Hurricanes are massive storm systems that form over the water and move toward land. Threats from hurricanes include high winds, heavy rainfall, storm surge, coastal and inland flooding, rip currents, and tornadoes. These large storms are called typhoons in the North Pacific Ocean and cyclones in other parts of the world.
The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale classifies hurricanes into five categories based on their wind speed, central pressure, and wind damage potential. With wind speeds of 111 miles per hour or more, Category 3, 4, and 5 hurricanes are major according to this scale. Category 1 and 2 hurricanes can also cause damage and injuries. The Saffir-Simpson scale is shown at the end of this document.
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, with the peak occurring between mid-August and late October. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15 and ends November 30.
Each year, many parts of the United States experience heavy rains, strong winds, floods, and coastal storm surges from tropical storms and hurricanes. Affected areas include all Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii, parts of the Southwest, the Pacific Coast, and the U.S. territories in the Pacific.
Hurricanes can cause loss of life and catastrophic damage to property along coastlines and can extend several hundred miles inland. The extent of damage varies according to the size and wind intensity of the storm, the amount and duration of rainfall, the path of the storm, and other factors such as the number and type of buildings in the area, the terrain, and soil conditions. The effects include the following:
- Death or injury to people and animals
- Damage or destruction of buildings and other structures
- Disruption of transportation, gas, power, communications, and other services
- Coastal flooding from heavy rains and storm surge; and inland flooding from heavy rains.
Know the Risk
Frequency of Hurricane and Tropical Storm Activity by County Atlantic Data: 1851–2012 ~ Pacific Data: 1949–2012
This map depicts the frequency with which counties have experienced a hurricane or tropical storm based on a 125-mile-wide storm path around the center point of the storm.
PROTECT YOURSELF DURING A HURRICANE
Hurricanes have the potential to cause massive destruction. If you are in the path of a major hurricane, authorities may direct you to evacuate for your safety.
Fatalities and injuries caused by hurricanes are often the result of individuals remaining in unsafe locations during a storm. If authorities advise or order you to evacuate, do so immediately. Be sure to remember the Five Ps of Evacuation:
- Personal Needs
- Priceless Items
Leave early to avoid delays caused by long lines, high winds, and flooding.
Follow posted evacuation routes and do not try to take short cuts because they may be blocked. Stick to designated evacuation routes.
IF YOU ARE IN AN AREA WITHOUT AN EVACUATION NOTICE
Take precautions to protect yourself and stay safe from the high winds and potential localized flooding.
Stay indoors away from windows and glass doors. Flying debris from high winds is dangerous and can be deadly. If you are in a mobile home or temporary structure, move to a sturdy building.
For protection in extremely high winds, go to a small, interior, windowless room, such as a bathroom or closet, on the lowest level not likely to flood.
If you are in an area that is flooding (e.g., on the coast, on a floodplain, near a river, or on an island waterway), move to a location on higher ground before floodwaters prevent your ability to leave.
If the power is out, use flashlights, not candles. Turn on a battery-operated or hand-cranked radio to get the latest emergency information. Stay tuned to alerts.
EXPERIENCING A HURRICANE
You may experience any of the following during a hurricane:
Long periods of very strong winds and heavy rains.
If you are in a coastal area, you may experience a storm surge, which means that high winds are pushing seawater onto the shore. A storm surge combines with the ocean’s tide to produce a storm-tide surge. Storm-tide surges have been registered as high as 35 feet above normal sea level and can cause significant flooding across a large area. This generally occurs over a short period, typically 4 to 8 hours; but in some areas, it may take much longer for the water to recede to its pre-storm level.
Significant changes in air pressure during the storm can cause discomfort, and loud moaning, shrieking, and whistling sounds may occur because of the winds.
Many of those in the center of the storm experience a false sense of security. After the center of the hurricane, also known as the eye, passes over, the storm will resume. Do not venture outside until emergency officials say it is safe.
The first step in being prepared is to know about the hazards that can affect you where you live and work. Hurricanes occur in coastal areas, but can impact weather across the country. To learn more about hurricanes and what you should do to protect yourself and your property check out these helpful links:
-Resource FEMA.GOV How To Prepare For A Hurricane
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