Over a typical 2-year period, the U.S. coastline is struck by an average of 3 hurricanes, 1 of which is usually classified as a major hurricane (winds of 111 mph or greater). Instead of retreating into panic mode, the best plan of action is to stay calm and get prepared. Since it happens to be National Hurricane Preparedness Week, we do not want anyone caught off-guard this hurricane season – even if you've been through a hurricane before.Being prepared still makes a big difference.  

Everyone increases their chances of survival by knowing what actions to take:

  • Before the hurricane season begins
  • When a hurricane is approaching
  • When the storm is in your area
  • After a hurricane leaves your area

Important Changes in NOAA Weather, All Hazards, and Emergency Alert System (EAS) 

In 2016 The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) added three new Event Codes to the Emergency Alert System (EAS) Rules for the 2017 hurricane season. The new rules adopt the following weather Event Codes for both EAS and NWR.  

Extreme Wind Warning (EWW):

The Extreme Wind Warning is issued for advance notice of sustained surface wind speeds of 115 miles per hour or greater in association with major hurricanes. Extreme Wind Warnings are issued by all coastal NWS Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs) in the Southern and Eastern Regions

Storm Surge Watch (SSA​):

For the Gulf and East coasts, NWS will issue the Storm Surge Watch for the possibility of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland within the specified area, generally within 48 hours, associated with a tropical, subtropical, or post-tropical cyclone.

Storm Surge Warning Event Code (SSW):  

For the Gulf and East coasts, NWS will issue the Storm Surge Warning to provide advance notice of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland within the specified area, generally within 36 hours, associated with a tropical, subtropical or post-tropical cyclone. 

Know Your Storm

Not all hurricanes are the same. A CAT 1 storm is quite different from a CAT 4. A CAT 4 storm can produce wind speeds of 130 to 156 mph. There is also danger from flying debris, heavy rains, flooding and coastal storm surges (especially if high tides coincide with the storm). The damage of a CAT 4 storm cannot be underestimated. When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in 2017, it was classified as a CAT 4 storm. Although winds only reached 130 mph, the rain from Harvey was so extensive that it led to tremendous flooding worth $125 billion in property damage. Make sure you know the level of the storm headed your way, so you have an idea of what to expect and how best to prepare. The FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) app, or the FEMA.gov website, is a good source for flood maps and updates. 

Tropical Storms & Hurricane Hazards

While hurricanes pose the greatest threat to life and property, tropical storms and depressions also can be devastating. Often, a hurricane is downgraded to a tropical storm but that does not mean you still shouldn't be prepared. The primary hazards from tropical cyclones (which include tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes) are storm surge flooding, inland flooding from heavy rains, destructive winds, tornadoes, and high surf and rip currents.
  • Storm surges are the abnormal rise of water generated by a storm's winds. This hazard is historically the leading cause of hurricane related deaths in the United States and can cause massive destruction along the coast.
  • Storm surges can travel several miles inland, especially along bays, rivers, and estuaries.
  • Flooding from heavy rains is the second leading cause of fatalities from landfalling tropical cyclones. Widespread torrential rains associated with these storms often cause flooding hundreds of miles inland. This flooding can persist for several days after a storm has dissipated.
  • Winds from a hurricane can destroy buildings and homes. Signs, roofing material, and other items left outside can become flying missiles during hurricanes.
  • Tornadoes can accompany landfalling tropical cyclones. These tornadoes typically occur in rain bands well away from the center of the storm.
  • Dangerous waves produced by a tropical cyclone's strong winds can pose a significant hazard to coastal residents and mariners. These waves can cause deadly rip currents,
  • Beach erosion, and damage to structures along the coastline, even when the storm is more than 1,000 miles offshore. 

Tips to Prepare Your Home 

If you live in a hurricane zone and time permits, it is recommended that you conduct the following maintenance and checks before the storm hits (or ideally before the start of hurricane season):
  • Check the yard and the exterior of a home for loose shutters or window screens.
  • Assess trees, especially any weak or dead trees or limbs that could fall during highwinds.
  • Secure loose wires and cables because high winds will tear them away.
  • Check for loose downspouts and gutters.
  • Inspect the roof and repair loose roof shingles.
  • Use caulk to seal off doors and windows.
  • Sump pumps should be tested, and exterior drains should be cleared of debris.
  • Generators should be tested, with fuel available to power the generator if needed. Use generators outdoors only, and no less than 20 feet from any window, door or vent.
  • Secure and store away toys, bicycles, playhouses, yard furniture, garbage bins, recycling containers, and other lightweight items. Anything left outside should be tied or chained down. With high winds over 85 mph, such items become projectiles that injure people and slam into other buildings.
  • For homes located near rivers, creeks, or waterways, be aware of mandatory evacuation orders and consider using sandbags around the home's perimeter.
  • For high wind areas, protect windows and glass doors, cover them with plywood or hurricane shutters. Leave one or two smaller windows exposed for light and air circulation.

Very Important: Seek Shelter & Heed Mandatory Evacuation Orders  

Know the flood zone areas of your city or region. Be aware of hurricane evacuation routes. If your area is issued a mandatory evacuation order, you should respond swiftly to allow plenty of time to get to safety. Don't put yourself or others in danger by ignoring evacuation warnings. Prior to evacuation, take steps as early as you can to gather important keepsakes and prepare your home to the best of your ability. 

Secure your home:

  • Cover all of your home's windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows exterior grade or marine plywood, Buy supplies before the hurricane season rather than waiting for the pre-storm rush.
  •  Keep your gas tank at least half full
  • Designate one out-of-state emergency contact. This will be the person everyone gets in touch with if you are not together during the emergency.
  • Set Up a Meet Up. Select a place where you all can go in case you need to evacuate and ensure that everyone knows how to get there.
  • Pack a "Go" Bag. Put together a bag that you can grab if you need to evacuate. This bag should be light and portable.

Stayed tuned in 

Check the websites of your local National Weather Service office and local government/emergency management office. Find out what type of emergencies could occur and how you should respond. Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or other radio or TV stations for the latest storm news.

Follow instructions issued by local officials. Leave immediately if ordered! 

Additional Tips for Hurricane Safety & Preparedness: 

  • Have an approved, operational (ABC) fire extinguisher
  • Turn off and secure propane tanks. Make sure to purchase extra propane for your BBQ grill, this can be a handy way to cook if the power goes out. Grills should only be used outdoors.
  • Have a family emergency plan in place and make sure everyone is aware of it. Discuss what to do in case family members become separated.
  • Make sure everyone knows how to communicate during emergency situations (i.e. email, social media, etc.)
  • Visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website for useful information via http://www.noaa.gov or https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes