Last updated: 10:10 AM ET, Mon August 11 2014

What to Do When Your Vacation Becomes an Evacuation

Features & Advice | Tom Bastek | August 08, 2014

What to Do When Your Vacation Becomes an Evacuation

With two Hurricanes bearing down on Hawaii, vacations and evacuations are at a very real crossroads.  In preparedness for storm Iselle, the state is opening shelters, keeping people out of the water (they are expecting 12-18 foot surf) and suspending public transportation.

This year also marks the 25th Anniversary of Hurricane Hugo and it’s landfall in South Carolina and the later into the summer that we get, the higher the amount of named storms that will be forming up in the Atlantic Ocean. 

For the residents of the coastal communities, hurricane preparedness/evacuation is drilled into their heads.  For the vacationers coming from other locations, you may not at all be familiar with what to do should you be traveling during the Hurricane Season.  Here is a quick breakdown:

Plan Ahead

The Hurricane Season runs from June 1 to Dec. 1 but they can develop earlier and later than that period.  August, September and October are the busiest months by far.  Keep in mind if you are vacationing during this time period, Travel Insurance could be the thing for you. 

All of the coastal states have Emergency Management websites that will clue you in to the what, where and hows of hurricane preparedness and evacuation procedures.  Florida actually bundles their hurricane preparedness in with their severe weather guide because with the amount of outdoor activities in the state.

In South Carolina, they go one step further and actually have their South Carolina Hurricane Guide available at any Walgreens in the state.  It has all of the information you need to properly prepare, track and evacuate for a hurricane.

Keep in Communication

As you can probably guess, tourists aren’t really “in the know” when it comes to the news of the day.  When they are on vacation, there is the whole, “I want to escape from it all” mentality.  Unfortunately, you really need to pay a little more attention if you are travelling to the coastal states during the hurricane season. 

“Check the weather every day,” advises Julia Jarema from the North Carolina Emergency Management, “Everyone likes to check out when they go on vacation, I do too, but you have to keep in touch with the weather forecast.”

The good news is that most bartenders, hotel staff, and retailers in coastal areas keep their fingers on the pulse of hurricane tracking and most anyone can give you the up-to-the-minute details on the currently named storms out there off the coast. 

Download an App

Aaron Gallaher of the Florida Division of Emergency Management recommends that you download an app, “There are plenty of Apps on the market right now that have alerts for severe weather, and so even if you aren’t following the forecast, they will go off in an extreme situation.”

AccuWeather, The Weather Channel and quite a few others have emergency alerts that would wake you out of deep sleep should you need it.  North Carolina even has their own app called ReadyNC which provides “the latest weather, traffic and hazard information and tells you what you need to know to be safe in all types of emergencies.”

Be Flexible

Just because you need to evacuate the beautiful beach you were on doesn’t mean you have to cancel your vacation.  Gallaher explains, “Florida, like all coastal states is very diverse, with many activities all across the state.  If you are being moved away from the Gulf Coast it doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t be able to enjoy the Atlantic Ocean side of the state. Have a backup plan in mind and ask the what-if’s before you go.” 

Remember if you are traveling with a pet and have to evacuate, you will have to make reservations for the same pet-friendly accommodations that you would make normally. 

Don’t Panic; It’s Not the End of the World

With the technology that is around today, hurricane tracking and preparation is better than it has ever been.  North Carolina had to deal with evacuations already this year with Hurricane Arthur.  The folks in NC are so seasoned when it comes to Hurricanes that they manage the evacuations at the county level.

“With Arthur we did have some evacuations, but it was just some communities, not even whole counties,” Jarema said.  There is always one thing that can help if you really have checked out your brain for the duration of vacation.  Derrec Becker from the South Carolina Emergency Management Division reminds us, “If you have nothing else, no cell phone, no Hurricane Guide, no Radio, just follow the blue Hurricane Evacuation Route signs and they will lead you to safety.”

For more information on Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida

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