The Ultimate Hurricane Safety Guide
Few weather systems can beat hurricanes for demonstrating the
sheer power of Mother Nature. Because they can be deadly, it is
important to understand hurricanes and know how to get ready for them.
Here is a basic guide for hurricane safety.
What Is a Hurricane?
Hurricanes are strong weather systems that form over oceans
and that have sustained winds that are greater than 74 miles an hour.
They usually form over warm tropical waters as the seawater evaporates
and rises into the air causing a lower atmospheric pressure in the area
that remains under the rising warm and wet air. Because of the pressure
differential, winds form and the earth's rotation causes the winds to
swirl, creating the familiar image of a swirling hurricane with a calm
eye in the center.
The temperature of surface water must be at least 80 degrees
for a hurricane to form, and the speed and direction between winds at
the upper and lower parts of the storm must be relatively the same.
Storms get stronger the longer they are over warm waters because more
seawater can evaporate and create a greater difference in air pressure,
which leads to more intense winds.
Hurricane strength is measured on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane
Scale, which indicates a storm's intensity from 1 to 5. A storm labeled
category 1 has sustained winds between 74 and 95 miles per hour and
causes only very minor damage. Category 5 hurricanes have winds in
excess of 156 miles per hour and cause catastrophic damage.
What Do I Do Before Hurricane Season?
The images of damage from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 show that
hurricanes must be taken seriously. Those who live in coastal areas
should pay special attention to hurricanes and prepare themselves for
the hurricane season long before it starts, as anywhere between 50 to
100 people die in the United States as a result of hurricanes in any
three-year period. Such preparation involves making sure the family has
a potential evacuation plan in place and knows where people will go to
wait out the storm in case an evacuation is ordered. This plan must
also include pets, for not every hurricane shelter will allow pets, and
no one wants to show up at a shelter with a cat or dog and find that it
cannot stay there with the family.
Hurricane preparedness also involves making sure that there
are enough supplies to survive a period of time without electricity and
water should the hurricane be devastating enough. Families should have
about a week's supply of canned food and bottled water. Other essential
materials include batteries and flashlights, a first-aid kit, and
copies of important documents like birth certificates and insurance
What Is the Difference Between a Hurricane
Watch & a Hurricane Warning?
Fortunately, in this day and age hurricanes no longer take
most people off guard. Government officials monitor conditions and
issue hurricane watches and warnings if there is a real possibility of
a hurricane making landfall. A hurricane watch is issued for a given
area when there is a real possibility of hurricane conditions within 36
hours. Hurricane warnings are given when actual hurricane conditions
are expected within a 24-hour period.
What Do I Do During a Hurricane Watch/Warning?
Those who have planned ahead need not worry too much once a
hurricane watch or warning is issued. During a hurricane watch, outside
items such as pool furniture, potted plants, and more should be secured
or brought inside. This is also the time to begin boarding up windows
or hanging hurricane shutters. It is also the last chance to make sure
the family has enough supplies on hand to last through the hurricane
and its immediate aftermath. This will also be the time to begin
evacuating if an evacuation order is issued.
In a hurricane warning it is important to fill empty
containers with water (for drinking) and turn the refrigerator and
freezer to their coldest settings. This latter step will help keep
perishable food longer once the power goes out. It is also important to
pay attention to any government updates via battery-powered radios.
What Do I Do During a Hurricane?
During a hurricane people, should stay away from doors and
windows and continue listening to the radio for any updates. It is not
safe to leave a building during the storm until the official all clear
has been issued, so individuals must not be tempted to go outside if
the winds have seemed to die down and no evacuation has been ordered.
This may be the eye passing over, after which the winds will resume and
be more powerful than before. Should a repair be necessary to preserve
life, it should be attempted during the eye of the storm. Again, it
must be a real emergency for a person to leave a building to make the
What Do I Do After a Hurricane?
Once the all clear has been officially issued, people may exit
buildings and begin to take stock of the damage. No one should touch
downed power lines as they may be live, and people can start to clear
debris as long as it is not touching one of the lines. People will want
to contact friends and family as soon as possible to let them know
everyone has survived, and it will also be important to help neighbors.
Contact the insurance company and take pictures of any damage to help
with claim processing. Continue to pay attention to any governmental
updates, as there will be advice on clean up and sometimes curfews are
Hurricanes and other extreme weather can't be controlled but
the damage they cause can be limited. By utilizing this guide and
planning ahead you could ensure your family's safety during even the
most disastrous weather event.