The hurricane season in the Tropical Atlantic and the Wider Caribbean region starts on June first and ends on November 30. In an average year approximately 10 Tropical Storms develop and about 6 mature into hurricanes. During the hurricane season, hurricanes are most active in the months of August, September and October.
Occurrence of hurricane in our area
The ABC islands are situated in an area in the Caribbean region where the occurrences of hurricanes are very rare. Still, in a cycle of about every 100 years, these islands have been severely hit by hurricanes. This happened in 1605, 1784 and 1877. During the last century though, and up to this day, this phenomenon did not repeat itself. It is a fact that the notorious hurricanes Hazel (1954) and Ivan (2004) did not affect our island as severely as did the abovementioned “centennial hurricanes”
Hurricanes and their dangers
The greatest dangers of a hurricane are:
- Giant waves causing flooding along the shorelines;
- Winds strong enough to destroy and snatch everything in its path;
- Torrential rains causing massive flooding on our island.
Bear in mind that there might be no electricity, no water, no communication and no transportation.
Prepare your action plan now!
Plan of action
For your security and that of your family, the best place to ride-out a hurricane is in your own house. But if your house:
- is at the coastline on a low-lying area;
- floods with water during rainfall;
- is situated on a low-lying area near a stream, riverbed or dam;
- is of modest or delicate construction;
- is a mobile home or something similar
Plan with your family today to stay at a safer house. For example: with relatives, friends or acquaintances.
However, if before or during the hurricane, the authorities advise you to leave your house, do so immediately. Their advice is based on information about the strength of the hurricane and the effects it may have in your area.
To protect your house, always maintain it, especially in case of a hurricane, in good condition:
- Review your insurance against wind and water damage;
- Your roof should be well anchored on columns and in the walls of the house;
- Repair all leaks in the roof;
- Exterminate termites;
- Make sure that all doors and windows can be closed and locked properly;
- Trim all tree limbs above your roof;
- Always keep your yard and garden free of loose and dangerous objects, such as cans, glass and corrugated metal sheets. .
Make sure that you have at home:
- A complete FIRST-AID KIT;
- A quality portable AM/FM radio;
- Enough emergency lights, flashlights and candles;
- Matches and a manual can opener;
- Enough plastic or paper cups, plates, plastic knives, forks, spoons and paper towels;;
- Toilet paper, wipes and trash bags;
- Tools, nails, tape and enough plywood or corrugated metal sheets (preferably cut to fit) to protect at least your glass windows and doors that are most exposed to the wind, thus facing the street or open areas.
Every house needs a SHELTERBOX:
This must be a relatively small room, bathroom or walk-in closet but comfortable for you and your family, preferably without or with only a small window and a sturdy door. The window must be boarded up from the outside with plywood. You must remove all glass items and sharp objects out of this room and subsequently you must provide the Shelter box with a few mattresses, a FIRST-AID KIT, a portable radio and a flashlight.
A Shelter box is a shelter in case of extreme emergency. For example, if a window of your house were to shatter during the hurricane, hurling wind, water, glass and all sorts of objects around, you may escape from this danger by sheltering in that room.
Officially we know 2 hurricane alarm phases:
- Hurricane Watch
- Hurricane Warning
When a Hurricane Watch is issued, it means that within 48 hours, we can expect hurricane conditions on our island. This phase of the alarm remains in force until the threat has passed, or until it proceeds to phase 2, which is the Hurricane Warning. This means that within 36 hours or less, hurricane will be imminent, and we can expect winds of more than 74 miles per hour with dangerous high waters along our shoreline.
When a Hurricane Watch is issued:
Hurricane conditions can be expected within 48 hours
- Keep yourself continuously informed about the development of the hurricane by official announcements on government website www.government.aw , radio (Listen to local radio stations, a.o. 89.9FM and 101.7FM), television and in the newspapers. Do not pay attention to rumors;
- Fill the fuel tank of your car;
- Get extra supply of your daily medicine;
- Buy plenty of canned food and packaged dry food, bottled water;
- Buy sufficient food for your pets;
- Buy extra utensils: cups, plates, plastic knives forks and spoons;
- Buy extra batteries for radio, flashlights and hurricane lights;
- Get extra fuel for your generator and lamps;
- Have your propane gas tanks filled;
- Get extra cash for after the hurricane;
- Prepare plywood or corrugated metal sheets to protect glass windows and doors;
- Prepare 2’ tape for glass windows and doors;
- Keep tools, nails, tarpaulin, ropes or cables within reach;
- Remove all loose objects in the yard, such as wood, cans, garden tools and patio furniture.
When a Hurricane Warning is issued:
Hurricane conditions are imminent within 36 hours
Keep monitoring the website, radio and information bulletins.
For the ones staying at their homes, take precautions first around the house:
- Dismantle television and small satellite antennas and position large antennas face up;
- Protect all your glass windows and doors with plywood or corrugated metal sheets. Start first with those that are most exposed to the street and open areas;
- Park your car (or boat on a trailer) in the garage or anywhere far from trees, cables and light poles;
- Let some air out of your trailer’s tires and fill the boat with some water so that they may have more stability;
- Store chemicals, fertilizers and other toxic materials in a safe and dry place;
- Lower the water level of your swimming pool and add extra chlorine in the water;
- Take down all coconuts from the palm trees that are close to the house;
- Tie down and secure propane tanks, trashcans, storage shacks. Dismantle gazebos and lottery shacks;
- Clear your garden and patio from all loose objects, decorations and hanging plant pots;
- Tie down and cover pet cages or put them aside;
- Disconnect all electrical installations outside of your house, such as sewer pumps;
- A small (1200 Watt) generator can keep a fridge and a freezer running. Prepare your generator. Keep the extra fuel in a safe place. Never plug a generator into an outlet of the electrical system of the house.
Make the final preparations in the house:
- Turn your refrigerator’s thermostat to the coldest setting. Make extra ice cubes;
- Reserve a 3 days supply of drinking water for your family on a ½ gal-a-day per person basis;
- Extra drinking and cooking water can be stored in sealable containers, only after these have been sterilized with chlorine and dried;
- Water for general use (e.g. bathing) can be stored in buckets or any container;
- Gather your non-perishable food and put them away in a safe place;
- Pack your valuables, such as pictures, jewelry, important documents, in a waterproof package and put them away in a safe place;
- Disconnect all electronic equipment, such as TV’s, computers; seal them in plastic bags and store them in a safe place;
- Unprotected windows and doors should be taped from the inside in + and x form;
- Draw drapes or blinds as an added protection. A heavy sheet or a blanket can help as well;
- Move all loose objects, such as lamps, showpieces, vases, kitchen ware, and put them in a wall closet or in a safe place;
- Make sure that all doors and windows are properly closed and seal leaky windows and doors with tape, cloths or towels;
- Prepare a fire extinguisher or 2 buckets of sand to use in case fire breaks out.
When you are all set, offer assistance to your neighbors, especially families in need, the elderly and the handicapped.
For the ones leaving their homes:
If you want to leave your home for any personal reasons or due to the condition and/or situation of your house as mentioned above, or you are being advised by authorities to do so:
- Shut off water and electricity. Shut off propane tanks and take all the necessary measures to protect your house;
- Have a small suitcase ready to take along, containing everything necessary to make your stay elsewhere more comfortable, such as: clean clothes, towels, medicines, toiletries;
- Also remember to take your valuables with you, money, jewels and important documents;
- Remember to take your pets with you or leave them with people who will be able to take care of them;
- When you leave your home, inform your neighbor(s) or family where you are going to be. Leave early, preferable in daylight;
- Drive carefully, do not cross through deep flooded areas in order to reach destination rapidly;
- While on foot, do not cross through flooding that is deeper than your knee.
During the hurricane
- Monitor radio advisories;
- Do not panic and do not drink alcoholic beverages;
- Use phone for emergencies only;
- If your house has suffered a lot of damage, disconnect the electricity;
- Stay inside and, if you consider it necessary or the situation is getting critical, go into your SHELTER BOX;
- Stay away from glass windows and doors;
- Except in the event of dangerous flooding, do not leave your house during a hurricane. You are safer in a Shelter box of a house missing a roof than if you run out into the wind to look for another place to hide;
- If the wind suddenly ceases, it is possible that the eye of the hurricane is passing, and the wind can suddenly pick up again. Do not go outside until the authorities give an all clear sign.
After the hurricane
- Listen for radio advisories for an all clear sign. Follow all instructions issued by authorities;
- Use phones only in emergencies. Keep your calls short;;
- In event of an accident or illness, get for assistance at the nearest medical post;
- In the event of interruption in the water supply, use bottled water for cooking and drinking or boil stored water before consumption;
- In the event of power failure, do not open the fridge and freezer unnecessarily;
- If the power goes out, eat the food in the fridge first, before eating food in the freezer, after this you can eat the canned and dry packaged.
- Check your home for; minimize any hazard;
- In the event of insurance claims, take pictures or make a video of the damages. Circumstances may delay the assessment of your claims;
- After a hurricane your surroundings may be littered with nails and broken glass. Be cautious, especially with children;
- Be careful with electrical wires that are hanging low or lying on the grounds or in the water;
- Check with neighbors if everything is OK, if not, offer your assistance;
- Do not go sightseeing; flooded roads you think you know well, may have deep holes dug out by the water;
- If your presence is not needed, stay away from affected areas. Agglomeration of cars and people hamper first-aid and rescue work.
The days (and weeks) after a hurricane are the most difficult and hard to go through (and to overcome). Do not let the destruction around you and the comfort and facilities that you are (temporarily) missing, break or discourage you. All material is replaceable; a person’s life is what counts most.
In the U.S. coastal areas, where a hurricane is expected to make landfall massive evacuations take place, due to the danger of storm surge. The U.S.’s huge landmass, typical low lying coastal areas, shallow waters and high tides, are motives for large flooding, many miles inland. This phenomenon is unknown on Caribbean islands in deep water. Therefore, there is no need for massive evacuations.
Emergency telephone numbers
In an emergency, it is important for the police, fire or ambulance to be notified as soon as possible. That can be done by calling one of the following emergency numbers.
General emergency number 911
Fire brigade 911
Police (via central station) 911
Police Oranjestad 100
Police San Nicolas 104
Police Noord 107
Police Santa Cruz 105
Hospital 527 4000
San Nicolas 524 8833
Other important phone numbers
Coast Guard 913
WEB 525 4600
Public Works Department (D.O.W.) 528 4700
Meteorological Department Aruba 582 6497
Serlimar 584 5080
F.C.C.A 522 3222