How to Prepare for a Hurricane

In the past, especially in some parts of the country, people felt that they did need to plan for an emergency because severe hurricanes, tornadoes and other disasters were few and far between.  In recent years, this philosophy has changed and most families are well aware that natural and man-made disasters can happen no matter where you live.

We’re All at Risk

This holds especially true in the Northeast where people have been lucky to be relatively unscathed in the past.  Recent disasters have shown us that it is especially important that everyone takes these threats seriously and put some sort plan in place for hurricane preparedness.

Know the Basics of Hurricanes………..

Hurricanes and Tropical Storms

Hurricanes have sustained winds of 74 MPH or higher and tropical storms have winds of 39 to 73 mph.  The National Weather Service will give advisories for both.  They both have the capabilities to produce tornados and much damage.  Strong Winds from both type of storm can uproot trees, make large branches and tree limbs to fall to the ground, destroy buildings, and cause debris to fly around. The flooding from storms can cause drowning and mass destruction to roads, bridges and buildings.  Major transportation can come to a complete halt.

Storm Surge and Other Problems
Hurricanes can produce many problems including storm surges, flooding, winds, tornados and rip currents to name a few.  Storm surges can produce abnormal surges of water because of heavy winds.  Some storm surges in the past have reached heights of over 20 feet.  The storm tide rises due to the storm.

2008- Hurricane Ike produced a 20 foot storm tide in Texas
2005- Hurricane Katrina produced a 27 foot storm tide in Mississippi
1989- Hurricane Hugo produced a 20 foot storm tide in South Carolina 

Storm surge from a hurricane can be impacted by factors such as the depth of the water and the physical geography of the coastline.  For example, the shallow gulf waters off of the state of Texas enhance storm surge while the deep open depths off of the coastline of southeastern Florida inhibit it. The example of storm surge on the NOAA website shows a good example of the damage that it can do.

Hurricane Season
Hurricane Season normally runs from Late May to the end of November but in the Western Northern Pacific it can be anytime of the year.

The Typical Time For Hurricane Season is:
Atlantic and Caribbean-    June 1st through November 30th -   Peak time mid-August – Late October
Central Pacific-                June 1st through November 30th-    Peak time July through September
East Pacific-                     May 15th through November 30th

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale
The Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale is based on the wind speed of the storm.  It ranges from 1 through 5 in terms of dangerous to catastrophic.   The numbers 3 through 5 signify a major hurricane. The Hurricane intensity scale on the NOAA website depicts the damage that can be done as the Category number increases. 

National Weather Service

The National Weather Service tries to prepare people early, usually 48 hours beforehand for a hurricane watch and 36 hours beforehand for a hurricane warning to give people advance notice.
Hurricane Watch- Hurricane Conditions are possible.
Hurricane Warning- Hurricane Conditions are expected.
A Hurricane warning can still remain in effect even if the winds go below the threshold of 74 mph if there is dangerously high water that continues after the wind dies down. 

The Preparation Should begin long Before the Storm………… 

Always Have a Hurricane Plan in Place
Hurricane preparedness should be in place prior to hurricane warnings or watches.  A plan should be in place to be sure to keep your family safe.  Each family member should know the safe evacuation routes from the house.  They also need to know where the shelters are located in the area.  Each family member should have their own emergency bag that can be easily picked up and moved around.  This should be packed way in advance.  Make sure that there is a full tank of fuel in all vehicles. 

Prepare a Hurricane Emergency Kit

A hurricane Emergency Kit is useful whether you are staying in your home during the storm or need to evacuate.  It should contain the necessities that you will need for at least a three day period.  These supplies will be your lifeline during and after the storm.  You can purchase an emergency kit that is prefilled with supplies or you can put the supplies together yourself.  Review our Hurricane Supply List to be sure that you have the supplies that you will need to keep you and your family safe. 

Have a Family Communication Plan in Place
Put an emergency plan in place in case disaster strikes and family members are separated.  If possible try to have a person out of state that can the main point of contact.  This helps when phone lines in the immediate area become jammed.  Each member of the family should have the word “ICE” (In Case of Emergency) in their phone with an In-Case –Of –Emergency Contact.  Designate a place in your town that could serve as a meeting place in case your home has been evacuated and the family gets separated.  This spot could be a familiar place such as the local supermarket or the town library.

Get Your Home Ready Way Before the Storm 

If you plan on staying in your home during an emergency, purchase your supplies beforehand.  Don’t wait until the week of the storm to make your purchases.  You can be almost certain that there will not be many emergency supplies to choose at that time.  Make it a habit to keep gutters clear from debris and trim trees regularly to keep the destruction from broken limbs at a minimum.
Portable Generators are Certainly Useful if Electricity Goes Out
Power can be lost in an instant in a hurricane and it could take hours, days or even weeks to get it back.  If you decide to purchase a generator for electricity, a transfer switch installed next to a power circuit in your home is the safest ways to connect it.  It should be done in the early emergency planning stage because the switch needs to be installed by a licensed electrician. You will need to plan where your generator will be set up during the storm.  It should be in a well-ventilated area- not in the home or the garage. 

Prepare for  Pets
If you have pets, be sure to find a pet friendly hotel that you can go to if necessary.  Some shelters will only allow pets that are needed for the disabled.  Don’t wait for the last minute because you might find pet friendly hotels in the area fully booked. Have a picture of your pets in case they were to get lost in an emergency situation. 

Get Important Documents Together
Be sure to have copies all of your important documents that you might need after the storm. This includes insurance policies, medical policies, birth certificates and deeds for property.  Have a place in your emergency bag to keep these papers so that you can carry them with you if you need to leave your property.  A waterproof case would be best so that documents don't get wet.

If the Storm is Almost Certain To Become A Reality…………

Stay Informed

It is important to listen to local TV, Radio or Internet News to know the eminent danger of the storm in your area.  Be sure to have a battery powered or crank radio available in case the power goes out. 

Final Preparations As The Storm Approaches

Close up storm shutters to protect windows from severe wind, or if you don’t have shutters, use plywood to board up windows.  Secure garbage cans and lawn furniture down or put it in the house so that it cannot fly around and cause destruction.  Turn off Propane Tanks.   Gather the family in the safest part of the house which is usually an interior room or hallway on a lower level of the home and be sure to know the safest exit strategy in case you need to leave quickly. Be sure to know where all shut off valves are for electricity and water. 


If the authorities determine that your life could be in danger by staying in your home then it is time to leave.  They will usually give advanced warnings to home owners in coastal areas to give these people time to pack-up necessities and get out of their home.   Officials will usually make it clear to homeowners that if they do not heed the warning, they are doing so at their own risk.  There is a good chance that emergency personnel will not be able to get to them once the storm begins.   Coastal homes, mobile homes and high rise buildings are at the greatest risk.  It’s a good idea to turn off water and electricity before you leave.   

Carry Your Plan Through to After the Storm......

When the storm is over- you still need to be on alert.  The cleanup after a storm or any type of disaster can be hazardous due to the possibility of downed electrical wires, trees and other objects.  Glass and debris and the structural damage to buildings can pose long term danger.  There can also be flooding in your area that could pose additional threats to your family.  Keep in mind to tread cautiously as you begin to safety get back to normal.  


National Weather Service

American Red Cross