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Sunday, Jul 23, 2017
Hurricane Guide

It’s never too early to start preparing your home or boat for an approaching storm

Every hurricane season, forecasters sing the same refrain: It just takes one storm to end our state’s decade-long dry spell, so you’d better be ready. Residents generally know the basics — boarding up their windows, protecting important documents and seeking safe evacuation space — but it’s important to consider the specifics, too. Here are some important steps to keep in mind as homeowners and boat owners prepare for the arrival of hurricane season.

PROTECTING YOUR DOCUMENTS

♦ Here’s a step you can — and should — take right now, long before any storm warnings. Make a list of your important documents and prepare to make at least one copy of every single one. When a hurricane hits, you don’t want to be in the position of scrambling to find the documents that prove your identity and verify what you own.

That means insurance policies, car titles, important receipts, passports, Medicare cards, appraisal documents, medical paperwork, birth certificates, tax returns, Social Security cards — the list goes on. Don’t neglect your pet’s paperwork.

♦ Remember that your cellphone won’t do you any good if the power is off for an extended period of time. That makes it doubly important to have physical copies of your documents and photos of your belongings, helping to speed up the process of reporting storm damage.

♦ That said, it helps to have electronic scans of receipts and other documents, which the IRS accepts, saved on an external hard drive as a backup. You can also back up files on the Cloud through free and paid services such as Dropbox and Google Drive.

♦ Sporting goods stores sell watertight bags that can protect your paperwork and photos, and Pelicancases.com stocks airtight, watertight and “crushproof” cases. Some tackle and ammunition boxes with O-ring seals can also keep documents safe from water.

PROTECTING YOUR HOME

♦ When you cover your window with plywood, don’t make the mistake of drilling directly into the frame, which lets water inside. Instead, apply bolts, nails or screws to concrete or wood about every 6 inches. Act quickly: Everybody in your area will be rushing to the same stores to buy the same equipment.

♦ Experts say taping your windows doesn’t prevent them from shattering, so save yourself the trouble.

♦ When it comes to the garage door, you can buy a bracing kit from a home-improvement store. To do it yourself, use long wooden 2 by 4s to brace the door horizontally and vertically.

♦ French doors and double doors are additional vulnerable spots you’ll want to reinforce. Add extra locks or slide bolts, and pay extra attention to doors that swing inward.

♦ Give your roof and eaves a close look. The impact of a storm will likely accelerate any damage. Same goes for broken trusses or beams.

♦ Anything on your lawn that winds could turn into a projectile needs to be taken inside or secured. Do a sweep of the yard for things like lawn ornaments, old tree limbs, sports equipment and garbage cans.

PROTECTING YOUR BOAT

♦ Of course, the best course of action is to move your boat inland well before a storm hits. Dry storage in a marina or garage is preferable.

♦ If that’s not possible, take your boat up creek or a river — mitigating the effects of storm surge, which raises the water level and can break deck lines. Again, it’s best to operate with an abundance of caution. Drawbridges can lock down many hours before gale-force winds begin.

♦ Leaving your boat tied up at the marina invites more risk, but you can take a few steps to minimize damage. Remove all valuables, disconnect electronics and stow loose items, such as sails and cushions. Make sure your deck lines are strong — this is not a time to take chances. Extra-long “spring” lines help during major tidal fluctuations and are a good investment ahead of a storm.

♦ After the storm, remember that buoys and channel markers may have shifted. Move slowly, like you’re in a no-wake zone, and keep a close watch for debris, fallen trees, wrecked boats and more.

Information from Times files was used in this report. Contact Claire McNeill at cmcneill@tampabay.com.

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