FRIDAY, Sept. 8, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- As Hurricane Irma continues its rampage through the Caribbean, Florida residents are fleeing -- or bracing for -- the monster storm that will strike their state this weekend.
The most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, Irma was downgraded to a Category 4 storm on Friday morning, but still packed winds approaching 150 mph. Meteorologists said the killer hurricane -- blamed for at least 20 deaths so far -- would strike the metro Miami area of 6 million people, then barrel up the Florida peninsula before moving into Georgia and the Carolinas.
With such a wide swath of destruction possible, Florida emergency services sprung into action midweek. For example, Gov. Rick Scott activated the state National Guard on Tuesday to help with hurricane preparations and he suspended highway tolls. As early as Monday, he declared a state of emergency for the entire state.
So what can average Floridians do to protect themselves? Here's some guidance that can be found on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Ready.gov home page:
- Determine now from your local emergency management agency where the hurricane evacuation centers in your area are located, and the routes to get there.
- Keep your car in good running order, with a full tank of gas. Cars should contain emergency supplies and extra clothes.
- Organize your "go-bag." This is your disaster supply kit. Include things like a flashlight, batteries, cash, first-aid supplies, medications, and copies of your critical information in case evacuation is needed.
- If you haven't been told to evacuate and the storm is only a few hours away, start listening to storm reports every 30 minutes via radio, TV or the internet.
- Make a family communications plan. This includes discussing beforehand with family members details on how you plan to receive official emergency alerts and warnings, what your plan is for shelter, and other issues specific to your household. As the hurricane approaches, stay in touch via text or social media -- phone lines are often overloaded. Make sure your phones are fully charged before the storm hits.
You can prepare your home for the storm by:
- Trimming damaged trees and their branches to minimize the odds they'll break off and damage your home.
- Clearing and securing rain gutters.
- Strengthening vulnerable areas such as windows and doors, including garage doors. Cover all windows, ideally with shutters or 5/8-inch grade plywood.
- Bringing in loose objects that could fly around and damage your home or people nearby -- such as garbage cans, propane tanks, patio furniture.
As the storm approaches turn your fridge to the coldest setting. If you lose power, food will last longer.
Find out more about the hurricane at the U.S. National Hurricane Center.