What is a Hurricane?
Hurricanes are extremely strong tropical storms that form over warm oceans and can push ashore and devastate many areas at once. In addition to the damage that hurricanes can do with their strong winds, they also bring huge amounts of water with them, causing severe flooding.
To help protect your home and your family from the dangers of a hurricane, here is a hurricane safety guide with step-by-step instructions for what to do at different stages of the storm as well as other important facts about hurricanes.
What to Do Before a Hurricane Hits
If you live in an area that is likely to see hurricanes, it is extremely important to take steps to prepare your home and your family for a hurricane way before one occurs. It could be the difference that saves you a ton of money in home damage repairs or that saves the life of someone you love. Here is a list of how to prepare for a hurricane…
Put together a hurricane emergency kit (suggestions below).
Keep emergency supplies in your car just in case you ever need a quick evacuation.
Frequently trim trees and shrubbery around your house. This makes them more resistant to wind.
Invest in strong garage doors or at the very least in making your garage doors stronger.
Put in a generator. See generator instructions for proper usage.
Frequently clean your gutters. If there is flooding from a hurricane, you need every bit of your home drainage system working as effectively as possible. Having a sump pump installed for around $1,100 could save you a bunch of money long term.
Reinforce door hinges and locks.
Secure your roof to the frame of your home with special straps or clips to reduce roof damage.
Determine if your property is on flood-prone land and whether you live near any levees or dams. Knowing this information will help you to know just how vulnerable your home is in the chance of a hurricane.
Make sure you are familiar with the emergency alert systems in your area.
Know the difference between a hurricane watch (a hurricane is possible in the next 48 hours) and a hurricane warning (a hurricane is expected in the next 36 hours).
Go over evacuation routes and a hurricane emergency plan with your family so that everyone knows what to do if a hurricane warning is in effect.
Consider purchasing flood insurance. It could cover restoration costs from water damage in your house.
Put important papers and belongings in a water- and fire-proof safe.
Keep any extra storage items, such as old photo albums or clothes in your basement, in sealed plastic tubs. In the chance of flooding, these have a much better chance of protecting your belongings than regular cardboard boxes.
What to Do
When a Hurricane
is on its Way
If a hurricane watch or warning is issued, there could be a hurricane on your doorstep in as little as 36 hours. Here are some steps to take when a hurricane is headed your way…
If evacuation orders are given, listen to them. Do what you can to protect your house before you leave if you have time.
Cover your windows and glass doors with permanent storm shutters, which is your best bet for protecting any glass, or board them up with plywood.
Bring in all outdoor items that are not tied down like furniture, garbage cans, grill, or lighting.
Get extra cash out of the ATM. Power may be down and banks may be closed in your area for a while after the hurricane.
Communicate with friends and family so that everyone knows where you are.
Power may go out at some point. Turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest settings and open them as infrequently as possible so that food will last longer.
Gas up the car.
Charge any electronic devices that you may need like your phone. You do not know when the next time you will get access to power will be.
Enact your hurricane emergency plan whether that means evacuating to higher ground or hunkering down in your basement or internal room away from windows.
What to Do
During a Hurricane
Here is what you should do when you are waiting out the storm in your home…
Make sure your storm shutters are closed and get as far away from any windows as possible. The safest place to be in a hurricane, if flooding is not a risk for your particular home, is the basement. If you do not have a basement, get to an internal room as far away from windows as possible. This protects you from broken glass or debris getting blown at you.
Make sure you have access to emergency updates in your area whether that is through your TV, radio, or computer.
If flooding is a possibility, turn off the electricity in the home at the main breaker to prevent electrical damage or electric shock.
Avoid using open flames as a light source.
Avoid flushing toilets or using any appliances that require water. Since your pipes will be overloaded with the excessive amounts of rain from the storm, any extra use could lead to sewage backup in your toilets or fluid backup in your basement drains.
Do not go outside. Inside the eye of a hurricane winds can be calmer, but this does not mean that the hurricane has passed. Once the eye passes through, winds and storms will increase once again.
What to Do
After a Hurricane Hits
A hurricane can have a catastrophic impact on an area. Here is what to do when the hurricane has cleared and you begin to assess the damage done…
Contact family and friends.
If you are not at home, wait for the okay from authorities before returning home.
Avoid floodwater, debris, and any loose power lines. There might be some biohazard cleanup needed.
Take pictures of any damage to your home to use for insurance purposes. One common thing you’ll need to repair or replace are the windows in your basement from hail damage.
If you are able to return home, take action to prevent any additional damage to your home such as drying out your house as quickly as possible. Here’s what you can do if your basement is flooded.
Hurricane Safety Kit
These are the items you should always make sure to have in your hurricane safety kit:
Shoes and helmets
Any important prescription medications
Battery powered radio for any emergency updates
Special needs for babies, the elderly, and pets
Many gallons of water
Tropical Storm, and Hurricane
This is the lowest level of tropical activity that has the potential to lead to a hurricane. It occurs when thunderstorms enter a low pressure area and create spinning winds between 25 and 39 mph.
This is the next stage in tropical activity, which consists of stronger, more organized circular winds (between 39 and 73 mph).
A tropical storm gets upgraded to a hurricane classification if winds pick up to 74 mph or above.
Hurricane Category Scale
Hurricanes are given category numbers to show how strong they are based on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. The hurricane category scale is based on the speed of the winds that the hurricane exhibits. The lower the category classification a hurricane is given the slower the wind speeds and as you go up the scale, wind speeds consistently rise and hurricanes are more dangerous. Here is a breakdown of the hurricane category scale:
74-95 mph winds
96-110 mph winds
111-129 mph winds
130-156 mph winds
157 mph winds and above
Parts of a Hurricane
These are the bands of storms that stretch out from the eye of the storm in a counterclockwise spinning motion. They make up the most significant portion of a hurricane as they can be hundreds of miles long. Tornadoes can sometimes be found in these dense bands.
The eye of a hurricane is the very center spot. This is typically between 20 and 40 miles wide. Strangely enough, winds inside the eye are light and the sky is clear.
This is the area directly surrounding the eye. The eye wall is made up of the most damaging winds and rain in the hurricane.
What Causes Hurricanes?
The two main factors needed to create a hurricane are warm ocean water and strong winds that maintain a consistent speed and direction. The warm water, typically 79 degrees Fahrenheit or above, gives an already forming storm more energy to grow into a hurricane. Hurricanes need steady winds, because if they started going in several directions at different speeds, the hurricane would not be able to maintain its shape and build strength.
Hurricanes grow in speed and strength when air in the center condenses and then continues to pull more air and water into itself, which builds more and more energy for the storm. They tend to lose speed as they travel over land or cool water. Losing access to heat and moisture can significantly weaken a hurricane.
Where are Hurricanes Most Likely to Occur?
The most hurricane-prone states in the US are…
The Most Hurricane-Prone Cities in the US are…
When is Hurricane Season?
Although hurricanes can happen anywhere, anytime of the year, different bodies of water have specific “hurricane seasons” when most hurricanes typically appear each year.
Fort the Atlantic Ocean along eastern and southern coastlines of North America, hurricane season lasts from the beginning of June to the end of November, with a spike in activity in late August/early September and again in October.
For the eastern side of the Pacific Ocean along the west coast of North America, hurricanes are most common between mid-May to the end of November, with activity spikes in August and September.
The western edge of the Pacific Ocean sees most of its hurricanes between the beginning of July through the end of November.
For the northern Indian Ocean it is from April to December.
For southern ocean regions the hurricane season is completely flipped with the South Pacific exhibiting more hurricane activity between mid-October and Mid-May.
In the southern Indian Ocean region it is mid-October to the end of May.
Why do Hurricanes Always
All hurricanes in the Northern Hemisphere spin counterclockwise, but all hurricanes in the Southern Hemisphere rotate clockwise. The reason for this, also called the Coriolis effect, is because the Earth’s rotation pushes the winds in their respective directions. Therefore, in the Northern Hemisphere this push is always to the left and in the Southern Hemisphere this push is always to the right.
Why Do Hurricanes Have Names?
Giving hurricanes names makes it easier for people to track them from the point that they pop up as a tropical storm to their growth into hurricane, if they ever do become a hurricane. Names for hurricanes are given out in alphabetical order each year from a predetermined list. The lists are reused every six years, unless there is a major hurricane that wreaks havoc. In that case, that name is removed from the list and retired.
Here are the lists for the next several years…
in U.S. History
Galveston Hurricane (1900)
Estimated death toll: 8,000
Lake Okeechobee Hurricane (1928)
Hit: Florida Estimated death toll: 2,500 Category 4
Hurricane Katrina (2005)
Hit: Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. Estimated death toll: 1,200 Category 3
Cheniere Caminada Hurricane (1893)
Hit: Louisiana Estimated death toll: 1,100 – 1,400 Category 4
Sea Islands Hurricane (1893)
Hit: South Carolina and Georgia
Estimated death toll: 1,000 – 2,000