If you live an area prone to hurricanes then you have no choice but to learn how to prepare for a hurricane — which I’m guessing, is why you’re here reading this. the climate is rapidly changing thanks to our species and unfortunately this means that extreme weather events like hurricanes are going to increase in frequency. It’s June 22, 2021 as I write this and I’m going to make a bold prediction right now and say that the Summer of 2021 will be one of the worst hurricane seasons on record. Let’s see if I’m right. All evidence points to a scorching hot summer. Prepare as early as possible because when a hurricane is announced it’s a little too late to prepare as millions of other people are doing the same.
Summer has just begun and for many that means short sleeves, long days and relaxing near a pool, pond or beach. For others, especially those near larger bodies of water such as the Atlantic coast, summer is also the start of hurricane season. Hurricanes are not just confined to the coastline, though, and knowing what a hurricane is, how intense it will be and where it is going is important for being prepared for these meteorological beasts. Fortunately, as destructive as hurricanes can be, it is just as easy to be prepared for weathering the storm.
What is a Hurricane?
Before we address how to prepare for a hurricane, it’s wise to know what a hurricane is and how to differentiate this type of storm from other weather phenomena. A hurricane, also referred to as a tropical cyclone, is an organized thunderstorm that develops from rotating, low-pressure weather patterns over tropical or subtropical bodies of water, such as the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean sea. In order for a hurricane to form, the water from which moisture will evaporate needs to be at least 26 degrees Celsius/ 80 degrees Fahrenheit. As winds blow westward, the accumulated moisture rises and then condenses, forming accumulating cumulonimbus clouds that begin to rotate. As the cloud formation grows, the increased heat energy released from the condensation of evaporated moisture drives clouds further apart, creating the rotating cloud formation that is a hurricane.
When the sustained winds of this storm exceed 74 miles per hour or more, it is officially classified as a hurricane. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is used to further classify hurricanes based on their intensity, with class 1 hurricanes possessing wind speeds of 74-95 miles per hour and class 5 possessing wind speeds of 157 miles per hour or greater. The greater the wind speeds, the greater the possibility of damage. Hurricane season typically lasts from June until November, though storms can occur outside of these ranges. Quite often, storms that arise out at sea will not even make landfall, a welcome relief to those projected to be in their path.
What is the difference between a hurricane and tropical storm?
When a storm develops from low pressure systems and begins circulating and moving towards land, it is classified as a tropical depression if the wind speeds are less than 39 miles per hour. If the wind speeds are greater than 39 miles per hour but less than 74 miles per hour, it is classified as a tropical storm.
What is the difference between a hurricane and cyclone?
Because tropical and subtropical waters extend around the world, and they facilitate different weather and precipitation patterns, the same storms occur in different places around the world and have different names. In the South Pacific and Indian ocean, a storm with wind speeds greater than 74 miles per hour is called a cyclone. Cyclone season lasts between November and April, or roughly the opposite of hurricane season in the Atlantic.
What is the difference between a hurricane and typhoon?
Once again, it’s simply a difference between where these storms are occurring. Hurricanes are the storms that occur in the Northeast Pacific and Atlantic (mostly around the United States), whereas typhoons are the same type of storm as a hurricane or cyclone (wind speeds greater than 74 miles per hour) but occur in the Northwest Pacific, such as around Japan or the Philippines. Typhoon season is roughly the same as hurricane season and stretches from May until October.
7 facts about hurricanes :
Hurricanes are a natural phenomenon that have long been a part of human history. While these facts will not necessarily prepare you for a hurricane’s arrival, they will give you a better understanding of the influence of hurricanes.
- There is a six year rotation of names for hurricanes. When storms are exceptionally deadly or destructive, as was the case with hurricanes Florence and Michael in 2018, their names are taken out of the naming rotation.
- In the rare case that there are more than 21 hurricanes in a season (the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z are not used for names to simplify pronunciation), the Greek alphabet is used to name storms. 2020 was only the second time that this has occurred since meteorologists began naming storm names in the 1950’s.
- Because of the Earth’s rotation, storms forming north of the equator rotate counterclockwise, while storms that form south of the equator spin clockwise.
- 40% of the hurricanes that affect the United States strike Florida. The deadliest hurricane was the category 4 storm that hit Galveston, Texas in 1900 and killed 8,000 people. The costliest hurricane was hurricane Katrina in 2005 that caused over 100 billion dollars worth of damage.
- Hurricane Dorian, in September of 2019, was one of the strongest hurricanes on record and had sustained winds of 185 miles per hour with peak gusts up to 220 miles per hour.
- The largest hurricane ever recorded was Typhoon Tip in 1979 which measured 2,220 km in diameter.
- The most destructive part of a hurricane is the eye wall located immediately outside of the eye as it has the highest wind speeds and precipitation. The right side of a hurricane tends to be more destructive relative to the creation of storm surges, high winds and possible tornadoes. The eye of the hurricane, located in the center of the circulating winds, is relatively calm and clear of any high speed winds for approximately 20-40 miles across
Dangers of Hurricanes
If you are researching about how to prepare for a hurricane, it’s worthwhile to know that hurricanes are considered to be the most destructive meteorological force on Earth. You may wonder why is it that hurricanes are so dangerous? The destructive influences of a hurricane owe to a variety of factors.
As already noted, hurricanes are storms that feature exceptionally strong winds of a minimum of 74 miles per hour. In 2020, of the 30 named storms, 7 were category 3 storms with wind speeds of at least 111 miles per hour. Category 1 hurricane winds already pose a problem for many people who live in mobile homes or homes that are poorly constructed, as winds can easily remove shingles and remove or topple outdoor units and structures, such as mobile homes.
At over 110 miles per hour, even stick frame buildings are liable to being blown apart. Amplifying the destruction is that loose debris, including trees, cars and large rocks, can be dislodged within the path of the hurricane and destroy whatever they hit. Power lines are also subject to damage, whether from being toppled or having the lines snapped, which poses problems due to the absence of electricity as well as through the presence of live wires. In some instances, tornadoes can form when hurricanes make landfall and move inland, which increases the destructive capacities of hurricane-force winds even for those not along the coast.
Given that hurricanes are the product of thunderstorms that form from evaporating and condensing moisture, it’s not surprising that they bring with them abundant rainfall. Hurricanes typically average at least 6-12 inches of rain upon immediate landfall, with slower moving storms producing more accumulated rainfall. Of course, there are always exceptions, and extremes in rainfall create the most damage when hurricanes move inland because of flooding. For example, Hurricane Harvey’s landfall in 2017 brought a record 60 inches of rain to some parts of Texas, causing massive flooding. Flooding was also a serious byproduct of hurricane Florence’s landfall in 2018. Most of the deaths that occur because of hurricanes are because of the inland flooding, compelling meteorologists to create more accurate methods for forecasting the potential precipitation that accompanies a hurricane.
For those living on the coast, the effects of abundant wind and rain are intensified through the onslaught of the storm surge that accompanies a hurricane’s arrival. Part of the process of hurricane formation is the wave activity preceding the evaporation and accumulation of sea water. Storm surges are the eventual wave formations intensified by the increased wind speeds of the surrounding weather mass. Storm surges can reach upwards of 30 feet, a significant problem given that most coastal areas are immediately located at or, in the case of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, below sea level.
Storm surges can immediately dislodge and displace homes, people and debris in their path while also intensifying flooding from rainfall. Additional damage is caused as the storm surges intensify beach erosion, potentially leading to the collapse, displacement or removal of various infrastructure such as roads or bridges. The destruction of these components often worsens the cleanup efforts after the storm, as access to destroyed areas is impeded until bridges or roads are repaired. Given that over half of the United State’s economic activity and much of the population lives within coastal zones, storm surges can be exceptionally disastrous.
►In order to protect your home from flooding you’ll need sandbags or other forms of flood barriers.
Heavy-Duty Flooding Barriers : Quick Dam / Flood Gate
How to Prepare for A Hurricane
Hurricanes are certainly a force to be reckoned with but, as with every natural disaster, proper management and preparation can help you to avoid dealing with more of a disaster. Hurricanes don’t arrive spontaneously and there is usually at least a 3 day warning for you to gather your belongings and preparations to evacuate or to move to a secure shelter.
What supplies should I have for a hurricane?
Have you ever driven along a major road or highway, especially in coastal areas, and noticed signs that say “hurricane evacuation route”? These evacuation routes are a part of the general strategy when dealing with hurricanes to get out of their path as quickly as possible. That being said, having appropriate and sufficient supplies is necessary when you are evacuating or, if you are in an area that is guaranteed not to be in a flood zone, to keep you alive until power, utilities and road access are restored. The following supply list is a general guideline for those preparing to evacuate or shelter in place:
- One gallon of water per person per day for at least 3-7 days to provide drinking water and cleaning water if the water supply is contaminated
- At least a 3 day supply of non-perishable food (canned, bottled or sealed)
- Battery powered or hand crank radio, preferably a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio with a tone alert for approaching storms
- Flashlight for navigating at night if the power is out
- A first aid kit that includes bandages, gauze, antibiotic cream, scissors, antidiarrheal medication and iodine tablets for water purification
- Batteries, cell phone and charger
- Tools such as wrenches, pliers and can openers for opening food and turning off utilities
- Change of clothing
- Sleeping bag
- Cash or traveler’s checks for any purchases on the road
- A full tank of gas, in case you need to drive to evacuate or until infrastructure is restored
If you are sheltering in place, the following items will help to make sure that you are adequately prepared:
- Fire extinguisher
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal any broken windows
- Dust masks (in case air is contaminated)
- Important documents
- Prescription medication, eyeglasses, infant formula, feminine hygiene products and pet food (if you have a pet
Given the concerns in a post-COVID-19 world, having soap, sanitizer and extra masks can also prevent airborne disease transmission.
Download Hurricane Checklist (FEMA) —
FEMA App —
► Read the excellent guide from FEMA on how to prepare for a hurricane. It’s packed with practical advice and insights that everyone should know. Visit the FEMA website for more information. In addition, FEMA has an a smartphone app for Apple and Android, providing you with the information you need as well as where to find local emergency shelter.
Hurricane Safety : What you Need to Know
When hurricane season arrives, it’s important to be prepared for anything that may happen. In addition to having an adequate emergency supply kit, having adequate safety procedures will help you to respond calmly and effectively in the event a major storm arrives. First, it’s important to know if you are already in a hurricane evacuation zone. These are generally low-lying areas along coastal areas, specifically along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States. If you are living in these areas, then it’s important to try and arrange for accommodations, whether with family or friends, in the event of a disaster so that you are not stuck trying to find a hotel at the last minute, fleeing to a crowded emergency shelter or forced to stay in the car.
It’s also important, if you are visiting or traveling to an area that is prone to experience hurricanes, that you are abreast of any weather developments prior to or during your stay. If a hurricane or tropical storm watch is announced, and especially if it’s upgraded to a warning, you should avoid going to or immediately leave these areas or at least prepare to find suitable shelter, as a storm is imminent within 48 hours.
How Should You Prepare for a Hurricane?
It’s also a good idea to have a family emergency plan so that, in the case of a major storm, especially if you need to evacuate, everyone will know what to do and will be able to prepare and respond rapidly. Likewise, ensuring that you have sufficient insurance coverage is another important element to preparing for a hurricane. Most policies will cover wind damage, fire, theft and lighting strikes associated with hurricanes, but you will probably need separate flood insurance, which tends to be the greatest cause of damage during a storm. It’s also important to make sure that the contents of your home are properly insured and that your policy also includes coverage for any expenses you may incur if you have to evacuate.
Other measures you can take to prevent unwanted damage during a hurricane are to make sure that all gutters are clear so that rainwater will not back up into your home, any loose outdoor furniture or outdoor objects are secured so that they will not be blown away or into anyone’s home, all propane tanks are disconnected and you know how to turn off the utilities.
Boarding up windows for a hurricane
A recommended safety procedure for hurricane-prone zones, whether you are evacuating or sheltering in place, is to board up your windows. You can also perform the same function if you have hurricane shutters, but the essential idea is to prevent your windows from shattering outwards because of the extreme pressure difference that emerges when the high wind speeds lower the outside air pressure. You can prevent window damage, as well as airborne projectiles from coming through your windows, by installing plywood outside of your windows. This is usually done with ⅝” thick plywood that is cut to cover your windows and then screwed into the framing itself or secured into brick or masonry in the event you lack wood framing in the exterior of your home.
For those in areas with an exceptionally high likelihood of sustaining high-intensity hurricane winds, such as along the coasts of Texas, Louisiana or Florida, investing in hurricane shutters provides a long-term and less labor intensive means of protecting your windows and the interior of your home during an intense storm. There are a variety of shutter options that include rolling shutters that you can roll up during nice weather, Bermuda shutters that can be lifted during nice weather and accordion shutters that open and fold closed depending on whether there’s a storm or the weather is calm.
Hurricane Generators: Plan for power outages
Whether you’re sheltering in place or returning to your home and the power hasn’t been turned on, a generator can be a valuable asset to living a semi-normal life when a hurricane arrives. If you live in an area where hurricanes are a frequent occurrence, a stand-by generator will provide a reliable backup power supply to power your appliances and home until the power returns. Depending on the size of the generator, it can cost anywhere from $500 to $20,000. It should be professionally installed to ensure that it is code-compliant, as stationary generators will require a gas or propane connection.
Excellent Hurricane Generator : With CO Monitoring / Duromax XP12000HX (Review)
When considering how large of a generator to invest in, you should consider that running major appliances such as a refrigerator, freezer and range will require at least 3000 watts total and additional appliances, such as a computer, dryer or central air can add another 14000 watts of capacity that you need to be able to accommodate.
You can also invest in a portable generator, which is slightly less expensive, costing anywhere from $900-$4,000, but will also need to be operated outside to ensure that the exhaust does not enter your home. Portable generators can provide anywhere from 3000 to 9000 watts of power, which is sufficient for powering many of the essential components of your home such as a refrigerator, lights, and freezer. In addition to ensuring that it is properly vented to prevent carbon monoxide buildup, you should have an adequate supply of gasoline to operate these generators, as some only have a run time of 8 hours.
If your primary power concern is to power small appliances like a mini-fridge or to recharge laptops and mobile phones, a portable power station (or indoor generator) can provide quiet and clean power; anywhere from 9-14 hours depending on what you are recharging and the size of the power station. A portable power station is advantageous because the battery life will last as long as a full generator without having to deal with gasoline fumes, dangerous exhaust and a noisy generator. They also cost less, ranging from $125 to $1000. The only disadvantage is that these portable power stations need to be recharged electrically, so you would need to have a reliable electrical supply eventually to recharge them.
What to do During Hurricane Flooding
As noted, flooding is the greatest potential damaging force during a hurricane. If you live in an evacuation zone, especially if a category 3 or stronger storm is approaching, it’s best to heed any evacuation warnings as this is a sign that intense flooding is likely. In the event that you are evacuating in the midst of a hurricane or cannot evacuate, there are some simple procedures you can take to avoid the dangers of flooding. First, all of your emergency preparedness materials, especially important documents, should be contained in waterproof containers.
If you do drive, avoid any moving water, especially if it appears to be 12 inches or deeper, because this is the minimum amount of water that can stall your vehicle and potentially wash it away. If you are trapped inside, move to the highest level to avoid any rising flood waters; try to avoid the attic, though, as it will not allow you any escape routes in the event that waters rise that high or the building collapses. Stay indoors during the storm and avoid wading in any water after the storm has passed as it could contain dangerous debris, sewage contamination or harmful animals. As with other measures already mentioned, it’s a good idea to have your phone charged and radio available to stay abreast of any developments in the storm in case a storm surge or additional rainfall arrives, as you don’t want to get trapped outside when more of the storm arrives.
What’s your flood risk? Find out here.
The key to being prepared for a hurricane
As with any disaster preparation, the ultimate step to being prepared is to begin preparing before a disaster arrives. Now that you know a little more about what a hurricane is and the tremendous power of such a storm, as well as the potential dangers that coincide with their arrival, you can take the necessary precautions to prepare for an evacuation or, if need be, to shelter in place so that you are safe, secure and comfortable until the storm passes and infrastructure is reestablished. No one likes to have to deal with a natural disaster, but when it comes to how to prepare for a hurricane, you now should be ready to weather the storm.
Additional Resources :
- Guide : Hurricane Preparedness from Browward County, Florida