Surviving a storm while on vacation

The Caribbean region is known for its powerful hurricanes that bear down quickly and leave nothing but destruction in its path. The official hurricane season runs from June 1st through November 31st with the peak typically settling in during September. Locals have spent years preparing, and surviving storms, and they have learned to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. The chances of getting caught in a storm while on vacation are minimal, but it is essential to follow some general guidelines just in case you do end up in the path of a tropical storm or hurricane.

Before you go

  • It is recommended to get travel insurance no matter when you travel but especially so if you are going to be heading to the Caribbean during hurricane season. Should you have to cancel your trip due to bad weather, you would undoubtedly benefit from having insurance to reimburse you for your flights and hotels.
  • Try to book hotels with a flexible cancelation policy. Using travel agents and booking sights that allow you to cancel up to a week before you travel will give you the peace of mind if a storm arises in the months leading up to your trip.
  • Be sure to have digital copies of your travel documents such as passports and flight information available to you when you are traveling; this applies to all travels? not just to the Caribbean. Should you be in a situation where you have to evacuate, it can come in handy if someone back home has access to your travel documents or flight information as the Internet may not be readily available to you.
  • While no one wants to be confronted with a hurricane while on vacation, it can happen. The more prepared you are, the better off you and your family will be when decisions and preparations are made.
  • Pack a few items that don’t take up a lot of space but may come in handy should a storm arise: small flashlight, small first aid kit, matches, sanitary wipes or gel, extra medicine should you need to stay on the island longer than anticipated.

While on vacation

  • While on vacation in the Caribbean during the hurricane season you should keep an eye on the weather and regularly updated hurricane forecasts. One very good resource is the National Hurricane Center and Central Pacific Hurricane Center: www.nhc.noaa.gov where you can find up to date information about any existing Atlantic tropical cyclones as well as extended forecasts.
  • Should a storm arise while you are on vacation in a Hurricane zone, you should keep yourself informed by following the news, listening to the local radio and checking in with your front desk staff often. Don't pretend that the storm will dissipate, or you will be caught off guard.
  • If a storm is predicted, contact your travel agent or airline immediately. Depending on the expected strength of the storm and the expected time of landfall, your airline may already have plans in place to allow passengers to travel home at an earlier date or to find a suitable new location while the weather passes. We know that for some a storm is not necessarily something they would typically leave their vacation for, but the damage to airports, roads, and buildings could mean that after the storm you may be stuck on the island for longer than you planned or can afford.
  • Leaving the island should be your first choice once a storm warning is issued. The fewer people on the island, the easier it is for local police and emergency staff. As a visitor, you are limited as to where you can go, and shelters are often already full of residents and those who need to leave their boats for land. Leaving the island lessens the stress on local resources.
  • If you are unable to leave the island before a predicted storm hits land, you should try to be sufficiently prepared for the days both during and after the storm. Be sure to contact your family at home and have them keep informed of the latest updates. You should go out and buy supplies. A short list would be:
    • Purchase bottled water that you can use for drinking. Be sure to have enough for everyone in your traveling party.
    • Fill pots and pans or buckets in your hotel room with water, this you can use for showers, teeth brushing and flushing of toilets. If there is a bathtub, is it wise to fill this as well for access to water.
    • Purchase non-perishable foods like crackers and canned foods that you can cook or heat up on a gas stove or bbq if need be. (Soups, beans, pre-cooked pasta or rice, etc…)
    • Take cash out of an ATM, as many times after the storm, there is a lack of electricity, which means you may not be able to get any money out if you need it.
    • Buy mosquito spray to help keep them away after the storm; lots of standing water means mosquitos come out quickly after a storm.
    • For small children, be sure to purchase extra formula and diapers as these items tend to run out quickly.
    • Purchase batteries for your flashlight that you packed before you left.
  • Once a storm warning has been issued, and you are unable to leave the island, please listen to local law enforcement and hotel staff and follow their directions. They have your best interest in mind and will guide you to the safest place to be during and after the storm.
  • Don't go outside during the storm as flying projectiles can be hazardous. Stay inside with door and windows closed. As tempting as it may be to have a look, you could pick the wrong moment and end up getting yourself hurt.
  • Stay inside until the storm has passed and the staff has advised you that it is safe.
  • Depending on the severity of the storm, you will either be able to continue on your holiday, or you will be evacuated to the nearest safe zone.

 

Hurricanes and storms can be a stressful time for islands and their economies, but with proper planning and smart choices, you can help make it easier on yourself and the emergency teams. We hope you never find yourself in a situation where you are caught in a storm, but we hope that with these tips you will be more prepared to weather through it with ease.