THE best way to survive a killer hurricane like Irma is to flee and if that means packing the kids in the car and saying a final farewell to your home then so be it.
However, what happens if “getting the hell out of Dodge” is not option, what do you do if a category 4 mega-storm suddenly switches direction and starts bearing down on you?
That is the harsh reality the people of Tampa woke up to this morning after being told their homes now have a date with destruction a few short hours away.
Winds of up to 140mph are tipped to tear through residential neighbourhoods in western Florida over the next 24 hours.
Most people have at one point in their lives witnessed wind gusts exceeding 70 mph, maybe even 80.
But when winds gusting to nearly 140 mph are expected, how can we compare?
One important thing to note is that there is an exponential increase in force as speed ticks up – so a 140 mph winds are four times as strong as 70mph winds.
For anyone sheltering in place from the Keys to Tampa, the advice is particularly relevant as you are likely to be in the core of Irma’s strongest winds.
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The precautions that need to be taken are the exact same as when sheltering from a tornado – but this only applies to residents who will not encounter a damaging storm surge.
It’s possible to hide in your home from wind, but water will ALWAYS find you if you’re in the danger zone.
If you’re safe from surge but find yourself facing extreme winds, seek shelter in the most interior room on the lowest floor of your home or business, and avoid windows; a basement would be preferable.
However, outbuildings, mobile homes, vehicles, and any other un-anchored structures will not be safe.
Mobile homes will quickly disintegrate in extreme winds, with shrapnel acting as lethal projectiles, jeopardising the lives of anybody nearby.
One big tip is to put you shoes on and keep them on – you don’t want to have to climb over shattered glass and splintered timbers without them.
Meteorologist Bryan Norcross – who helped Miami through Hurricane Andrew in 1992 – said :“Over the past 25 years, I’ve heard from hundreds of people who said they rode out [Andrew] under a mattress in a central hallway, closet, or bathroom.
“When the wind died down, they moved the mattress and saw the sky [since the roof had blown away],” he told The Washington Post.
“A mattress is the ultimate defence from wind for people staying in a house.
If you’re riding out the storm in a house surrounded by trees, Norcross said, “Stay on the opposite side of the house from the wind on a low floor. “Close the curtains to cover windows facing the wind, but still be very careful near any glass that could break.”
You should also think about trees when parking your car.
If possible, place it in garage or as far away from anything that may fall on it as possible.
If you’re riding out the storm in a tower block Norcross said: “It’s especially important that you stay away from the windows. If something flies off a neighbouring building, it can smash windows downwind. Besides that, the wind is stronger because you’re higher in the air, and the air gets squeezed between the tall buildings.
“The high wind stresses the glass, and makes it break more violently if something hits it.”
If you can’t shelter safely in a basement, bathrooms tend to be the most stable rooms in most homes due to the complex web of pipework woven in the walls.
If bicycle helmets are available, use them – children are especially at risk, and this would be an extra level of added protection.