Before a Hurricane
To prepare for a hurricane, you should take the following measures:
- To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
- Know your surroundings.
- Learn the elevation level of your property and whether the land is flood-prone. This will help you know how your property will be affected when storm surge or tidal flooding are forecasted.
- Identify levees and dams in your area and determine whether they pose a hazard to you.
- Learn community hurricane evacuation routes and how to find higher ground. Determine where you would go and how you would get there if you needed to evacuate.
- Make plans to secure your property:
- Cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.
- Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure. This will reduce roof damage.
- Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed so they are more wind resistant.
- Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
- Reinforce your garage doors; if wind enters a garage it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage.
- Plan to bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down.
- Determine how and where to secure your boat.
- Install a generator for emergencies.
- If in a high-rise building, be prepared to take shelter on or below the 10th floor.
- Consider building a safe room.
Hurricanes cause heavy rains that can cause extensive flood damage in coastal and inland areas. Everyone is at risk and should consider flood insurance protection. Flood insurance is the only way to financially protect your property or business from flood damage. To learn more about your flooding risk and how to protect yourself and your business, visit the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration (NFIP) Web site,www.floodsmart.gov or call 1-800-427-2419.
The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale classifies hurricanes into five categories based on their sustained wind speed at the indicated time. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale provides information on wind impacts only. The scale does not address the potential for other hurricane-related impacts, such as storm surge, rainfall-induced floods, and tornadoes.
Hurricanes reaching Category 3 and higher are considered major hurricanes because of their potential for significant loss of life and property. Category 1 and 2 storms are still dangerous, however, and require preventive measures.
Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale Summary
Scale Number (Category)
Sustained Winds (MPH)
Very dangerous winds will produce some damage
- Minor damage to exterior of homes
- Toppled tree branches, uprooting of smaller trees
- Extensive damage to power lines, power outages
Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage
- Major damage to exterior of homes
- Uprooting of small trees and many roads blocked
- Guaranteed power outages for long periods of time – days to weeks
Devastating damage will occur
- Extensive damage to exterior of homes
- Many trees uprooted and many roads blocked
- Extremely limited availability of water and electricity
Catastrophic damage will occur
- Loss of roof structure and/or some exterior walls
- Most trees uprooted and most power lines down
- Isolated residential due to debris pile up
- Power outages lasting for weeks to months
157 or higher
Catastrophic damage will occur
- A high percentage of homes will be destroyed
- Fallen trees and power lines isolate residential areas
- Power outages lasting for weeks to months
- Most areas will be uninhabitable
For more information on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, visit the National Hurricane Center.
For information on the Scale as it affects Hawaii, visit the National Hurricane Center here.
The greatest potential for loss of life related to a hurricane is from the storm surge!
Storm surge is simply water that is pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds swirling around the storm. This advancing surge combines with the normal tides to create the hurricane storm tide, which can increase the mean water level to heights impacting roads, homes and other critical infrastructure. In addition, wind driven waves are superimposed on the storm tide. This rise in water level can cause severe flooding in coastal areas, particularly when the storm tide coincides with the normal high tides. Because much of the United States' densely populated Atlantic and Gulf Coast coastlines lie less than 10 feet above mean sea level, the danger from storm tides is tremendous.
The storm surge combined with wave action can cause extensive damage, severely erode beaches and coastal highways. With major storms like Katrina, Camille and Hugo, complete devastation of coastal communities occurred. Many buildings withstand hurricane force winds until their foundations, undermined by erosion, are weakened and fail.
Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a hurricane hazard:
Tropical Cyclone: A warm-core non-frontal synoptic-scale cyclone, originating over tropical or subtropical waters, with organized deep convection and a closed surface wind circulation about a well-defined center. Once formed, a tropical cyclone is maintained by the extraction of heat energy from the ocean at high temperature and heat export at the low temperatures of the upper troposphere.
Tropical Depression: A tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind speed (using the U.S. 1-minute average) is 38 mph (33 knot) or less.
Tropical Storm: A tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind speed (using the U.S. 1-minute average) ranges from 39 mph (34 knots) to 73 mph (63 knots).
Hurricane: A tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind (using the U.S. 1-minute average) is 74 mph (64 knots) or more.
Storm Surge: An abnormal rise in sea level accompanying a hurricane or other intense storm, and whose height is the difference between the observed level of the sea surface and the level that would have occurred in the absence of the cyclone. Storm surge is usually estimated by subtracting the normal or astronomic high tide from the observed storm tide. Storm surge can reach heights well over 20 feet and can span hundreds of miles of coastline.
Storm Tide: The actual level of sea water resulting from the astronomic tide combined with the storm surge.
Hurricane Warning: An announcement that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are expected somewhere within the specified area. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.
Hurricane Watch: An announcement that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are possible within the specified area. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.
Tropical Storm Warning: An announcement that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are expected somewhere within the specified area within 36 hours.
Tropical Storm Watch: An announcement that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are possible within the specified area within 48 hours.
Short Term Watches and Warnings: These watches/warnings provide detailed information about specific hurricane threats, such as flash floods and tornadoes.
During a Hurricane
If a hurricane is likely in your area, you should:
- Listen to the radio or TV for information.
- Secure your home, close storm shutters and secure outdoor objects or bring them indoors.
- Turn off utilities if instructed to do so. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
- Turn off propane tanks
- Avoid using the phone, except for serious emergencies.
- Moor your boat if time permits.
- Ensure a supply of water for sanitary purpose such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other larger containers with water.
- Find out how to keep food safe during and after and emergency.
You should evacuate under the following conditions:
If you are directed by local authorities to do so. Be sure to follow their instructions.
- If you live in a mobile home or temporary structure – such shelter are particularly hazardous during hurricane no matter how well fastened to the ground.
- If you live in a high-rise building – hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations.
- If you live on the coast, on a floodplain, near a river, or on an island waterway.
Read more about evacuating yourself and your family. If you are unable to evacuate, go to your wind-safe room. If you do not have one, follow these guidelines:
- Stay indoors during the hurricane and away from windows and glass doors.
- Close all interior doors – secure and brace external doors.
- Keep curtains and blinds closed. Do not be fooled if there is a lull; it could be the eye of the storm – winds will pick up again.
- Take refuge in a small interior room, closet or hallway on the lowest level.
- Lie on the floor under a table or another sturdy object.
- Avoid elevators.
Hurricane Preparedness Week Toolkit
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Find additional information on how to plan and prepare for a hurricane and learn about available resources by visiting the following websites:
If you require more information about any of these topics, the following are resources that may be helpful.