Evacuations Begin as Hurricane Florence Approaches the Southeast

Experts predict damage caused by Hurricane Florence will be severe.
Satellite image of Hurricane Florence

Grocery store shelves were emptied over the past two days after the governors of North and South Carolina declared states of emergency in anticipation of Hurricane Florence.

Florence has grown to a category-four hurricane, with wind speeds as high as 140 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. The center predicts the hurricane will make landfall along the eastern coasts of the Carolinas by Thursday morning, and its effects could be felt as far north as Pennsylvania and as far west as Tennessee.

Hatteras Island, a barrier island off the coast of North Carolina, will be the first to experience heavy winds, and residents are already being evacuated. In addition to the island, a handful of counties have evacuation orders pending or in progress, including Dare County, Duck, Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, Manteo, Nags Head, Roanoke Island and Southern Shores.

"North Carolina is taking Hurricane Florence seriously, and you should, too," said North Carolina governor Roy Cooper in a news conference on Monday morning. "Get ready now."

Cooper also announced that he'd already asked President Trump to issue a disaster declaration on behalf of North Carolina, so the state could obtain federal aid as early as possible.

Is your property hurricane proof?

While many across the Southeast are preparing to head inland for the duration of the storm, others are frantically working to stormproof their homes. You might have difficulty installing hurricane shutters or impact-rated glass before the hurricane hits land, but you still may be able to protect your windows with plywood from your local hardware store.

If you carry a homeowners or renters insurance policy, you should be protected against most wind damage. But in certain states, such as Florida, you'll need additional windstorm insurance to insure your house against flying debris or having a part of your roof torn off.

Generally, homeowners insurance policies exclude damage caused by regional flooding, which commonly accompanies hurricanes. To insure yourself against this damage, you'd need a separate flood insurance policy. Our newest study indicates that South carolina homeowners may be more likely to have this type of coverage than their neighbors to the north.

Unfortunately, if you don't already have a flood insurance policy on your home, it's too late to get coverage for this storm. New policies require a 30-day waiting period to come into effect. But 2018's Atlantic hurricane season doesn't end until November 30, and there are already more tropical storms lined up behind Hurricane Florence. Those wishing to insure their property should act as soon as possible to obtain coverage.

In the meantime, consider using soil or sandbags slant your yard's pitch away from your home. Doing so will help prevent water from pooling around the house's foundation, mitigating costly water damage in the days following the storm.

What should I do after the storm?

When you return to your home after the storm, you need to document any and all damage immediately. Photograph any debris or water damage, then contact your insurance agent to find out what steps they recommend. Beginning this process as early as possible will help expedite your claim.

Daniel Caughill

Daniel is a Staff Writer at ValuePenguin, covering insurance, retirement and other personal finance topics. He previously wrote about compliance and best practices for K-12 school districts at Frontline Education.

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