Helping families get ready for the next hurricane

The Weather Authority and residents share storm advice, lessons learned

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - One of the best ways to get hurricane-ready is to learn from the mistakes others have made. Hurricane victims are quick to tell you what they wish they had done in past storms, and then what they plan to do differently before the next one.

Throughout the 2018 hurricane season, The Weather Authority meteorologist Rebecca Barry will be making Hurricane House Calls all around town to check in with families to make sure they are prepared for a storm, and if not, making sure they know what they still need to do. We'll be sharing those visits on Channel 4 and on News4Jax.com, so we can all learn from each other.

Rebecca's first round of Hurricane House Calls took us to historic Springfield in Jacksonville, where we met two residents with homes tucked away along brick roads and surrounded by trees.

"Here in this area, there is a lot of old growth trees," Janie Coffey showed Rebecca after we checked in with her at her home on West 4th Street. "I know they can look great on the outside, but I know they may not be so great on the inside." 

We also met her neighbor, Diane Graese. Both women learned from Hurricane Irma that the lush landscape they treasure can be dangerous during a storm.

"We have a lot of dead branches, and it's a good idea to have your trees looked at and trimmed and keep your trees healthy because a lot of the branches that came down (during Irma) could have done a lot more damage," Graese told Rebecca.

Both Graese and Coffey hired an arborist to take a look at their trees so they could keep what's healthy and get rid of what's not before another hurricane comes our way.

"I trimmed a huge tree in the back which is a big deal because it's over a power line," Coffey showed us. "You can see it's all trimmed up so the power lines are protected."

Coffey wanted to point out, before hiring anyone to work on your trees, you should not only do your homework, but also get several quotes.

"I got three quotes so I definitely suggest if anyone is looking to have their trees trimmed to do the same thing," she suggested. "Get a couple of quotes because there is a big difference between tree trimming companies." 

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Another thing both neighbors have a plan for: anything around their property that could go flying.

"You bring everything inside because everything can become a projectile in those winds, and so you just anchor everything down and store it away," explained Graese.

"What about that light up there? Can you take that light down?" Rebecca asked Coffey while pointing to a fixture hanging on her front porch.

"I don't think so and that's a really great point," she answered. 

Rebecca also explained how the construction of her roof may be impacted in a hurricane.

"The area of weakness is right here since the roof isn't hipped where the roof comes down at an angle," Rebecca explained to Coffey. "The winds can actually catch it right there."

"Gotcha, that makes a lot of sense," she said.

While Rebecca was impressed at how hurricane-ready both Coffey and Daese are, neither knew the answer to a very important question.

"Do you know what evacuation zone you are in, in this house?" Rebecca asked Coffey.

"I do not know. I need to look that up," she answered.

Rebecca asked the same question to Graese, who lives right across the street from Coffey. She didn't know either.

In each case, Rebecca explained to both Springfield residents that their evacuation zone is "C," which some may not realize actually changed a few years ago.

CHECK NOW: Know your evacuation zone

"They are by letter and it's a different zone based on flooding because they found that storm surge is what kills people and injures people," Rebecca explained.

Rebecca is telling residents it's not only important to know their own evacuation zone, but they need to know zones they normally travel through.  For example, if they are used to traveling a certain way, those routes they normally take may be impassable. 

Coffey is no stranger to hurricanes, but Graese is fairly new to Florida. She moved here about a year ago from Las Vegas, and while she said she was out of town when Irma hit, it was her first hurricane.

"Thank God I have good neighbors. My neighbors are awesome," she said. "My house, they told me, was fine. There was a lot of debris in the swimming pool, I have a swimming pool, but other than that, it wasn't bad. The neighbors had cleaned all the yards because we were without power for a week."

Rebecca asked Graese, since she was away and her power did go out during Irma, if she knew the freezer trick to know if her food had gone bad. Coffey was asked the same thing, but neither had heard of it.

PROTECT YOUR PETS: Have a storm plan

Rebecca explained, "Freeze a cup of water. Once it's frozen, put a quarter on top and just leave it in your freezer.  In the event of a power outage, especially if you've evacuated and you aren't sure how long the power was out, check that cup and quarter. If the quarter is at the bottom of the cup, you know it defrosted and then refroze -- which means the same thing happened to your food."

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