Hurricanes are massive storm systems that form over ocean water and often move toward land. Coastal communities are most at risk for extreme winds & flooding from rain & storm surges during a hurricane. However, the impact of hurricanes can extend from the coast to several hundred miles inland. Rain, wind, flooding, power outages, and even tornadoes can happen far inland from where a hurricane or tropical storm makes landfall.
Threats of a Hurricane
hurricane force windspeeds of 72-157 mph
average of 16 inches of rain within a 24-hour period
can increase the water level by 30 feet or more – is often the greatest threat to life and property
can produce widespread torrential rains which cause massive flooding and trigger landslides
Effects of Hurricanes
to humans and animals by drowning and wind-borne debris
ato homes, buildings, and roads
of power, water, and gas
to transportation and clean water systems
The National Weather Service (NWS) issues alerts when weather conditions make hurricanes more likely. Know the terms used to describe changing hurricane conditions and be prepared to take appropriate action.
Advisory Tropical Storm or Hurricane Advisory—The NWS issues an Advisory when it expects conditions to cause significant inconveniences that may be hazardous. If caution is used, these situations should not be life-threatening.
Watch Tropical Storm or Hurricane Watch—The NWS issues a Watch when a tropical storm or hurricane is possible within 48 hours. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards, local radio, TV, or other news sources for more information. Monitor alerts, check your emergency supplies, and gather any items you may need if you lose power.
WarningTropical Storm or Hurricane Warning—The NWS issues a Warning when it expects a tropical storm or hurricane within 36 hours. During a Warning, complete your storm preparations, and immediately leave the threatened area if directed to do so by local officials.
Prepare to Evacuate
Evacuation Plan If you are asked to leave your home, you'll want to have a preplanned strategy that will do the thinking for you. Learn more about creating an evacuation plan for your family and a plan for your pet.
Grab & Go BinderThis binder includes important documents and records. If something happens to your home, your information will be safe.
Prepare to Shelter-in-Place
You may not be evacuated and will be able to stay home. However, there is a good chance you will lose electricity so plan now to deal with that probability.
Warning: If you live in a manufactured, mobile, trailer, or RV home, make plans to evacuate. These homes are not made to withstand hurricane force winds so do not attempt to shelter-in-place.
Simple Ways to Protect Your Property
- Bring loose, lightweight objects (e.g., patio furniture, garbage cans, and bicycles) inside.
- Anchor objects that would be unsafe to bring inside (e.g., gas grills and propane tanks).
- Trim all trees & shrubs. High winds can turn branches into projectiles during a storm. Consider removing trees close enough to fall on buildings.
- Keep drains and gutters free of debris.
- Store emergency protective materials such as plywood, plastic sheeting, and sandbags.
Invest in Your Property
The following suggestions cost money, but these investments can go a long way in protecting your property from hurricane force winds and flooding.
- Install sewer backflow valves.
- Waterproof your basement.
- Elevate your furnace, water heater, and electrical panel.
- Install hurricane shutters.
- Retrofit your roof, windows, and doors.
Purchase flood insurance - flood insurance is available for homeowners, renters, and business owners through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in participating communities. Policies take 30 days to go into effect.
Because hurricanes are easy to forecast, the alert system should provide you with plenty of notice. When the first one comes in, grab your evacuation plan, and start implementing it immediately. The beauty of this plan is that it does the thinking for you. Simply follow the steps and listen closely to your local authorities. When they tell you to leave, you will be ready to go.
- Remember to take your go bags and binder and any family kits you’d like to have with you.
- Follow posted evacuation routes and stick to them. Do not try to take shortcuts because they may be blocked.
- If you encounter flood waters, turn around. Just six inches of fast-moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
If you are not in a mandatory evacuation zone, you may wish to stay home. If so, remember that even if the high winds and floodwaters do not reach your home, you may lose power and water, and you may not be able to leave your home for several days if the roads are impassable. Follow these tips to ensure your safety:
- Stay informed so you can react.
- Secure yourself inside of a sturdy building, not a temporary structure.
- Stay indoors and away from windows and glass doors. Go to a windowless room on the lowest level that is not likely to flood, and take your grab & go bags, binder, and pets with you.
- If water comes into your home, go to the highest level of the building. Do not climb into a closed attic. You may become trapped by rising flood waters.
Outside Your Home
Look for damage to power and gas lines,foundation cracks, your home's exterior, and downed or unstable trees and poles.
Turn off utilities including water, gas, and electicity (this can pose a huge risk of electrocution inside your home).
Stay out of floodwaters as they can contain dangerous debris like broken glass, metal, dead animals, sewage, gasoline, oil, and downed power lines. They can also contain unwanted guests that are very much alive like rodents, snakes, insects, and other animals. They may be inside your home as well.
Inside Your Home
Do not enter your home until it has been inspected for damage to the electrical system, gas lines, septic systems, and water lines or wells.
Do not use a fuel-powered generator, indoors, in your garage, or near an open window. Carbon monoxide poisoning is one of the leading causes of post-storm deaths.
Use appropriate personal protective equipment to avoid injury from possible exposure to mold and bacteria including gloves, safety glasses, rubber boots, and N95 masks.
Look for mold growth and remove it properly.
Air out / dry out your home by opening all doors and windows whenever you are present. Leave as many windows open when you are not present as security concerns allow.
Remove porous items that cannot be cleaned or disinfected. This includes some flooring, paneling, drywall, insulation, mattresses, carpeting, upholstered items, stuffed animals, and other baby toys.
Clean and disinfect remaining hard surfaces like floors, countertops, and appliances with hot water and soap or detergent. Mud left from floodwater can contain sewage, bacteria, and chemicals.
Food & Water
Throw out any food including canned items that were not maintained at a proper temperature or have been exposed to floodwaters. Do not eat food from a flooded garden. When in doubt, throw it out.
Do not drink tap water unless authorities say it is safe – do not assume it’s safe. Boil the water first and look for alerts from your city regarding the safety of your drinking water. Do not use it to wash dishes, brush teeth, or wash/prepare food.
Do not drink bottled water that has been submerged in floodwaters.
Stay off the roads
Avoid driving except in emergencies.
Avoid flooded areas or standing water as they can hide dangerous toxins, chemicals, sharp objects, snakes, and electrically charged water.
Avoid disaster areas - your presence may hamper restoration, rescue, or other emergency operations.