Through the summer, but typically in late summer and early fall, swirling circles of wind are spawned by the heat of the Atlantic Ocean. These storms start as tropical disturbances and, as winds intensify, become tropical depressions, then tropical storms. A tropical storm is considered a hurricane when winds reach 74 miles an hour.
Hurricane Andrew, a category 4 hurricane hitting a populated area in South Florida, completely rewrote the record books for wind-driven hurricane damage. Hurricane Floyd set new damage records for water-related damage due to hurricanes, especially in North Carolina where full storm recovery is still far into the future. Both of these major storms also triggered a new way of thinking about potential damage from hurricanes.
Decide now whether you will:
- Go to a designated shelter
- Leave the area for a safer place inland
- Ride out a hurricane in your home, but only with approval of local authorities. Consult your local emergency services officials in making plans
Watch & Warning Difference
- Watch: Hurricane conditions are possible in the specified area of the watch, usually within 36 hours
- Warning: Hurricane conditions are expected in the specified area of the warning, usually within 24 hours
- Make sure your car has gasoline
- Review escape plan
- Listen for weather information
- Check survival kit
- Make sure medical prescriptions are filled and medicines are packed to go
- Gather up important papers, including identification
- Move garbage cans, awnings and other large outside objects into your house or garage or anchor them securely
- Place protective covering over windows and garage doors
- Garage or store vehicles you leave behind
- Secure boats or place inside a building
- Shut off water, electricity and gas
- If you have a swimming pool, cover the pump filter
- If you live in a mobile home, check tie-downs and always get out immediately and go to a safe place
Weather the Hurricane at Home
If you are not ordered to evacuate and you decide to stay; Stay indoors, away from windows or glass doors. The safest place to go is underground, in a basement, and under something sturdy like a work bench.
If you do not have access to an underground shelter (as many coastal residents do not), head toward the center of your house to the bathroom or hallway, where there's extra reinforcement and the maximum number of walls between you and the outside. Keep your radio tuned to weather information until all-clear has sounded.
Go directly to a shelter, as directed by local authorities. Lock doors and windows before you go. Afterward, wait until you get an all-clear announcement to leave your shelter. Be extra careful when you venture out because driving may be especially hazardous due to debris on streets, flooding, emergency vehicles in operation, and traffic signals and street lights out of service. Stay away from rivers or streams or other places where flooding is likely. Downed or dangling power lines also pose a lethal threat.
Check electrical, water, and gas lines (or have a professional do it) as soon as possible. Make emergency repairs to prevent further damage. Check to see that refrigerated food hasn't spoiled if there has been a power outage. Use emergency water rations or boil water out of the tap before drinking until you're notified water supply is safe. Finally, report damage to your insurance agent.