I’m from Florida, so even though I live in Prague, I’m watching Hurricane Irma like a protective mother hen worrying about her chicks back home. I know my people will be fine, because they’ve weathered many South Florida storms. But it struck me how disorienting it must be to be visiting in the Caribbean or South Florida while this kind of disaster is on its way to the coast. So for the benefit of people who have never experienced a hurricane, here are some tips:
Hurricanes are no joke
I can’t emphasize this enough. The frustrating thing about hurricanes is that the track is unpredictable, so you may be annoyed to find that you did all this preparation for nothing before a storm veers in another direction. But rest assured, a category 4 or 5 storm will be a disaster wherever it hits. If you’ve never experienced the kinds of winds that accompany a category 4 hurricane, think about what happens to a person that gets into a car accident at 100 mph. Now add 25-50 mph to that. A sustained wind of 125 mph will uproot trees, level unsecured structures, and send flying debris all over the place. So unless you fancy getting decapitated by a Stop sign on your holiday, I suggest you stay inside.
Seek shelter, stay in it
Because it bears repeating, stay inside! I’m always amazed by people who go to the beach to see the storm approaching the shore. At the risk of sounding like an obnoxious meteorologist who is also hypocritically standing on a rainy beach, things can get ugly very quickly. So save the surfing for the shores of California and watch the storm on the news from your hotel room.
Heed evacuation warnings
If your hotel is in an evacuation zone, start thinking about alternate plans. Hotels each have their own policies, so it may be helpful to communicate with the staff. They may refer you to a shelter, a hotel outside the evacuation zone, or recommend you cut your vacation short to avoid the hassle altogether. But paying attention to evacuation warnings is even more important if you’re staying at an AirBnB, because you won’t have a helpful concierge to guide you through evacuation. Don’t linger if you don’t have to. Because in a worst case scenario, you could put yourself in serious danger. And even if nothing happens to your building, you could end up getting stranded somewhere that is inaccessible by transportation because of flooding, downed power lines, or scattered debris.
Don’t wait until the last minute
If you are in an evacuation zone, act quickly, because you and everyone else on Miami Beach are going to be heading to the mainland. So avoid several hours of traffic and get yourself to a safe zone as quickly as possible. If you don’t have a rental car and you’re relying on transportation, this is essential. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to find a cab, a bus, or an Uber. And if you think storm surge is disastrous, you haven’t experienced Uber’s surge pricing.
Consider cutting your vacation short
As destructive and scary as major hurricanes can be, if your structure and your family survived, the aftermath is the worst part. You could be out of power or without clean water for weeks. For people who live on the coast, it’s an inconvenience that they just have to live with. But if you’re visiting from Wisconsin, you can save yourself the headache by leaving before the hurricane hits. You may not even be able to get home after the storm if damage to the airport grounds departing flights. Consider your options very carefully, listen to forecasters, and don’t be stubborn. You certainly don’t want to spend part of your vacation stuck in a hurricane shelter.
If you do stick around, weather the storm like a local, with plenty of booze and bottled water, board games, and sex.