Latin America & Caribbean

Hurricane Maria: What to do before, during and after

people boarding up windows Image copyright AFP
Image caption Hurricane Maria is expected to hit Puerto Rico on Wednesday

Hurricane Maria, the third major Atlantic hurricane of the 2017 season, is heading north across the Caribbean and is expected to reach Puerto Rico on Wednesday and the north of the Dominican Republic on Thursday.

It has already "devastated" Dominica, the island nation's prime minister said.

Maria is threatening to turn every piece of debris in the Virgin Islands, already devastated by Hurricane Irma nearly two weeks ago, into potential airborne ammunition.

Although the region is regularly hit by hurricanes, the intensity of this season means fast and strong storms are bearing down one after another.

So, how should people prepare?


If you have been ordered to evacuate, bring three days' worth of water to your shelter with you, plus cash and any specific food or medicines you need. If you are driving to the shelter, pack jump cables, flares, and copies of your identity papers and insurance documents.

If you are staying at home, experts say you should do the following:

Before the hurricane

  • Make sure you have a working torch (flashlight) and spare batteries
  • Check that your first aid kit is fully stocked
  • Charge all mobile phones and portable chargers
  • Stock up on food, bottled water and any medications you take regularly
  • Be sure to include canned foods that can be eaten without needing extra water. You will of course need a working can opener for this, unless you can open a tin with your bare hands like the men in this video
  • Bring things inside that could be picked up by the wind, such as garden furniture, children's toys, and bicycles
  • Fill a bathtub or a large container with water so you can keep flushing the toilet if the water gets cut off
  • Close all your windows and board them up with storm shutters or plywood to protect them from breaking
  • Unplug small appliances so they are not damaged if there is a power surge
  • If you have time, bring furniture to the higher floors of your house so they are out of the way of flooding
Image copyright Handout
Image caption Debris from Hurricane Irma could cause damage and hurt people when Hurricane Maria arrives in the Virgin Islands

During the hurricane

  • When it comes to eating, start with things that will go off soon - check the fridge and freezer - in case the electricity gets cut off
  • Stay in the room with the fewest number of doors and windows, preferably just one internal door. It might be a bathroom, hallway or under the stairs
  • The safest place has traditionally been thought to be the basement but avoid this as there is a risk of flooding
  • Keep in touch with the latest news on the hurricane through local radio, TV reports and Twitter so you know when the authorities declare that it is safe to leave
  • During a power cut, do not use candles in case the wind knocks them over and starts a fire

Do 'Pray for...' messages make disaster relief harder?

After the hurricane:

  • Stay indoors until the authorities say it is safe to leave - avoid mistaking the eye of the storm for the end of the storm
  • Do not touch downed power lines as they may electrocute you
  • Stay away from floodwaters
  • Do not drink tap water until you are informed it is not contaminated

The Red Cross's Hurricane app has a storm tracker and preparation tips as well as a quick way of letting family and friends know you are safe.

More on this story