It is THAT time!

BY: CHERYL MILLER

Our “Hurricane Season” is technically from the beginning of June through the end of October. Many of us veterans of Baja California Sur have been through one or more storms, so we may know many ways to protect our property, lives and our comfort after the storm, (and we learn from each storm that occurs), but, many new homeowners are not familiar with hurricanes and tropical storms.  

Lately, globally, we are seeing here and in many parts of the world, extreme climates that have caused damage and destruction, cost lives and has caused discomfort and distress, so, it is an apt subject to let our new homeowners and potential buyers know what to do to prepare for a storm in the future. If you are ready, you will be fine!

Although most of the past damages here in Baja California Sur have been from hurricanes, as we saw in 2017, a strong tropical storm like Lidia can bring with it a new set of challenges and damage with water and mud.  However, what is to our advantage, is that storms and hurricanes are something we have time to prepare for, unlike an earthquake, where there is no warning.

So here are a few tips:

    •    Never underestimate a storm or hurricane.  As with Odile of 2014, the hurricane looked like it would miss us, and then within the last 6 hours or so, it headed straight for us leaving many residents unprepared.  Storms are fickle and vary, so be prepared.  A few hours of work can save you thousands of dollars in damages and maybe your life.

    •    NEVER buy a property in a flood zone or a low lying area next to a flood zone. A good real estate agent who has experience here in Los Cabos and La Paz knows those areas prone to inundation.  Heed their knowledge.  When these forces occur, there is nothing humanly possible to thwart them.  If your real estate agent is a newbie, you can also check with the government, who has maps of known areas of flood and inundation. That contingency can be added to your offer as a contingency.  Either you or a paid consult can check those maps and secure more information about the area where you want to buy.

    •    If you are not here year-round, arrange with a property manager, neighbor or friend to be on call to “hurricane-proof” your property in your absence. To do so, in advance of any event, procure hurricane protections, bring in or strap down any item that is “loose” on your property, such as patio furniture, BBQs, potted plants or awnings. During a hurricane, literally anything not strapped down or put away will fly away or be moved from its original position. If you have delicate trees, consider installing wooden poles and strapping them against the wind.

Another word or two about strapping and hurricane protection: Most of the failures I have witnessed of these systems were not the systems themselves, but a failure of their connections to the building. Any bolts or connections installed into the building should be installed with an epoxy resinous compound in addition to the “pressure” from the lag bolt itself. This will ensure that the lag bolts will not “pop out” from their holes in the block or concrete.

Hurricane protection: There are several systems on the market. Some come from the U.S. and carry a Dade County, Florida rating. Others do not. You can also build your own systems, as I did, from plywood and wood. Securing the connections with epoxy is paramount for any system to be fully secure.

    •    Pre-planning:  During the early summer have the roof and walls of your home inspected. Even though most waterproofing applications are guaranteed for 3-10 years, however, the intense sun and heat can cause cracking and drying out of these liquid membranes and cause leaks.  Check the surface and corners for any cracks, lifting or peeling.  Repair these areas first. Do NOT wait until the rainy season to do this maintenance.

Check your drainage systems for clogging.  Check the walls and exterior of your home for any possible points water can come in …

    •     Before a storm hits, turn off your gas lines.

    •    When building new, use the connector systems and methods from the United States or Canada.  A strong connection can save that palapa or carport. You can also retrofit any existing construction

    •    Always, have on hand the following items:

    •    Bottle water. Assume ½ gallon per person per day.  Assume another extra ¼ gallon per pet per day. You should always have at least 1 week’s worth of water stored for this emergency at all times.

    •    Batteries. Store them in the refrigerator for longer life. 

    •    Having a small generator is advisable. This can run your refrigerator/freezer for your fresh food supply. 

    •    For a small amount of money you can purchase a solar phone recharger. Although the phones may be down for a while, once service is restored, you will want and need your cell phone. 

    •    Fill your washing machine with ice before the storm. This will give you about 2 days of cold capacity to store perishable foods if you do not have a generator.

    •    Obtain extra cash. After a hurricane, the banks may be closed for extended periods of time. You will not be able to withdraw cash from the ATM …

    •     Canned or dried foods. Always have on hand sufficient non-perishable food sufficient for at least 1 week. And remember your pets too!

    •    Have on hand a whistle or horn to signal for help in case of major damages. Flashlights or lanterns, candles and a first aid kit. 

    •    Fill your car’s gas tank before a storm.

    •    Back up your electronics: The best way is a cloud service or a detachable backup drive you can store in a plastic re-sealable bag in a safe during the storm.

    •    Make copies of important documents and place them in a fireproof safe in plastic, re-sealable bags.

    •    Insurance coverage: Various companies offer hurricane and flood insurance. Contact an agent well before a hurricane. Many policies require a 30-day waiting period to be in force.

    •    If you are present during a hurricane, crack a window on either side of the house on all floors. This relieves pressure created by the forces of the wind and may save the windows in your homes. Contrary to belief, taping your windows does not save them from being broken. Stay in a safe place with your animals away from windows and the potential shattering of the glass.

    •    If asked to evacuate- DO IT! Discuss an evacuation plan with your family members before it is necessary!

As with anywhere in the world, Mother Nature can provide its challenges.  Earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, drought, fires … there is something for everyone all around the world. Los Cabos and La Paz have been fortunate to not have had major disasters on a regular basis, but they do occur. So a little pre-planning, thought and supplies can get you through those rare occasions and save your investment.

Cheryl T. Miller is a Broker of Baja Realty and Investment/Architect. Contact her for more information at 521-624-122-2690 or at infoforsaleinbaja.com, www.forsaleinbaja.com -serving Baja California Sur for 15 years.