For the third year in a row, Charleston is facing a weather disaster - namely, Hurricane Irma. In October of 2015, South Carolina experienced historic flooding caused by low pressure systems to the west, and Hurricane Joaquin to the east, with some areas recording over 25 inches of rainfall. In the Lowcountry and many other places, flash flooding resulted, and high tides exacerbated the problem. My neighborhood made national news, and rescue teams had to help stranded people leave their homes.


The following year, 2016, brought Hurricane Matthew.  It was “only” a Category 1 hurricane in Charleston, SC, but extensive power outages, house damage, and flooding once again plagued the Lowcountry. I live in Summerville, SC, and an oak tree missed my front steps by one foot.


We’ve seen the posts on social media, and recommendations from news anchors, on what to bring if you evacuate (and what to keep on hand if you don’t), and how to prepare your house in case of the worst. Hurricane Irma is due to arrive on Sunday in our area, and I feel like I should help point out a few more things I recommend to take care of some of our most precious memories - our photos. I generally practice the tips below with both my personal and client images, so keep reading to learn about your options.

1. Upload Your Images To Cloud-Based Storage: Usually when someone makes the decision to evacuate, there isn’t much time to sit down and make a complete backup of your computer hard drives. Usually, we have a file folder just for photos, so I recommend locating this (along with scanned copies of legal documents), and put it onto a cloud-based storage server. Having your data in the cloud means that even if your phone or PC breaks, your data can be retrieved from any other machine. I personally use my Amazon Prime membership to store personal photos, Flickr (1TB of free storage space, though it is more of a portfolio site), Dropbox, and Google Drive. Storing your files in more than one place is the best way to ensure they won’t be lost. This can be time consuming, so start early, and let them upload while you're making other preparations!

2. Backup To An External Hard Drive: Personally, I probably wouldn’t put legal documents on Dropbox (unless I took the time to encrypt them), but that’s why I have an external hard drive. They act just like the regular hard drive on your computer, but they’re portable, very easy to carry, and generally very reliable. I would do this in addition to cloud-based storage. I recommend this one.

3. Bring Your Hard Drive With You (If You Know What You’re Doing): I’ve been building my own PCs since the nineties, so I know my way around my computer. However, as scary as it may be, if you own a Phillips head screwdriver, you could remove your hard drive and bring it with you. Put it in a zip lock freezer bag, with anti-dessicant packs, maybe wrap it in bubble wrap. Anti-static bags are perfect for those of us with foresight. For those of us with tower cases and not much room in the car, this is a viable option, If you know what you're doing.

Moving on to images on your walls:

4. Take Pictures Of Everything: Yep, take pictures of your pictures (and other valuables in your house, while you’re at it). If it is irreplaceable, bring it with you when you evacuate. Insurance companies will want good records of what you have.

5. Make Sure You Have a Digital Backup: I provide high res images to my clients, so if your photo was taken by me, do not worry! Otherwise, contact your photographer if you need a digital backup of your wall artwork.

6. If You Can’t Bring It With You: I have so many framed images in my house that it would be near impossible to bring it all with me, unless I left a suitcase at home (not happening). Last year, I scanned old photos where I only had a physical copy of the print, so I no longer have to worry about those being damaged. However, I may put some of my favorite pieces in a central part of the house, lifted off the ground, like my hall closet. This spot is the least likely to sustain damage if a tree hits my house - it’s where I put my kids, wearing helmets, during Hurricane Matthew. My favorite giclee prints, and my studio imagery, will be carefully stored here - so, treat your artwork the same way you might treat other valuables that you can’t bring along. I know I've read of some people putting items in a dishwasher - but, eh, I wouldn't put artwork there. It might be water and air tight, but if there's any residual water in the machine, it could warp your images.

I hoped this would be short, as I still have some shopping to do, but I hope this is helpful to people who would like some ideas on how to protect your images. It bears repeating that your priorities are you and your families’ safety, so please visit the following sites for how to prepare for this and future hurricanes. Be safe everyone, and please comment below or on my FB post on any more tips/advice, we'd love to hear it!

National Hurricane Center

SC Evacuation Zones

Official SC Hurricane guide - excellent info here!

Red Cross Donations


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Jamie Stefanko Photography is located outside Charleston, SC in Summerville, SC. Jamie Stefanko is Charleston's premier family photographer specializing in artistic, contemporary family and child photography. As a professional photographer, Jamie captures children, maternity, newborn, high school senior, and family portraits in Charleston, South Carolina and Summerville-Daniel Island-Mount Pleasant-Goose Creek-West Ashley-Moncks Corner-Folly Beach-James Island, South Carolina.