Hurricane season runs from May 15 – November 30 in the Pacific. Here are some tips for being prepared for a hurricane when traveling in Baja California.
Before You Leave Home
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
•Before you travel, register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
STEP allows you to:
-Receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans.
-Help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.
-Help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.
Get international travel insurance so that while traveling you have access to the following:
-International medical insurance
-Emergency evacuation, repatriation and worldwide travel assistance
-24/7 emergency response center
-Have extra water, non-perishable food, fuel, and an emergency car kit.
-Make extra copies of important paperwork (passport, drivers license, credit cards, Mexican auto insurance, tourist visa, etc). Bring a set with you and leave a set with a friend or family member at home and scan and email a set to yourself as well. Make sure someone at home has a copy of your trip itinerary.
-Activate your U.S. cell phone’s roaming service so that it works internationally to stay in regular contact with family and friends and advise them of your whereabouts.
-Keep an up-to-date list of local emergency phone numbers, as well as contact numbers for the nearest U.S. Embassy, Consulate General, or Consular Agency.
-If you dial 078 in Baja from any public, private or cell phone it will direct you to the tourist assistance hotline. Their bilingual staff can help you out with anything from emergency response to general travel information. 911 will get you emergency services.
-Protect your vital travel documents from potential water damage by placing them in a waterproof container.
-Check the website for the Consulate General of the United States. Their site will have information on what U.S. Citizens in Baja California should do in the case of an emergency.
U.S. Consulates in Mexico:
Paseo de las Culturas s/n
Mesa de Otay
Delegación Centenario C.P. 22425
Tijuana, Baja California
After-hour emergency hotline:
Tiendas de Palmilla
Carretera Transpeninsular Km 27.5
San José del Cabo, Baja California
Sur, C.P. 23406:
Telephone: (624) 143-3566
Fax: (624) 143-6750
If a Hurricane Hits
-Obey any and all evacuation orders
-The U.S. Consulate will have directions for U.S. Citizens to follow
-Avoid driving on washed out roads and through vados. Roads will be flooded and flash floods are a likely occurrence.
-Watch our Road Conditions Page for updated road conditions throughout the peninsula
-Monitor local websites for storm-related information. In the country of Mexico, each state has a civil protection authority, called “Protección Civil,” that monitors storm progress and gives instructions on preparations, any need to evacuate coastal areas, etc.
Other Resources for Being Prepared for a Hurricane:
The National Hurricane Center Preparedness Guide: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/prepare
Red Cross Hurricane Preparedness Guide: http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/hurricane
Weather Underground: www.wunderground.com
Hurricane Season “Know Before You Go” http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/emergencies/natural-disasters/HurricaneSeason.html
From the National Hurricane Center:
It only takes one storm to change your life and community. Tropical cyclones are among nature’s most powerful and destructive phenomena. If you live in or travel to an area prone to tropical cyclones, you need to be prepared. Even areas well away from the coastline can be threatened by dangerous flooding, destructive winds and tornadoes from these storms. The Baja peninsula learned that very painful lesson in the fall of 2014. The National Hurricane Center issues watches, warnings, forecasts, and analyses of hazardous tropical weather.
The primary hazards from hurricanes are storm surge flooding, inland flooding from heavy rains, destructive winds, tornadoes, and high surf and rip currents. While hurricanes pose the greatest threat to life and property, tropical storms and depressions can also be devastating. Flooding from heavy rains can cause extensive damage and loss of life. For example, Tropical Storm Allison produced more than 40 inches of rain in the Houston area in 2001, causing about $5 billion in damage and taking the lives of 41 people.
Storm surge has the potential to cause the largest loss of life in hurricanes. Since 1963, storm surge has caused nearly half of the deaths in the United States in tropical cyclones. Water, not wind, has accounted for nearly 90 percent of all tropical cyclone deaths in the U.S. during that time.
Storm surge is dangerous because a mere six inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. It takes only two feet of rushing water to carry away most vehicles—including large pickup trucks and SUVs.
The strong winds of a hurricane can cause widespread destruction. Hurricane Hugo was a fast-moving, category 4 storm that made landfall near Charleston, South Carolina. Hugo brought destructive hurricane-force winds hundreds of miles inland, downing numerous trees and power lines over a swath from the Atlantic coast to the southern Appalachians. Millions were left without power and the resulting damage totaled in the billions of dollars.
Tornadoes are also common with landfalling tropical systems. In recorded history, almost every tropical storm and hurricane that has come onshore in the U.S. has produced a tornado. These tornadoes most often occur in thunderstorms embedded in the storm’s rainbands, well away from the center of the hurricane.
Strong winds of a tropical cyclone can also cause dangerous waves that pose a significant hazard to mariners and coastal residents and visitors. When the waves break along the coast, they can produce deadly rip currents—even at large distances from the storm. In 2008, despite the fact that Hurricane Bertha was more than a 1,000 miles offshore, the storm resulted in rip currents that killed three people along the New Jersey coast and required 1,500 lifeguard rescues in Ocean City, Maryland, over a one week period.
The Time to Prepare is NOW!
What should you do to prepare for a hurricane?
Get a plan. The most important step is to identify your hurricane risk. Do you live in an evacuation zone? If so, you need to plan on where you and your family would ride out the storm if you are told to evacuate. Most people only need to evacuate a few miles from the coast to avoid the dangers of storm surge. Find a friend or relative that lives outside the storm surge evacuation zone and have a plan to ride out the storm with them. You should also establish a family communications plan in case you are not together when you need to evacuate.
Once a person understands their risk for hurricane impacts, an appropriate disaster safety plan should be developed to help ensure an individual’s and a family’s safety. A disaster safety plan is a comprehensive plan that identifies all of the steps a family needs to take before, during, and after a disaster to ensure maximum personal safety and property protection. For a step-by-step guide on creating a family disaster plan please see Florida’s “Get a Plan” guide. Citizens should also visit their State Emergency Management Agency websites for family disaster plan templates that may be more suited to a local area.
Hurricane Prep Resources
Get A Plan!