What to do if you’re caught in a cyclone-level storm

PHOTO: South Africa Weather Service

WHAT should you do if you’re caught in a tropical storm or if a cyclone hits your area?
With tropical storm Dineo set to make landfall in Africa tomorrow, many people have concerns for their safety.
According to the Australian Government’s Bureau of Meteorology, when a cyclone strikes you should:
* Disconnect all electrical appliances.
* Listen to your battery radio for updates.
* Stay inside and shelter (well clear of windows) in the strongest part of the building, such as a cellar, internal hallway or bathroom.
* Keep evacuation and emergency kits with you.
* If the building or roof starts to break up, protect yourself with mattresses, rugs or blankets under a strong table or bench or hold onto a solid fixture, such as a water pipe.
* Beware the calm ‘eye’. If the wind drops, don’t assume the cyclone is over; violent winds will soon resume from another direction. Wait for the official ‘all clear’.
* If driving, stop with your handbrake engaged and the car in gear but well away from the sea and clear of trees, power lines and streams. Stay in the vehicle.

After the cyclone:

* Don’t go outside until officially advised it is safe to do so.
* Check for gas leaks.
* Don’t use electric appliances if you are wet.
* Listen to local radio for official warnings and advice.
* If you have to evacuate or did so earlier, don’t return until advised. Use a recommended route and don’t rush.
* Beware of damaged power lines, bridges, buildings, trees, and don’t enter floodwaters.
* Heed all warnings and don’t go sightseeing. Check and help neighbours instead.
* Don’t make unnecessary telephone calls.

Head of Dialdirect, Warwick Scott-Rodger offers the following advice to anyone in the areas affected by the tropical storm:

Heavy rain:
* Try to make arrangements to park your car undercover and delay travelling until the storm has subsided.
* If you are caught in a heavy storm, look for cover. This could include a covered car park, a petrol station or under a bridge. However, take extreme care when pulling-over – put on your hazard lights, and don’t risk your safety or the safety of others by dashing madly for cover.
* Don’t park under trees as there is a danger of falling branches and debris. Stay in your car and only leave the safety of your sheltered spot when the storm has passed.
* If you’re on the road and visibility is too poor or the road is too slippery, rather pull over and switch on your car’s hazards until visibility or traction improves.
* Make sure any dead and rotting branches are removed from trees to avoid the risk of falling debris during a severe storm. Also ensure that debris is removed from roofs and gutters.
* Make sure your outdoor furniture is safely stored or firmly secured.

Floods:
* It is sensible to purchase your own supply of sandbags which can be placed against doorways and low level vents in times of flooding, to help minimise the amount of water that enters your home. Also move high value items to the highest possible floor or shelf if a flood threatens.
* Turn off gas and electricity if flooding occurs.
* Motorists should not attempt to drive in flood conditions. Remember that just 15cm of moving water can knock you off your feet and water just 60cm deep can sweep a vehicle away. Generally, if the water is deeper than the bottom of your doors or the bottom third of your wheels, it is not advisable to drive through it.
* Flash flooding often occurs when rivers flow over low-lying bridges. Avoid crossing bridges or roads next to rivers during heavy rains. If you do get stuck on a flooded road, it’s best to switch to the lowest possible gear and proceed slowly. If you approach a flooding storm water drain at speed, it is advisable to take your foot off the accelerator and let your speed drop gradually. Never use the brakes suddenly because this may cause the car to skid or aquaplane.
* If trapped in a vehicle during flooding, rather abandon the vehicle and climb to higher ground. It is dangerous to try and drive out of the water to safety.

 

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  AUTHOR
Erin Hanekom
Journalist

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