General Hurricane Information


The ingredients for a hurricane include a pre-existing weather disturbance, warm tropical oceans, moisture and relatively light winds aloft. If the right conditions persist long enough, they can combine to produce the violent winds, incredible waves, torrential rains, and floods we associate with this phenomenon.

Each year, an average of 10 tropical storms develop over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. Many of these remain over the ocean. Six of these storms become hurricanes each year. In an average three-year period, roughly five hurricanes strike the United States coastline, killing approximately 50 to 100 people anywhere from Texas to Maine. Of these, two are typically “major” or “intense” hurricanes, with winds greater than 110 mph.


Storm surge is a large dome of water often 50 to 100 miles wide that sweeps across the coastline where near a hurricane makes landfall. The surge of high water topped by the waves is devastating. The stronger the hurricane and the shallower the offshore water, the higher the surge will be. Along the immediate coast, storm surge is the greatest threat to life and property.

Storm surge can be even more destination if it hits at the same time as the astronomical tide. For example, as a hurricane moves ashore, a 15-foot surge added to the 2-foot high tide creates a storm tide of 17 feet. This mound of water topped by battering waves, moves ashore along an area of the coastline as much as 100 miles wide. The combination of storm surge, battering waves and high winds is deadly and causes great property damage.

The surge with Category One hurricanes will have its greatest impact along the immediate coastline but still impact areas a mile or two inland. The stronger the hurricane the greater the storm surge and the more inland areas will be affected.

For example, a Category Five storm surge could leave a devastating impact over 10 miles from the shoreline. Areas along rivers and streams will also feel the impact of the surge.


TROPICAL STORM WATCH is an announcement for specific coastal areas that tropical storm conditions are possible within 36 hours.

TROPICAL STORM WARNING is a warning that sustained winds within the range of 34 to 63 kt (39 to 73 mph or 63 to 118 km/hr) associated with a tropical cyclone are expected in a specified coastal area within 24 hours or less.

HURRICANE WATCH issued for your part of the coast indicates the possibility that you could experience hurricane conditions within 36 hours. This watch should trigger your family's disaster plan, and protective measures should be initiated, especially those actions that require extra time such as securing a boat, leaving a barrier island, etc.

HURRICANE WARNING issued for your part of the coast indicates that sustained winds of at least 74 mph are expected within 24 hours or less. Once this warning has been issued, your family should be in the process of completing protective actions and deciding the safest location to be during the storm.

Source: National Hurricane Center, Media General News Service


Before a hurricane threatens, you and your family need to be prepared and know what you are going to do and where you are going to go.

Having a Family Disaster Plan will help keep your family safe during a stressful situation.

• First you need to discuss the type of hazards that could affect your family. Are you in a flood plane? Can your house sustain high winds? Will you need to evacuate?
• Next, locate the safest areas in your home for each hurricane hazard
• If you do evacuation, make plans to stay with a nearby friend or relative in a safe area
• If you cannot stay with a friend/relative, ask your local emergency management agency for shelter locations.
• Know the evacuation route from your home.
• Have an out-of-state friend as a family contact.
• Make sure your children know how and when to call 911.
• Stock up on non-perishable food, medicine and emergency supplies.
• Take first-aid, CPR and disaster preparedness classes.

You need to make sure your home is prepared as well. Have a home preparedness checklist.

A good way to stay safe during a hurricane is with a Disaster Supply Kit

If you do have to evacuation, many shelters will NOT take animals. Make sure you have a safe place to leave your pet. Here are some helpful ideas for pet owners.

• Make sure the pet is current on vaccinations. Pet shelters may require proof of vaccines
• Keep a collar with identification on your pet
• Have a properly-sized pet carrier
• Plan a refuge – specialized pet shelters, animal control shelters, veterinary clinics and friends out of harm's 
• Make sure to have plenty of extra food and water for your pet in your disaster kit.


• Fuel your car.
• Fill bathtubs and sinks with water.
• Review your evacuation route.
• Get cash in case you must evacuate.
• Have a battery-powered NOAA weather radio available.
• Use your family's evacuation and family emergency plans.
• Make sure all family members wear closed-toe shoes or sneakers.
• Make arrangements to board or evacuate pets. Take shot records, rabies certificates and tags and vet information.
• Have supplies and basic foods available. For comprehensive checklists of basic foods, supplies and emergency home repair items to have on hand if you live in a coastal area, visit the “Shopping List” section of the Weather Research Center's Family Hurricane Survival Kit.


After emergency workers clear the roads of trees, fallen power lines and complete rescue operations, you will be allowed back to your home. Roads still may be flooded, and you may have to show identification to be allowed back into your neighborhood. This is to prevent sightseeing and looting.

• Check your house for obvious damage and dangerous situations such as unstable walls or ceiling material and broken glass.
• If you smell gas, open the windows and leave.
• If you have power, check for signs of electrical damage such as sparks, frayed wires or the smell of something burning.
• Photograph the damage. Then make temporary repairs, such as patching holes in the roof or walls and covering broken windows.
• Keep all receipts for temporary repairs, temporary housing and food costs.
• If your house flooded, get out as much water as possible. Make sure the home is well-ventilated.
• Clean hard-surface floors, countertops, cabinets, the stove and the oven with soap and water and then a solution of a cup of bleach in five gallons of water.
• Have carpet removed or steam cleaned.
• Clean wet clothing and furniture.
• Dry metal objects such as drapery rods and appliances, then coat them with a light layer of oil to prevent rust.
• Have any electrical appliance exposed to water serviced before using it.
• Inventory damaged or missing possessions. Don't throw away items you believe are a loss before yourinsurance adjuster sees them.
• Don't throw away owner's manuals or other ways to verify what is damaged.
• Wash your hands well and often with soap and purified water. This is especially important for children.
• Avoid using candles for light. Use flashlights and battery- powered lanterns.

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