National Hurricane Preparedness Week is May 25-31, which gives you plenty of time and no excuses not to be prepared. The Atlantic hurricane season starts June 1, while the Eastern Pacific hurricane season starts May 15. Both seasons end on November 30. Hurricanes begin in an area of the world known the tropics. The tropics lie between the Tropic of Cancer in the Northern Hemisphere and the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere—areas in the middle of the globe, surrounding the Equator. Hurricanes start when a low-pressure system with wind forms in the warm, moist air over the tropics—a tropical disturbance. These tropical disturbances must go through four stages before becoming an actual hurricane.
1. Tropical disturbance
A tropical disturbance forms when clouds, rain and thunderstorms stick around for at least a day in the tropics.
2. Tropical depression
If the tropical disturbance begins a counter-clockwise rotation, with winds reaching 38 miles per hour, around the lower pressure center in the Northern Hemisphere, it becomes a tropical depression.
3. Tropical Storm
The tropical depression becomes a tropical storm when one-minute winds reach a sustained 39 to 73 miles per hour. Only after the tropical storm has reached these high winds does the National Hurricane Center give it a name.
The now-named tropical storm turns into a hurricane when one-minute winds reach at least 74 miles per hour. Hurricanes cause heavy rainfall, flooding, tornados, rip currents and high, damaging winds. Depending on the severity of the hurricane—measured in categories one to five on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale—city officials might make evacuation mandatory. If you live in a hurricane-prone area, keep trees and shrubbery trimmed. When a hurricane watch or warning alert comes through your NOAA emergency weather alert radio, put your bug-out or bug-in plan into action. Whether you choose to leave or stay, you need a plan and supplies for both.
Evacuating or Bugging-Out
Have a solid escape route—preferably back roads that will not be as congested as official hurricane evacuation routes. Take maps and a GPS unit in case you need to seek an alternative way out of the city. Know exactly where you will go. Will it be to a friend or family member’s house living inland or local shelter, far enough away hotel or campground? Call ahead of time to make sure they can accommodate you. Do not forget about the family pets. If you leave, you should take them with you. Most shelters will not accept house pets, so you need a landing place that is pet-friendly. Keep fuel cans full and take them with you. When thousands are fleeing, gas stations along the evacuation route will run out of gas quickly, with possibly no means to get more. Have a bug-out bag packed with the essentials ready to go or keep it in the trunk of your car. Make sure you have rain gear, good shoes, toiletries, cash, some food and water, and copies of important paperwork on flash drives—especially your insurance information. Before leaving, board up your house, close storm windows and bring in lawn furniture, grills, plants and other items you keep in the yard. Shut off all utilities.
Before hurricane season hits, invest in storm windows. If storm windows are not in your budget this year, alternatively, store plywood, nails and a hammer to cover and protect your windows. Now is the time to stock up on bottled water and non-perishable food items before the shelves are empty. As soon as forecasters release a hurricane warning, fill up every water storage container, bathtub, sink, and the washing machine. To prevent a flood from a busted pipe, shut off the water at the main. Make sure to have an alternative way to cook food, such as a camp stove, charcoal grill and charcoal. Store plenty of flashlights, lanterns, fresh batteries and lantern fuel. The utmost in comfort during a power outage due to a hurricane is to have a generator. However, some of us are not that lucky. A few battery-operated camp fans will help beat the heat.
If you would like more information, we have written plenty of in-depth articles about preparing and hurricanes. For hurricane survival stories, read, “A Part Time Grunt’s Hurricane Katrina Experience” and “Prepper v. Survivalist? How About Using the Term Smart Instead.”
For more about prepping for hurricanes read:
- Hurricane Preparedness Checklist: Katrina—Nine Years Later
- Are You Ready for the Next Disaster?
- Hurricane Preparedness
- Shelter In Place
- Emergency Water Supply for Hurricane Season: the AquaPod Kit
Do you live in a hurricane-prone area? If so, how do you prepare? Share your stories with us in the comment section.