If you live along the coastal part of the southeastern U.S., hurricanes are common and expected each year. Even for those farther inland and farther north along the Eastern Seaboard, it’s possible that a hurricane or tropical storm could put your family and your home at risk.

The best step you can take to reduce long-lasting damage is to prepare well in advance for a major storm.

“They should start taking action now,” says Michael Rimoldi, senior vice president of educational and technical programs for the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes.

As soon as you purchase or rent a home in a part of the country prone to hurricanes and tropical storms – particularly Florida, along the Gulf of Mexico and up the coast through North Carolina – you should develop an evacuation plan for you and your family. When in doubt, leaving the area that a hurricane will likely hit is the safest option, so your evacuation plan should be easy and accessible.

[Read: The 20 Best Places to Live in the U.S. for the Weather.]

In addition to your personal safety, you should take the right steps to protect your home from potential damage – since, unfortunately, few houses are able to move themselves out of a hurricane’s path. Before the nightly news warns you of a hurricane and well before any damage occurs, you should have a conversation with your home insurance provider so you know you’ll be covered if a tree falls on your roof, the basement floods or worse.

“In general, people want to make sure they have enough coverage on their homeowners policy to rebuild their home,” says Kathy Phillips, senior underwriter at insurance company USAA.

With a plan for you and coverage for your home, it’s time to take steps to help keep your home healthy should a storm hit. The worst thing you could do is procrastinate, then use precious time before the storm on prevention that isn’t effective. One useless task Rimoldi sees homeowners do all too often is taping windows with duct tape or masking tape, theoretically to protect them from shattering. “That’s a waste of time,” he says, noting it doesn’t do anything.


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Here’s a checklist of 10 things to do before the forecast of a major storm.

Make an evacuation plan. Before you do anything else to prepare, know where you’re going to go in the event of an evacuation, and then notify family of that plan, so they know where to find you if you have to get out quick. In fact, Phillips suggests making two evacuation plans: “Have more than one route to get out because when evacuations happen, things get bottlenecked.”

Make sure you’re covered. Your homeowners insurance policy should cover damage caused by heavy winds, but flood insurance typically has to be purchased separately. “The best thing to do for homeowners in those areas is to contact their insurance company,” Phillips says.

Make shutters ahead of time. If you don’t have functional storm shutters on your house, it’s easy enough to make them from plywood, but you should make them long in advance. “That’s a beautiful Saturday-afternoon, sunny-day project – not two days before the storm and it’s already getting windy,” Rimoldi says. Not to mention, plywood in a hurricane is the same as a shovel in a snowstorm – once the forecast comes, it’s hard to find in any hardware store.

[Read: 8 Ways to Avoid Being Disappointed About the Condition of Your New Home.]

Be ready for damage. No one wants to anticipate damage to their home, but you can prevent further damage if you store useful items ahead of time. “Maybe go buy a tarp now,” Rimoldi says. A tarp, chainsaw and spare plywood could be key to avoiding additional damage in a storm if a branch goes through a window, for example.

Read owner’s manuals. Whether it’s a generator, chainsaw or water pump, you should read the owner’s manual prior to use – and certainly prior to a hurricane – to ensure you’re safely operating the equipment. Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, stresses that generators in particular, when placed improperly near a home, can become a major safety hazard: “You cannot use them near the house, near a window or an open door. You cannot run them in the garage,” he says. “Know your machine, read the owner’s manual. It will spell out in clear terms how and where to run the unit.”

Test your power equipment. Once you know how it works, make sure your tools are actually working. Especially if you haven’t operated your chainsaw since the last time a tree branch fell in your driveway, you want to be confident that it doesn’t need any repairs. “You want to start your generator, start your chainsaw – make sure they fire, make sure they operate,” Kiser says. Once you’ve tested the equipment, keep it in an easily accessible place that won’t be flooded, such as a hall closet or on a shelf in the garage if you can get in without power. And keep in mind that if you have an electric-powered garage door, you won’t be able to get in if the power goes out.


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Have fuel on hand. A call for evacuation doesn’t usually come in time to leisurely cruise out of town, so around peak hurricane season, be sure to always have enough gas to get you out of danger should the announcement come. “The lines for gas become incredible,” Phillips says.

Know the kind of fuel you need. In addition to gas for your car, it’s smart to also keep power equipment-specific fuel on hand. Kiser says fuel with ethanol in it, like that used in automobiles, is not recommended for power equipment. “That fuel stales really, really quick,” he says. It will likely be more expensive, but fuel designed for power equipment – often sold at hardware stores – will be less likely to go stale as it sits and will make your generator or chainsaw run better when you need it following a hurricane.

Have a plan for your pets. Emergency shelters are often set up when an evacuation is ordered, but not all shelters will allow the family pet in with you, Phillips says. Should you and your family have to go to a shelter to spend a few nights, find a friend or family member who has the ability to work your pet into his or her evacuation plan.

[See: 8 Potential Headaches to Be Aware of Before Becoming a Homeowner.]

Have a place for all your outdoor decor. Keep space in your garage or basement to make it easy to get your patio furniture and any lawn ornaments inside quickly when the forecast for high winds comes. Rimoldi says he hears the classic tale of a homeowner getting all but one chair inside. “Sure enough, that’s the one that went through one of my windows,” he recounts being told.


The 25 Best Places People Are Moving to in the U.S. in 2017


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These places have the highest net migration over five years.

Fort Myers, Florida

(Getty Images)

In calculating the Best Places to Live, U.S. News factors in each metro area’s growth due to net migration over a five-year period. For the 2017 ranking, we determined net migration from 2011 to 2015 per data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the most recent complete data set at the time of our calculations. Places with the most growth might be attracting new residents thanks to a hot job market, inexpensive housing, desirable location or some other factor. Read on for the 25 metro areas (out of the 100 largest) that have grown the most.

25. Oklahoma City

25. Oklahoma City

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Best Places to Live 2017 Ranking: 36
Metro Population: 1,318,408
Median Home Price: $149,646
Median Annual Salary: $44,280
Net Migration Rate, 2011 to 2015: 4.67 percent

To some coastal residents, Oklahoma’s capital may seem an unlikely place for growth, but this city has seen strong growth in population due to net migration: 4.67 percent between 2011 and 2015.

Learn more about Oklahoma City.

24. Des Moines, Iowa

24. Des Moines, Iowa

Des Moines, Iowa skyline from the summer of 2013. Taken from the Mercy Holiday Inn

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Best Places to Live 2017 Ranking: 9
Metro Population: 601,187
Median Home Price: $168,629
Median Annual Salary: $47,170
Net Migration Rate, 2011 to 2015: 4.82 percent

The No. 1 Best Affordable Place to Live in the U.S. is also seeing a significant influx of people moving to the area. Des Moines grew by 4.82 percent due to net migration between 2011 and 2015.

Learn more about Des Moines.

23. Seattle

23. Seattle

High dynamic image of Seattle skyline in dramatic sunrise colors across pier-66 waterfront

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Best Places to Live 2017 Ranking: 6
Metro Population: 3,614,361
Median Home Price: $359,693
Median Annual Salary: $59,060
Net Migration Rate, 2011 to 2015: 4.97 percent

Seattle has long had a reputation as a strong job market, with the likes of Microsoft, Starbucks and Amazon headquartered in the area. But it is also the ultimate hometown for many who are looking to move to the Pacific Northwest.

Learn more about Seattle.

22. Las Vegas

22. Las Vegas

Las Vegas Strip Palms in Colorful Color Grading. Las Vegas, Nevada, United States.

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Best Places to Live 2017 Ranking: 78
Metro Population: 2,035,572
Median Home Price: $208,839
Median Annual Salary: $42,070
Net Migration Rate, 2011 to 2015: 4.98 percent

One of the recession's hardest-hit cities, particularly in the housing market, Las Vegas continues its upward trend with a growing job market and plenty of entertainment to attract new residents.

Learn more about Las Vegas.

21. Jacksonville, Florida

21. Jacksonville, Florida

Jacksonville, Florida, USA downtown city skyline on St. Johns River.

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Best Places to Live 2017 Ranking: 45
Metro Population: 1,401,600
Median Home Price: $190,760
Median Annual Salary: $43,460
Net Migration Rate, 2011 to 2015: 5.04 percent

Sunny Florida weather, a below-average cost of living and growing business district continue to attract residents of all ages to Jacksonville, which grew more than 5 percent due to net migration between 2011 and 2015.

Learn more about Jacksonville.

20. Phoenix

20. Phoenix

Phoenix Arizona skyline framed by saguaro cactus and mountainous desert

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Best Places to Live 2017 Ranking: 44
Metro Population: 4,407,915
Median Home Price: $216,454
Median Annual Salary: $46,700
Net Migration Rate, 2011 to 2015: 5.07 percent

Phoenix serves as a particularly hot destination for retirees. But the job market and ample outdoor activities continue to attract new residents of all ages. The area has grown by 5.07 percent over a five-year period.

Learn more about Phoenix.

19. Melbourne, Florida

19. Melbourne, Florida

Sunset over the Melbourne Causeway

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Best Places to Live 2017 Ranking: 49
Metro Population: 553,591
Median Home Price: $163,042
Median Annual Salary: $45,470
Net Migration Rate, 2011 to 2015: 5.43 percent

Growing 5.43 percent due to net migration between 2011 and 2015, Melbourne sees particular interest from seniors – the metro area's median age is 46.6 years old.

Learn more about Melbourne.

18. Dallas-Fort Worth

18. Dallas-Fort Worth

Photo of Dallas skyline in the morning. Sunrise moment. Dusk.

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Best Places to Live 2017 Ranking: 15
Metro Population: 6,833,420
Median Home Price: $210,181
Median Annual Salary: $49,030
Net Migration Rate, 2011 to 2015: 5.5 percent

The largest metro area on this list, Dallas-Fort Worth grew by 5.5 percent in a five-year period. Despite its size, Dallas-Fort Worth has a median home price of $210,181, just shy of the national median at $211,731.

Learn more about Dallas-Fort Worth.

17. Miami

17. Miami

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Best Places to Live 2017 Ranking: 92
Metro Population: 5,861,000
Median Home Price: $232,449
Median Annual Salary: $45,110
Net Migration Rate, 2011 to 2015: 5.67 percent

Miami’s reputation for beautiful beaches, warm weather and a diverse population is certainly at least part of the reason people are flocking to the metro area.

Learn more about Miami.

16. Boise, Idaho

16. Boise, Idaho

Summer at a city park with clouds

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Best Places to Live 2017 Ranking: 12
Metro Population: 651,402
Median Home Price: $228,567
Median Annual Salary: $42,180
Net Migration Rate, 2011 to 2015: 5.77 percent

Offering a much different landscape than Miami, Boise comes in at No. 16. Idaho's capital grew by 5.77 percent between 2011 and 2015 due to net migration alone.

Learn more about Boise.

15. Charlotte, North Carolina

15. Charlotte, North Carolina

charlotte north carolina city skyline

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Best Places to Live 2017 Ranking: 14
Metro Population: 2,338,792
Median Home Price: $189,508
Median Annual Salary: $48,370
Net Migration Rate, 2011 to 2015: 6.07 percent

Growing by more than 6 percent between 2011 and 2015 from people relocating to the area, Charlotte is also a top destination in the minds of many Americans. The area ranks No. 15 for the Most Desirable Places to Live in the U.S. in 2017.

Learn more about Charlotte.

14. Tampa, Florida

14. Tampa, Florida

Historic Ybor City with bars and restaurants in Tampa, Florida, USA

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Best Places to Live 2017 Ranking: 35
Metro Population: 2,888,458
Median Home Price: $170,495
Median Annual Salary: $44,510
Net Migration Rate, 2011 to 2015: 6.08 percent

The fourth of nine Florida metro areas on the list, this Gulf Coast metro area grew by 6.08 percent between 2011 and 2015 due to net migration.

Learn more about Tampa.

13. Fayetteville, Arkansas

13. Fayetteville, Arkansas

Houses in a neighborhood in Arkansas

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Best Places to Live 2017 Ranking: 5
Metro Population: 493,095
Median Home Price: $182,508
Median Annual Salary: $43,570
Net Migration Rate, 2011 to 2015: 6.09 percent

It’s the smallest of the 25 fastest-growing metro areas, but Fayetteville is seeing residents rapidly moving to the area.

Learn more about Fayetteville.

12. Nashville, Tennessee

12. Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville written on a building of the historical district.More images from Nashville in the lightbox:

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Best Places to Live 2017 Ranking: 13
Metro Population: 1,761,848
Median Home Price: $200,590
Median Annual Salary: $44,700
Net Migration Rate, 2011 to 2015: 6.1 percent

About 500 miles east in neighboring Tennessee, Nashville comes in at No. 12, having grown slightly more than Fayetteville between 2011 and 2015 at 6.1 percent due to net migration.

Learn more about Nashville.

11. Denver

11. Denver

Sunrise over Denver Colorado's skyline as seen from City Park.

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Best Places to Live 2017 Ranking: 2
Metro Population: 2,703,972
Median Home Price: $314,021
Median Annual Salary: $54,450
Net Migration Rate, 2011 to 2015: 6.31 percent

Growing more than 6.3 percent due to net migration between 2011 and 2015, Denver continues to grow at a rapid pace, thanks to both its flourishing job market and high desirability among U.S. residents for its countless outdoor opportunities with the Rocky Mountains just a short drive away.

Learn more about Denver.

10. Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina

10. Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina

Downtown Raleigh Twilight, North Carolina

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Best Places to Live 2017 Ranking: 7
Metro Population: 1,750,865
Median Home Price: $219,466
Median Annual Salary: $51,150
Net Migration Rate, 2011 to 2015: 6.42 percent

Home to major universities – the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, Duke University and North Carolina State University – former students in the Raleigh and Durham area are choosing to lay down permanent roots, while others are flocking to the metro region for the job opportunities the schools and other locally based corporations offer.

Learn more about Raleigh and Durham.

9. Lakeland, Florida

9. Lakeland, Florida

A typical winter scene on Lake Hollingsworth in Lakeland, Florida

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Best Places to Live 2017 Ranking: 64
Metro Population: 626,676
Median Home Price: $148,000
Median Annual Salary: $39,030
Net Migration Rate, 2011 to 2015: 6.52 percent

Located in the center of Florida’s peninsula, Lakeland is showing strong growth that mirrors the state's coastal metro areas featured on the list. Lakeland grew by 6.52 percent from 2011 to 2015 due to net migration alone.

Learn more about Lakeland.

8. San Antonio

8. San Antonio

San Antonio Texas skyline cityscape aerial panorama

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Best Places to Live 2017 Ranking: 23
Metro Population: 2,286,702
Median Home Price: $178,408
Median Annual Salary: $43,740
Net Migration Rate, 2011 to 2015: 6.63 percent

The second of four Texas metro areas on the list, San Antonio has experienced significant growth due to net migration: 6.63 percent between 2011 and 2015.

Learn more about San Antonio.

7. Houston

7. Houston

Downtown Houston at nighttime

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Best Places to Live 2017 Ranking: 20
Metro Population: 6,346,653
Median Home Price: $197,628
Median Annual Salary: $51,830
Net Migration Rate, 2011 to 2015: 6.84 percent

A close second to Dallas-Fort Worth for the largest metro area population on the list, Houston grew 6.84 percent in a five-year period due to net migration. Houston homes also maintain a low median price at just $197,628.

Learn more about Houston.

6. Daytona Beach, Florida

6. Daytona Beach, Florida

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Best Places to Live 2017 Ranking: 82
Metro Population: 604,502
Median Home Price: $164,069
Median Annual Salary: $36,980
Net Migration Rate, 2011 to 2015: 7.09 percent

At No. 6, Daytona Beach’s growth from net migration between 2011 and 2015 breaks 7 percent. The coastal metro area attracts plenty of tourists to NASCAR races and its beaches, but plenty of these visitors also appear happy enough to make the place their next home.

Learn more about Daytona Beach.

5. Charleston, South Carolina

5. Charleston, South Carolina

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Best Places to Live 2017 Ranking: 27
Metro Population: 712,232
Median Home Price: $222,979
Median Annual Salary: $43,560
Net Migration Rate, 2011 to 2015: 7.88 percent

It’s a relatively small metro area, but Charleston is growing quickly – by 7.88 percent due to net migration over five years. Ranking No. 9 on the Most Desirable Places to Live in the U.S. list, people are clearly acting on their plans to live in the historic coastal area.

Learn more about Charleston.

4. Orlando, Florida

4. Orlando, Florida

Sunset on the Boardwalk - Disneyworld

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Best Places to Live 2017 Ranking: 40
Metro Population: 2,277,816
Median Home Price: $187,948
Median Annual Salary: $41,460
Net Migration Rate, 2011 to 2015: 8.59 percent

The home of Disney World and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter doesn’t just attract people hoping to see their favorite fictional characters up close, it also brings people who are planning to make it their home.

Learn more about Orlando.

3. Austin, Texas

3. Austin, Texas

Barton Springs Picnic is a area for food trucks or carts on Barton Springs Road, in Austin, Texas.

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Best Places to Live 2017 Ranking: 1
Metro Population: 1,889,094
Median Home Price: $262,182
Median Annual Salary: $49,560
Net Migration Rate, 2011 to 2015: 10.45 percent

Tech companies have been opening offices in the Texas metro area, partially for its affordability relative to the likes of San Jose and San Francisco, driving many people to Austin for work. It’s a hot enough destination that the metro area grew 10.45 percent over five years due to net migration.

Learn more about Austin.

2. Sarasota, Florida

2. Sarasota, Florida

Going toward Downtown Sarasota from from the Ringling Bridge

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Best Places to Live 2017 Ranking: 21
Metro Population: 735,767
Median Home Price: $224,613
Median Annual Salary: $40,600
Net Migration Rate, 2011 to 2015: 10.74 percent

With a median age of more than 50 years old, Sarasota is a particularly attractive destination for retirees, even more so than other Florida locales. Sarasota grew by 10.74 percent in a five-year period due to net migration.

Learn more about Sarasota.

1. Fort Myers, Florida

1. Fort Myers, Florida

Fort Myers Beach pier, Florida, USA.

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Best Places to Live 2017 Ranking: 70
Metro Population: 663,675
Median Home Price: $198,700
Median Annual Salary: $39,950
Net Migration Rate, 2011 to 2015: 12.7 percent

Fort Myers returns as the fastest-growing metro area in the U.S. Fort Myers grew a whopping 12.7 percent between 2011 and 2015, which is much higher than its 9.36 percent growth rate due to net migration between 2010 and 2014 from the 2016 ranking.

Learn more about Fort Myers.

Read More

Tags: real estate, housing, home improvements, weather, hurricanes


Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

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