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The powerful superstorm known as Hurricane Sandy is expected to make landfall tonight and last well into Tuesday, but many areas are already experiencing damaging winds and severe flooding. Several cities have mandated emergency evacuations, shutdown transit systems, canceled flights and closed schools until later this week. Many spent the weekend evacuating or rushing to stores to gather provisions for an inevitable power outage.

Hurricane Katrina Cleanup aftermath

Five years after Hurricane Katrina and a year after Hurricane Irene, many homeowners are still trying to rebuild their lives. Hurricane Sandy, though a lower level category, is nearly twice the size of its predecessors. It has already left many without power and caused major flooding in the Northeastern United States.

If you’re a little confused on what makes this storm so dangerous, here’s the breakdown: Hurricane Sandy is only a Category 1 hurricane, but the wind speeds are expected to grow to over 90 miles per hour, meaning it could easily turn into Category 2 territory. Sandy is also setting records for its size – the storm’s wind field is 900 miles long. Thanks to an ill-timed full moon, the tide levels are high, making it easy for Sandy to transport even more water to the coast. Finally, Sandy is combining with an early winter storm system from the west and cold air from Canada, bringing snow as far south as the Carolinas and East Tennessee.

A storm like this naturally raises a lot of issues, so we’ve answered some tough questions and gathered advice for those of you in the path of the storm.

Should I still try to evacuate?
If you live in an evacuation zone, leave. No house or amount of money is more important than you and your family’s safety. There are emergency evacuation centers set up all along the coast that will take you and your family in and provide assistance until the worst of the storm is over.

If you live in an outlying area but you’re still worried about flooding or damage, move to higher ground if possible. The center of the storm is expected to hover over the Mid-Atlantic tonight, so if you don’t think you can make it out within the next couple of hours, stay put. Remember if you are thinking of leaving, there are millions of other people who are thinking the same.

Google has created a crisis map where you track the storm’s path, find shelters, and get alerts. Twitter is also a great place to get live updates in your area.

HOME SURVIVAL SKILLS: GET A CORDED PHONE

I don’t live close enough to necessitate an evacuation. What should I do during the storm?
Don’t try to leave or go outside once the storm is close. Stay inside.

If you have time and the materials, block doors with sandbags and board windows if possible to prevent the damaging winds from caving in windows and doors. Stay away from windows and doors during the storm, and unplug unnecessary devices like your computer and television. Bring outside furniture indoors – it can be picked up by the wind and damage your home.

Contact family members, especially family members in other states, to let them know your location in relation to the storm and have an emergency contact and location to go if your home is damaged during the storm and you need somewhere to stay.

When the storm hits, go to the lowest level and take cover in a small interior room, such as a closet or hallway. You can also further protect yourself by taking shelter under a sturdy table.

What should I do about food/water?
If you think you will be severely affected by the storm, later tonight turn your fridge thermostat to the highest setting and keep the doors closed. If the power goes out, it will take longer for your food to go bad, keeping some foods edible for days longer.

Be sure to have snacks ready for your little ones. Non-perishable items such as crackers and peanut butter are excellent choices.

If you have vitamins, now is a good time to start taking them. Have them ready in case the power is out for several days and you’re unable to get the nutrients you need.

Keep two supplies of water – one for drinking and another for hygienic purposes such as flushing toilets and keeping clean.

HOME SURVIVAL SKILLS: MAKE AN EMERGENCY KIT

What should I do about my children?
With cell phone apps these days, it will be tempting to try to distract your child by giving him or her your cell phone to play with. Do not let your cell phone battery go down in case of an emergency. Opt for other battery powered games or devices, or pick out a selection of your child’s favorite toys to play with and keep them near your home’s safe place.

Remember to stay calm. A child can often sense your panic even if you think you’re well-composed.

What should I do after the storm?
If you evacuated, do not return to your home until officials state it is safe to do so. If you’re already at home, watch or listen for weather alerts that state it is safe to leave. Don’t try to leave immediately after the storm is over, often fallen trees and flooding make roads too dangerous for travel.

Inspect your home for damage and take pictures for insurance purposes. Do not use candles in case there is a gas leak. Prepare to clean up any flooding.

Keep a close eye on your children and pets. Don’t let them near any piles of debris or standing floodwater.

Check your fridge for food that may have spoiled and throw it out.

If you have become separated from your family, the National Emergency Family Registry and Locator System (NEFRLS) is a database that you can enter your information into that will help your family members find you.

What other questions do you have about Hurricane Sandy? Leave your questions in the comments below. Most of all, stay dry, stay warm and stay safe. Our hearts go out to our HGTV friends and families affected by the storm. 

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Jessica YonkerJessica Yonker is a writer for HGTV.com and a professional glitter handler in training. She loves decorating her friends' homes without their permission and practicing for her inevitable appearance on...

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