You’re boarding up the windows. You’re stocking up on water. You’re scooping sandbags. But wait: Do you have cash? If you’re preparing for a cyclone, tropical storm, or other weather event that provides plenty of notice, you should add visiting the bank or ATM to your to-do list.
After a storm, cash is king. Businesses may reopen before power is restored, which will bump cash-holders to the front of the line for everything from gas and food to that ice-cold beer you’ll so desperately want to crack open when things start to calm down.
Banks tend to keep the ATM refills coming before a known weather threat, while retailers offering cash back can sometimes reduce the amount of cash back they permit per purchase.
In America, when Hurricane Sandy skirted by Washington, D.C. in 2012, one grocery store reduced its cash-back limit from $US200 ($297) down to $US50 ($74).
After that storm barreled through New York City, residents in areas without power had to walk to find working ATMs, and often found them depleted. After a storm, banks can struggle to know which ATMs need refilling and which areas have had power restored. Meanwhile, armoured trucks may have difficulty getting to storm-damaged neighbourhoods that need those refills.
How much cash should you have on hand as a storm approaches? A few hundred dollars should provide a decent cushion. If the weather event is severe and you think you may need to evacuate, more cash is better. If you can swing it, aim to have enough in cash to cover up to a month’s worth of typical expenses. If you can get a variety of notes — a hundred, a bunch of $20s, some $10s and $5s — you’ll be better prepared for those situations where you need to pull from that emergency fund.