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Surviving a Hurricane While Traveling

I like to shake things up when I travel, but hunker down through a hurricane? No thanks. Trouble is, traveling off season (to save money) sometimes means I'm in a place where the weather isn't exactly perfect. For some catastrophic storms, such as Katrina (2005), Sandy (2012), Harvey (2017) or the double-whammy of Hurricanes Irma and Maria (2017) for example, survival is just plain luck.

But a little storm know-how can improve your chances.

Safety FirstHurricane season in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America officially stretches from June to late November. The worst storms usually happen in July and early August as the hottest months when the storms can easy gain power - but not always. Katrina hit New Orleans on August 29 in 2005. The twin hurricanes of Irma and Maria ripped through a large swath of the Caribbean back to back in a matter of days early September 2017.

If find yourself in the middle of an unexpected storm, prioritize quickly.

Passports, ID and credit cards...

  • hurricane Katrina flooding (courtesy of open.edu)Know where your passport is at all times. If you have to evacuate, having your passport with you (instead of floating down a river) will get you home sooner.
  • If you lose your passport, ID and credit cards, find your country's consulate. Most are reachable 24/7 (especially during an emergency) - you'll likely have to meet with someone in person. Canadians and Americans can normally obtain an emergency passport within 24 hours, as long as there's someone back home who can vouch for you.
  • If you have your ID, but not your passport, find a Western Union Office, which are virtually everywhere. It's expensive, but you can usually get money within an hour.

On the road...

Torrential downpours often accompany a hurricane - take the warning.

  • Rainforest damage after Irma and Maria 2018Stop at the nearest restaurant, public washroom or mall and follow instructions of those in charge. If you're alone in the building, seek out an interior room, stay away from windows and cover your head.
  • If there are no buildings nearby, look for a culvert, overpass or bridge. If your vehicle will fit inside, all the better.
  • No culvert and no building? Stay in your vehicle. Studies show that sedans and mini-vans fare better in hurricanes and tornados than mobile homes, RV's and inadequately reinforced buildings.

Plan ahead...

Hurricanes and tornados come with lots of warnings (most of the time) so pay attention to the weather when you're traveling. This might sound like a no-brainer but you'd be amazed at the amount of travelers who seem to get caught unprepared. Look up once in a while and listen to the weather reports.

Check what's swirling in the hurricane world with the Android App: Tropical Hurricane Tracker, the Apple App: Hurricane Tracker or via the National Hurricane Center on your digital device.

Keep your cell phone charged - and make sure you've got your consulate's number on speed dial.

When a warning is upgraded to a watch, start preparing for the worst. Fill the bathtub with water, gather what you need to survive in one bag and stay indoors. If you can, find these items for your survival bag:

  • Food - chocolate bars, gum, candy (stuff high in fat and carbohydrates)
  • St. Maarten after Hurricane IrmaMedical supplies like bandaids, sanitizer and clothing that can be ripped into strips
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone, GPS or iPod - anything that can be used to transmit information
  • Diapers, feminine pads or tampons - they can be used to staunch blood flow from wounds
  • Flashlight and/or candles
  • Blade, scissors, bottle opener, knife, screwdriver
  • Sharpie marker - if you've survived a disaster, you'll understand why. If you haven't, just trust us.

Hopefully you'll never find yourself in the path of the storm. But if you do, the best advice we can give is stay calm and help those around you. Panicking is natural, but it helps no one weather the tragedy of human suffering during a catastrophe.

Ever been caught in a storm? What did you do to survive? Would you change anything? Share your stories with us here, on Twitter or on Facebook!

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I am a little concerned about this situation, as we are traveling to Florida in October and boarding a cruise to the Bahamas. I'll be bookmarking this page!

Growing up in good ole NC, I have survived my share of storms. Actually, where I sit currently (on a barrier island) has been under water many times. Staying on an island is scary. We leave if it is over a CAT 1. The most important thing for us is to fill our gas tanks at the first inkling that there may be a storm. Water, medicines, non perishable food, they're all really important. Honestly, if it is a big storm, alcohol later serves as pay for work. We stock up on EVERYTHING. We start eating out of the freezer days before (like we did tonight, getting ready for Earl). You don't want much to go bad. Then we tie up all the trash cans, secure grills, and hold on for dear life :)

Thanks for visiting Lisa and for such great advice! Hope that Earl doesn't linger and cause any trouble. Good luck! Julia

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