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A hurricane is type of tropical cyclone, the generic term for a low pressure system that generally forms in the tropics. A cyclone is accompanied by thunderstorms, and in the Northern Hemisphere, a counterclockwise circulation of winds near the earth's surface. To assist you with your hurricane planning, review the following information.

All Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas are subject to hurricanes or tropical storms. Parts of the Southwest United States and the Pacific Coast experience heavy rains and floods each year from hurricanes spawned off Mexico. The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June to November, with the peak season from mid-August to late October.

These storms can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland with winds in excess of 155 mph. Hurricanes and tropical storms can also spawn tornadoes and microbursts, create storm surges along the coast, and cause extensive damage from heavy rainfall. Hurricanes are classified into five categories (1-5) based on their wind speed, central pressure, and damage potential. Category Three and higher hurricanes are considered major; however, Category One and Two are still extremely dangerous and require your utmost attention.

Remember a key element of your planning should be the collection of specific survival gear and critical hurricane supplies. While preparing for a hurricane may be your primary concern, preparation for other hazards should also be considered in your emergency planning process.

Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a hurricane hazard.
  • Sustained Winds - Are defined as one-minute average wind measured at about 33 feet above the ground.
  • Tropical Depression - An organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 38 MPH or less.
  • Tropical Storm - An organized system of strong thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 39-72 mph.
  • Hurricane - An intense tropical weather system of strong thunderstorms with a well-defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 74 mph or greater.
  • Storm Surge - A dome of water pushed onshore by hurricane and tropical storm winds. Storm surges can reach 25 feet high and be 50-100 miles wide.
  • Storm Tide - A combination of storm surge and the normal tide.
  • Hurricane/Tropical Storm Watch - Hurricane/tropical storm conditions are possible in the specified area, usually within 36 hours. Tune to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
  • Hurricane/Tropical Storm Warning - Hurricane/tropical storm conditions are expected in the specified area, usually within 24 hours.
  • Short Term Watches and Warnings - These warnings provide detailed information about specific hurricane threats, such as flash floods and tornadoes.

Your hurricane planning should address the following scenarios and your hurricane supplies and kits should support you during all potential scenarios.

If a hurricane is likely in your area:

  • Listen to radio and TV for information.
  • Secure your home, close storm shutters, and secure outdoor objects or bring them indoors.
  • Turn off utilities (gas, water, electrical) at the main valves/switches if instructed to do so. Otherwise turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep doors closed.
  • Turn off propane tanks.
  • Avoid using the phone except for serious emergencies.
  • Moor your boat if time permits.
  • Locate your Hurricane Kits.
  • Ensure a supply of water for sanitary purposes such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other large containers with water.

You should evacuate under the following conditions:

  • If you are directed by local authorities to do so. Be sure to follow their instructions and take your Survival Kit(s) with you.
  • If you live in a mobile home or temporary shelter - such shelters are particularly hazardous during hurricanes 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 inland waterway.
  • If you feel you are in danger.

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