After the Storm

Published: Updated:
Hurricane Ian damage. (Credit: Price of Paradise: Surviving Hurricane Ian documentary)

The passage of a hurricane doesn’t mean you’re out of danger. Remember that you still need to look out for your safety as you’re cleaning up and repairing damage. That focus on safety should also extend to your family, friends, neighbors, and emergency personnel. Should you find yourself in a situation that has the potential to be risky or dangerous, it’s always a good idea to err on the side of caution.

After a hurricane, relief supplies and other types of aid will usually arrive as quickly as possible. In addition, special disaster teams will be sent to heavily damaged areas by insurance companies, state and federal agencies, and many private relief organizations.

Depending on the severity of the damage, however, it could take several days for any help or assistance to arrive at a disaster site. Remember, it may take time to assemble and load the specific supplies needed for a particular area, and the roads may be blocked by debris and unsafe to travel. Given the potential for any delayed response, it’s vital to ensure you have at least a three-day supply of ice, water, and food to sustain you and your family until help arrives.

What to Expect

Regardless of its strength or duration, a hurricane can be a traumatic experience that takes a physical and emotional toll. For many, recovering after a hurricane can be the most difficult part of all.

Imagine how things might look after a storm with debris strewn across yards, roads, and parking lots. Neighborhoods that were neat and tidy before the hurricane might now be in disarray with fallen trees, limbs, guttering, and wreckage thrown everywhere. Homes and businesses might be damaged or destroyed. There may be no water, sewer, working electricity, or telephone service. Without electricity, there will be no air conditioning or refrigeration. Damaged or debris-filled roadways could be blocked or closed for any amount of time from a few days to several weeks.

A hurricane will affect everyone in some way. It can be difficult and stressful to return to your home or business, assess damage, and begin the task of cleaning up. However, by approaching the situation calmly and with patience and understanding, you can help this be a safe and productive time for everyone.

Here are some post-storm procedures and considerations—as well as some important information on disaster assistance and generator safety—to keep in mind during any recovery.

First Things First

  • Wait to return home until after authorities give the all-clear to do so safely. Follow any specific re-entry procedures that may have been put in place. Stay tuned to WINK News, The Weather Authority, and for recovery information.
  • Try to help injured or trapped persons as best you can, but do not move seriously injured people unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Call for help. Give first aid where appropriate.
  • Avoid loose or dangling power lines. Report them immediately to the power company, police, or fire department.
  • Drive only if absolutely necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed-out bridges. Allow emergency crews to remove fallen power lines and other hazardous debris.
  • Proceed with caution when entering your home. Open doors and windows to ventilate or dry your home. Be on the lookout for snakes, insects, and animals that may have been displaced by flood water.
  • Check for gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve and if possible, call the gas company. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on only by a professional.
  • Look for electrical system damage. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker.
  • Check for sewage and water line damage. If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid tap water.
  • Keep your refrigerator closed as much as possible to protect food from spoiling. Dispose of any spoiled foods.
  • Take pictures to document any damage to your house and its contents for insurance claims. Save receipts—including those for temporary lodging and food—for reimbursement. In addition, keep records such as canceled checks, bills, and other documents received for repair work or temporary lodging.


Storm Debris

After a hurricane, it will be necessary to separate your curbside trash. Debris from the clean-up and recovery will be accepted by priority.

  • Once roads are cleared, raw garbage such as animal, fruit, or vegetable waste will be collected.
  • The second priority will be normal household garbage including food waste.
  • The third priority is yard waste. Place items such as trees, branches, and shrubs in piles that can be easily managed by collection personnel.
  • The last collection priority will be construction debris such as lumber, roofing, concrete, and similar materials.
  • Your county may accept food waste at the local waste management facility. Contact the facility for drop-off hours.
  • Do not block your road with trash or debris.

Storm Debris Removal Information

  • Charlotte: 941.575.3600
  • Collier: 239.252.2380
  • DeSoto: 863.993.4831
  • Glades: 863.946.6020
  • Hendry: 863.675.5222
  • Unincorporated Lee: 239.533.8000


Household Priorities

  • Pump or bail water out of the house as soon as possible.
  • Open the windows to let the house air out and give the walls and floors a chance to dry.
  • Shovel mud out before it can dry, then scrub floors and walls with a brush and mild soap and water.
  • Make sure all appliances are unplugged as a general safety precaution.

Stoves and Ovens

  • Clean the outside with a grease cutter, then with detergent and water.
  • Clean the inside with conventional oven cleaner.

Refrigerators and Freezers

  • To remove odors, wash the inside and the plastic door gasket with detergent and water.
  • Rinse with a cloth and clear water. Wipe dry.

Washers and Dryers

  • Pour a disinfectant into the empty washer. Run a 15-minute cycle using the hot water setting.
  • Unplug the dryer and wipe the drum and dryer door with a cloth dipped in disinfectant solution.
  • Rinse with a cloth dipped in clear water.
  • Leave the dryer door open until all parts are dry, preferably overnight.
  • Leave the dishwasher door open until all parts are dry.

Books and Papers

  • Place books on end with the leaves separated. When they are partially dry, pile and press books. Alternate drying and pressing until thoroughly dry.
  • If books and papers are very damp, sprinkle some cornstarch between the pages to absorb moisture. Leave in place for several hours, then brush off.
  • When papers and books are almost dry, try using an electric iron set on low heat to flatten the pages.
  • Separate the pages to prevent odors.
  • When books are completely dry, close them and clamp them closed to help them retain their shape.
  • Photocopy important papers because they may quickly disintegrate, even if they have dried out.

Swimming Pools

  • Remove as much debris by hand as possible and lower the water level to normal.
  • Add a chlorinator, as in the form of the 10% hypochlorite granules commonly known as shock.

Superchlorinate again and clean the filter frequently until the pool returns to normal.

  • Have the gas company reconnect the heater line. If your pool needs structural repairs, choose a contractor carefully.


As soon as the hurricane ends, looting may begin. With walls blown away and windows blown out—and since many homes belong to snowbirds summering up north—residences are often easy targets. Given the widespread fear of looting within the community, many residents choose to stay in their damaged homes to protect their valuables. However, it’s important to note that statistically, crime is actually lower after a disaster. A curfew may be enacted for several nights to combat theft and vandalism.


Be Safe, Not Sorry

Every year, 70 people in the United States die from generator-related carbon monoxide deaths and thousands more are injured, according to an investigation by The Texas Tribune, Pro Publica and NBC News. Between 2005 and 2017, more than 15,000 people throughout the nation were treated in emergency rooms for some form of portable generator-related carbon monoxide poisoning, says the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Here’s how you can avoid becoming a statistic.

  • Read the owner’s manual and be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Do not use a generator until it is properly grounded.
  • Plug devices directly into the generator. Never backfeed your house circuits or connect your generator to your house wiring.
  • Do not overload the generator capacity.
  • Be aware of carbon monoxide poisoning. Never use a generator indoors, outside under a window, on a covered patio, or in any space without adequate ventilation.
  • Keep flammable items away from generators. The exhaust system is very hot.
  • Never refuel your generator inside your home or while it is hot. A serious fire could result.
  • Do not use in or around wet areas to prevent electric shock.
  • Check all electrical cords to ensure the insulation is in good condition.
  • Check the oil and fuel level before starting the motor.

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