UPDATE: As of Thursday morning at 8:00 a.m., Hurricane Florence registered at a category 2 with 110 mph sustained winds, and was located about 220 miles southeast of Myrtle Beach, S.C.
As Hurricane Florence barrels toward the Southeastern U.S. as what the National Weather Service is warning could be “the storm of a lifetime,” residents are preparing for the potential catastrophic devastation of a category 4 storm.
Dr. Erika Navarro, a meteorologist for the Weather Channel, gave PEOPLE her tips for how to prepare yourself and your home for this level of “major” hurricane.
“Florence is an extremely dangerous hurricane, and its slow forward motion will distinguish it from many previous hurricanes that have affected the Southeast coast in the past,” Navarro says. “While others may have come onshore quickly, and subsequently may have been steered back off the coast after landfall, Florence will linger and bring several days of wind, rain, and storm surge to affected areas.”
She adds, “Because it may gradually move inland, areas well away from the coastline and even hundreds of miles from the center of the storm could see heavy rain and flash flooding,” noting that “residents across the Mid-Atlantic and the Southeast should continue to watch the forecast of Florence and take the time to prepare for possible impacts.”
Here, her top takeaways for those in the line of the storm:
Understand Evacuation Zones
“If you live in a coastal area, know if you are in an evacuation zone. If a mandatory evacuation is issued for your area, secure your home and belongings and vacate the area until the evacuation is lifted. Listen to local officials (such as emergency management) for the location and availability of storm shelters if necessary.”
Stock Up On Essentials
“If you are in the path of the storm and not under an evacuation, have at least a two-week supply of food and water (including pets!), as well as flashlights, batteries, etc., in case you lose power and water.”
RELATED VIDEO: Hurricane Florence Weakened but Still Expected to Be Devastating as Some Refuse to Evacuate
Choose Your Light Sources Wisely
Should you lose power, “do NOT use candles or open flames, as these can cause fires after a storm.”
Start Prepping Early
“Have prescriptions filled ahead of time, and gas up your car if you can. It is also a good idea to have cash available, since you may not be able to use an ATM after a storm.”
Although Navarro says people in hurricane and natural disaster situations should always follow these general tips, it’s important for people to pay close attention to government issued warnings and tips for evacuation and hurricane prep.
“Preparedness for those along a coastline and in the direct path of a storm may differ in terms of an evacuation and securing your property, but general preparedness for the aftermath of a storm for areas farther inland are more or less the same,” Navarro says. “Always heed the advice of your local officials, especially if you live in a flood-prone area.”