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Hurricanes

What is a Hurricane?

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 1st to November 30th, with the peak season from mid-August to late October.

Hurricane categories are based on their wind speed, central pressure, and damage potential. Although Category Three through Five hurricanes are considered major storms, all hurricanes are extremely dangerous and warrant your full attention.

Hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage along coastlines and for several hundred miles inland. Category Three and higher hurricanes are considered major storms.

Hurricanes and tropical storms can also spawn tornadoes and microbursts, create storm surges along the coast, and cause extensive damage from wind, heavy rainfall, and flooding.

What to Do Before a Hurricane

  • 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.
    • Consider installing straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure.
    • Ensure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed.
    • Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
    • Secure outdoor furniture, potted plants, lawn ornaments, and bar-b-que grills.
    • Determine how and where to secure your boat, if applicable.
  • Create your Disaster Supply Kit and keep it in an easily accessible place.
  • Secure your home, close storm shutters, and secure or bring inside outdoor objects such as grills and patio furniture.
  • Turn off propane tanks.
  • 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.

What to Do During a Hurricane

  • Locate your Disaster Supply Kit.
  • Monitor radio or TV for information.
  • Turn off utilities if instructed to do so. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
  • Avoid using the phone, except for serious emergencies.
  • Check in with family/friends so they know your location and that you are safe.
  • Follow the directions of local emergency management.

Evacuate under the following conditions:

  • If local authorities direct you 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:

  • Stay indoors during the hurricane and away from windows and glass doors.
  • Close all interior doors—secure and brace external doors.
  • Keep curtains and blinds closed. Calm winds do not indicate the end of the storm. As the eye of the storm passes over, winds will become still and then reverse as the back side of the hurricane moves over the area.
  • Remain calm.

What to Do After a Hurricane

Dangers such as high water, downed electrical power lines, and broken gas mains are major safety threats after hurricanes.

  • Do not return home until given permission by local emergency management.
  • Use extreme caution when entering damaged homes or structures.
  • Beware of unstable trees and limbs. Falling tree limbs are a major cause of injury and death following hurricanes.
  • Downed power lines are a serious electrocution hazard. Never touch downed power lines or any objects that are in contact with them, including water.
  • Do not enter flooded homes if the electricity may still be on. Report electrical hazards to authorities.
  • If you smell gas, call the gas company. Do not smoke, use your cell or landline phone, light candles, or use matches near gas leaks.
  • Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long pants, long sleeves, and gloves when cleaning up.
  • Help avoid injuries when using chain saws and power tools by learning how to operate them properly, and always follow recommended safety procedures.
  • Whenever possible, use battery-powered flashlights and lanterns instead of candles.
  • Discard food from your refrigerator if it has reached room temperature. If in doubt, throw it out.
  • Drink bottled water or water that has been purified until authorities say tap water is uncontaminated and safe.
    • You can also disinfect water with chlorine or iodine (follow package directions) or with ordinary household bleach—one-eighth teaspoon (about nine drops) per gallon of water.
    • Sterilize water containers and drinking cups with a solution of household bleach.
  • Poisoning from carbon monoxide is an avoidable hazard during power outages. Never use generators, camp stoves, or charcoal grills inside your home, garage, or near open windows, doors, or vents.

    Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that can build up and cause sudden illness and death. If you feel dizzy, light-headed, or nauseous, seek immediate medical attention.

  • Weather conditions following hurricanes are usually very hot and humid. You may not have air conditioning for a long period of time.

    Avoid heat-related illnesses by drinking plenty of fluids and taking care to not to overexert yourself when cleaning up and repairing damage.

  • When clearing debris, look out for broken glass and exposed nails. Seek medical attention for any puncture type injuries.
  • After a hurricane, it’s normal to experience emotional distress. Allow yourself and family members time to grieve.

For more information, see:

Stay Informed with Weather and Disaster Alerts

Get credible, lifesaving information during disasters. Stay informed by tuning into local radio and TV broadcasts.

Alerts and updates are also available from:

  • National Weather Service: Get weather updates by zip, city, or GPS location.
  • TDEM Twitter Feed: All-hazard emergency preparedness and disaster information from the Texas Division of Emergency Management.
  • CDC Emergency Twitter Feed: Critical information on your phone in real time.
  • FEMA Text Messages: You can use this message program in two ways—to receive regular safety tips and to search for open shelters and open disaster recovery centers.
  • Wireless Emergency Alerts: These are emergency messages sent by authorized government agencies through your mobile carrier.