!

If you are serious about hurricane preparedness, consider installing an emergency door in your attic.

10. Using Candles

In some situations, candles are great emergency lighting.  However, you should never use candles during a hurricane.  You never know when a huge gust of wind will come in, knock the candles over, and result in a fire.

Be cautious using candles after a hurricane too.  If there is a gas leak, the candles can result in fire or explosions.

11. Going Outside during the Eye of the Storm

At the center of the hurricane is an “eye.” The hurricane eye is very calm and there might even be sunny skies as it passes over.

But never forget the eye is just passing over!

It can take anywhere from 2 to 30 minutes for the hurricane eye to pass over.  Once it does, the winds are going to pick right back up.  So don’t mistakenly think the hurricane is over and go outside, only to get swept up.

12. Opening a Window to Relieve Pressure

Another prevalent hurricane myth is that you need to open your windows a bit.  The idea is that the hurricane causes a buildup of pressure inside the home, and you’ve got to open your windows to prevent the home from bursting.

Well, physics explains why you shouldn’t open your window during a hurricane.  The winds are actually so strong that they can literally lift the roof off your home.

Mistakes after the Hurricane Passes

*Just because the hurricane is over, it doesn’t mean the danger has passed.  Many hurricane deaths actually occur in the aftermath because of these mistakes

13. Turning on Appliances that Are Wet

This is a recipe for electrical shock or fire.  Wait until everything has dried out to test your appliances

14. Walking or Driving through Floodwater

driving through flood water

Flash flooding is a huge risk after hurricanes.  Even six inches of water can move a car, not to mention knock a person off their feet and pull them under.

Don’t forget that there may be downed power lines underwater.

15. Using a Generator or Charcoal Grill inside Your Home

According to an NBC report, a huge cause of hurricane deaths occurs from carbon monoxide poisoning.  It occurs when people use generators or charcoal grills indoors.

You shouldn’t even use them in your garage or other ventilated areas because the risk is so great.  It is recommended that you keep the generator 30 feet from the home or any openings to the home.

Read more about using a generator in bad weather.

16. Turning On All Appliances At Once

Hopefully, you unplugged all of your appliances instead of just shutting down power at the main.  If you turn on the main and power up all of those appliances at once (your fridge, AC, computers, etc.), you risk an electrical surge that destroys your appliances

17. Underestimating the Infectious Disease Risk

Disease outbreaks from hurricanes aren’t usually major in developed countries like the USA. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be cautious.

There are hygiene threats from sewage floating in the water. The wet conditions could lead to specific outbreaks.  For example, Dr. Ruth Berggren warns of the risk for a Zika outbreak in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey because of all the standing water.

18. Not Wearing the Proper Gear during Cleanup

Your hurricane preparedness kit should also include gear for cleanup, such as N95 masks, heavy-duty gloves, and rubber boots. (Amazon link)

The last thing you need is to put yourself at risk of disease from infectious waste or toxic debris like asbestos.

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  1. Another tip about attics, store an ax in the attic, you may have to chop your way out through the roof. Happened in Katrina in New Orleans

    • That’s a very good tip. It’s actually fairly common now for attics in hurricane zones to have escape doors installed. I don’t live in a hurricane zone but would keep an inflatable raft and life jackets up there too.

  2. we have about 20 of those solar lights you put outside, they cost us $1 each at walmart and we have used them during power outages, and for 10 days after our last hurricane. I have a bucket with holes drilled in the lid. I put them outside during the day and put them around the house at night. Works great, no risk of fires, and not batteries to buy.

    • That’s genius about the bucket-with-holes holder. I’m definitely going to steal that idea. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  3. If you MUST tape up windows, assuming you don’t have access to at least cardboard to tape over them, do the tape in a crisscross pattern, think of like lattice fencing with all those diagonal lines both ways. Less glass will fly everywhere.

    The thing about Gov Scott telling most of Florida (especially Polk where I live and had the eye pass over my home!) is there’s only about 3 major highways to GTFO of Florida, they’re backed up forever on normal means. I-4 is the world’s biggest parking lot in random spots for no reason. Fastest ways out of FLORIDA is plane and Amtrak. Or just don’t move to Florida, but I can’t just up and leave forever, we own a small business.
    We own a small computer repair shop, so after all these disastrous summer storms and hurricanes, we often fix things fried by electric surges and lightning strikes and sometimes water damage.

    A friend told us about this professional plastic stuff we taped with industrial duct tape over our store windows. It’s heavy and thick, forgot the brand. We found it at Lowe’s. White box with black/red writing. Wanna say 3M makes it. Would be great for window protection AND shelter-proofing.

    Glass containers with any way to rubber or plastic sheath as protection from breakage is golden, too. Found these water bottles that are GLASS for the bottle part but the outer protection that insulates also prevents breakage. Ello brand ones found at Target. Target is a bit spendy on bottles and containers so stalk big stores and Amazon for things like this.

    Always have a P-38 AND P-50 together on a big key ring, gotta open the old fashioned style cans somehow. Army brat knows better than can opener that’s NOT Lefty Friendly. The P-38/50 are easy for even lefties to use!

  4. GREAT INFO!! I thought I was “in the know” about taping windows and opening windows, THANK YOU for straightening me out!!!! This info truly could save lives!!!!


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