What is a
A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone, the generic term
for a low pressure system that generally forms in the tropics.
A typical cyclone is accompanied by thunderstorms, and in the
Northern Hemisphere, a counterclockwise circulation of winds
near the earth’s surface.
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.
Hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and
several hundred miles inland. Winds can exceed 155 miles per
hour. 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 based on
their wind speed, central pressure, and damage potential
(Click here to see
chart). Category Three and higher hurricanes are
considered major hurricanes, though Categories One and Two
are still extremely dangerous and warrant your full
Hurricanes can produce widespread torrential rains. Floods
are the deadly and destructive result. Slow moving storms and
tropical storms moving into mountainous regions tend to produce
especially heavy rain. Excessive rain can trigger landslides or
mud slides, especially in mountainous regions. Flash flooding
can occur due to intense rainfall. Flooding on rivers and
streams may persist for several days or more after the
Between 1970 and 1999, more people lost their lives from
freshwater inland flooding associated with land falling
tropical cyclones than from any other weather hazard related to
How are Hurricanes Named?
Since 1953, Atlantic tropical storms have been named from
lists originated by the National Hurricane Center and now
maintained and updated by an international committee of the
World Meteorological Organization. The lists featured only
women’s names until 1979. After that, men’s and women’s names
were alternated. Six lists are used in rotation. Thus, the 2001
lists will be used again in 2007.
The only time there is a change in the list is if a storm is
so deadly or costly that the continued use of the name would be
inappropriate for reasons of sensitivity. When this occurs, the
name is stricken from the list and another name is selected to
Sometimes names are changed. Lorenzo replaced Luis and
Michelle replaced Marilyn.
yourself with these terms to help identify a hurricane
Depression - An organized system of clouds and
thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and
maximum sustained winds of 38 MPH (33 knots) or less.
Sustained winds are defined as one-minute average wind
measured at about 33 ft (10 meters) above the
Storm - An organized system of strong
thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and
maximum sustained winds of 39–73 MPH (34–63
- An intense tropical
weather system of strong thunderstorms with a well-defined
surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 74 MPH
(64 knots) or higher.
Surge - A dome of water pushed onshore by
hurricane and tropical storm winds. Storm surges can reach
25 feet high and be 50–1000 miles
Tide - A combination of storm surge and
the normal tide (i.e., a 15-foot storm surge combined with
a 2-foot normal high tide over the mean sea level created a
17-foot storm tide).
Storm Watch - Hurricane/tropical storm
conditions are possible in the specified area, usually
within 36 hours. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial
radio, or television for
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.
To prepare for a hurricane, you should take the following
- Make plans to secure your property. 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
- Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten
your roof to the frame structure. This will reduce roof
- Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well
- Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and
- Determine how and where to secure your boat.
- Consider building a safe room.
Protect Your Property or Business from Disaster
If you aren’t sure whether your property or business is at
risk from disasters caused by natural hazards, check with your
local building official, city engineer, or planning and zoning
administrator. They can tell you whether you are in an area
where hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, wildfires, or tornadoes
are likely to occur. Also, they usually can tell you how to
protect yourself, your house, business and property from the
Protect Your Business from All Natural Hazards
- Protect Business Records and Inventory
- Install a Generator for Emergency Power
Protect Your Property from an Earthquake
- Anchor Large Equipment Properly
- Anchor Tall Bookcases and File Cabinets
- Anchor and Brace Propane Tanks and Gas Cylinders
- Bolt Sill Plates to Foundation
- Brace Cripple Walls
- Install Latches on Drawers and Cabinet Doors
- Mount Framed Pictures and Mirrors Securely
- Restrain Desktop Computers and Appliances
- Use Flexible Connections on Gas and Water Lines
Protect Your Property from Fire
- Dealing with Vegetation and Combustible Materials
- Replace Roofing with Fire-Resistant Materials
Protect Your Property from Flooding
- Build With Flood Damage Resistant Materials
- Dry Floodproof Your Building
- Add Waterproof Veneer to Exterior Walls
Raise Electrical System Components
Anchor Fuel Tanks
- Raise or Floodproof HVAC Equipment
- Install Sewer Backflow Valves
- Protect Wells From Contamination by Flooding
Protect Your Property from High Winds
- Maintain EIFS Walls
- Protect Windows and Doors with Covers
- Reinforce Double Entry Doors
- Reinforce or Replace Garage Doors
- Remove Trees and Potential Windborne Missiles
- Secure Metal Siding and Metal Roofs
- Secure Built-Up and Single-Ply Roofs
- Secure Composition Shingle Roofs
- Brace Gable End Roof Framing
Evacuation - Click here to learn about
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 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.
- If you live in a mobile home or temporary
structure—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.
If you are unable to evacuate, go to your 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
- 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
Much of the info on this page was taken from FEMA's web site
which can be referenced at: