Hurricanes are extreme tropical cyclones or storms that originate in the eastern Pacific Ocean, southern Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea. Large thunderstorms usually accompany cyclones. In northern hurricane regions, large gusts of counterclockwise winds accompany cyclones.
All regions on the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts can be hit by hurricanes. Pacific Coast and Southwest regions often get hit with heavy rains that originate from hurricanes off the Gulf Coast. These rains often cause massive flooding. Atlantic Coast hurricanes typically occur June through November, while the peak season lasts from August to October. In the Eastern Pacific region, hurricanes typically hit the region May through November.
Hurricanes often cause severe property damage to coastal and inland cities. Heavy winds exceeding 150 miles an hour, microbursts, and tornadoes usually accompany hurricanes. Likewise, excessive rainfall and storm surges created by hurricanes typically result in severe property damage. Severe property damage also results from heavy flooding and flying debris. Hurricanes passing slowly over mountains often create heavy rain. Heavy rains contribute to mud and landslides, which typically cause property damage. Heavy rainfall also leads to flash flooding. For 30 years beginning in 1970, most fatalities caused by hurricanes resulted from inland and fresh water flooding. Modern technology and warning systems have made it possible for people living in hurricane regions to be warned in advance.
What to Do Before a Hurricane
Follow these steps to be ready for a hurricane:
- Develop a family communications plan and emergency kit.
- Be aware of your surroundings and potential hazards in your local area.
- Determine whether flooding is a potential hazard. This can be determined by elevation levels.
- Determine whether local dams and levees increase the likelihood of flooding during hurricanes.
- Learn hurricane evacuation routes in your local community and where higher ground can be found. Map out an evacuation route in case of a hurricane.
- Develop a plan to secure your house in case of an evacuation.
- Cover all the windows in your house. The most effective way to protect windows is with permanent storm shutters. If you cannot afford storm shutters, use 5/8” cut to fit marine plywood. Using tape will not prevent window damage.
- Use extra clips or straps to firmly secure your home’s roof to its frame to decrease roof damage.
- Trim shrubs and trees on your property to increase their wind resistance.
- Clean downspouts and rain gutters to prevent clogging.
- Reduce the likelihood of severe structural damage to your home by reinforcing garage doors.
- Before evacuating your home, place garbage cans, outdoor furniture, and other outdoor objects in the house.
- If you own a boat, store it in a secure location.
- Purchase a generator in case of power outages.
- If you live in a multi-story building, take shelter on the 10th floor or lower.
- If you can afford it, construct a safe room.
What to Do During a Hurricane
Take these precautions before a hurricane hits your region:
- Pay close attention to radio and TV broadcasts for important updates.
- Lock your home, close storm shutters, and place outside objects inside.
- Shut off utilities if necessary. If not, lower the refrigerator thermostat to a safe setting.
- Turn off and secure propane tanks.
- Only use the phone for emergencies.
- Fill containers with water that can be used to flush toilets and clean.
- Learn how to safeguard food.
Evacuate your home if you:
- Reside in public shelter or mobile home. Many public shelters are not securely fastened to foundations.
- Reside in a multi-story building – hurricane winds are fiercest at higher altitudes.
- Live on a beach, near the coast, close to a river, on a floodplain, or near an island waterway.
- Receive an evacuation order from local authorities.
If it’s not possible to evacuate your house, remain in a wind-safe room. If your home is not equipped with such a room, follow these instructions:
- Remain inside during the storm and stay away from glass doors and windows.
- Lock and brace outside doors and close all inside ones.
- Close all blinds and curtains even during storm breaks since winds can increase without notice.
- Find an interior room on the lowest level to take shelter in during the storm.
- Brace yourself under a table or sturdy piece of furniture.
- Stay away from elevators.
What to Do After a Hurricane
- Follow NOAA Weather Radio and local news updates.
- Pay close attention and monitor the amount of rainfall following a hurricane to prepare for potential flooding.
- Rely on your family communications plan or contact the American Red Cross or Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) if you cannot locate your family.
- FEMA developed and manages the National Emergency Family Registry and Locator System (NEFRLS), a system designed to reunite separated families during natural disasters. All participants need to do to locate family members is enter personal information into an online database.
- In addition to NEFRLS, individuals trying to locate lost family members can utilize the American Red Cross’ database. To access the database, contact the local chapter of the American Red Cross in the area you’re taking refuge in. Refrain from contacting a chapter within the disaster area since they will more than likely be assisting the injured.
- Return to your house after public officials deem it safe.
- If you’re unable to return to your house, text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to locate the closest shelter in your region (example: shelter 87112).
- FEMA provides those with longer-term shelter needs various kinds of assistance, which includes federal subsidies to assist with housing replacement and repair costs. Visit FEMA’s website for more information.
- Only drive for emergencies but avoid damaged bridges, flooded highways, and busy streets. If driving is necessary, be cautious and watch for downed telephone lines, fallen objects, and damaged roads, bridges, and sidewalks.
- Avoid dangling or wobbly telephone lines and contact the power company immediately if any are visible.
- If you return home, inspect your property for damaged telephone lines, structural damage, and gas leaks.
- Evacuate buildings with gas leaks, fire damage, and flood damage. Do not enter buildings that have not been inspected by safety experts.
- Thoroughly inspect your house for damage. Document damage to present to your insurance company by taking pictures. Those with questions about the safety of their home should have it inspected by a structural engineer or certified building inspector.
- If the power is out, refrain from using candles. Use flashlights and other battery-powered lights. Before entering the house, turn flashlights on outside since batteries produce sparks that could start fires if gas is leaking.
- Closely monitor pets and do not let them roam free. Also, be cautious of wild animals, especially if you reside in an area with poisonous snakes. When going through debris, first poke through it with a stick to check for poisonous snakes
- Do not drink or cook with tab water until you’re sure it’s safe.
- Inspect perishable food for possible spoilage. If you’re not sure about a particular food product, discard it.
- Be careful during cleanup and wear protective gear.
- Only use the phone for emergencies.
Last update 2020-10-28. Price and product availability may change.