Disaster Supplies Kit
Thunderstorms and lightning
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Recovering from Disaster
Health and safety guidelines
Seeking disaster assistance
Coping with disaster
A hurricane is a tropical cyclone, the generic term for a
low pressure system that generally forms in the tropics. A
typical cyclone is accompanied by thunderstorms and a
counterclockwise (in the northern hemisphere) motion of
winds near the surface of the earth.
All coastal areas in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico locale
are subject to hurricanes. Other parts, such as southwest
United States and the Pacific Coast, experience heavy rains
and floods from hurricanes spawned off Mexico. The Atlantic
hurricane season peaks from mid-August to late October.
Winds from tropical storms can exceed 155 miles per hour.
Hurricanes and tropical storms can also spawn tornadoes,
create storm surges along the coast and cause extensive
damage to coastlines and hundreds of miles inland from heavy
Hurricanes are classified into five categories based on
their wind speed, central pressure and damage potential.
Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale
Number Winds Damage Storm Surge
1 74-95 Minimal: Unanchored 4-5 feet
vegetation and signs.
2 96-110 Moderate: All mobile
homes, roofs, small crafts 6-8 feet
3 111-130 Extensive: Small buildings
and low-lying roads cut off. 9-12 feet
4 131-155 Extreme: Roofs destroyed,
trees down, roads cut off and 13-18 feet
mobile homes destroyed.
Beach homes flooded.
5 More than Catastrophic: Most buildings Greater than
155 destroyed. Vegetation destroyed. 18
Major roads cut off. Homes flooded. feet
Floods are the deadly and destructive result of hurricane’s
heavy rains. Excessive rain can trigger landslides or mud
slides, especially in mountainous regions. Flash flooding on
rivers and streams may persist for several days or more
after the storm.
Naming the Hurricanes:
Since 1953 Atlantic tropical storms have been named from
lists that were originated by the National Hurricane Center
and now maintained by an international committee of the
World Meteorological Organization. The lists featured only
women’s names until 1979. After that, men’s and women’s
names were alternated. Six lists are used in rotation. Thus,
the 2001 lists will be used again in 2007.
The only time there is a change in the list is if a storm is
so deadly or costly that the continued use of the name would
be inappropriate for reasons of sensitivity. When this
occurs, the name is stricken from the list and another name
is selected to replace it.
Follow the link for the complete list of Storm Names as
issued by the National Weather Service.
Know the Terms:
Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a
Tropical Depression: An organized system of clouds and
thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum
sustained winds of 38 MPH (33 knots) or less. Sustained
winds are defined as one-minute average wind measured at
about 33 ft (10 meters) above the surface.
Tropical Storm: An organized system of strong thunderstorms
with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained
winds of 39–73 MPH (34–63 knots).
Hurricane: An intense tropical weather system of strong
thunderstorms with a well-defined surface circulation and
maximum sustained winds of 74 MPH (64 knots) or higher.
Storm Surge: A dome of water pushed onshore by hurricane and
tropical storm winds. Storm surges can reach 25 feet high
and be 50–1000 miles wide.
Storm Tide: A combination of storm surge and the normal tide
(i.e., a 15-foot storm surge combined with a 2-foot normal
high tide over the mean sea level created a 17-foot storm
Hurricane/Tropical Storm Watch: Hurricane/tropical storm
conditions are possible in the specified area, usually
within 36 hours. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial
radio, or television for information.
Hurricane/Tropical Storm Warning: Hurricane/tropical storm
conditions are expected in the specified area, usually
within 24 hours.
Short Term Watches and Warnings: These warnings provide
detailed information about specific hurricane threats, such
as flash floods and tornadoes.
Take Protective Measures
What can I do Before a Hurricane?
Make plans to secure your property
Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for
Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your
roof to the frame structure
Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed
Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts
Determine how and where to secure your boat
Consider building a safe room
What do I do During a Hurricane?
If a hurricane is likely in your area, you should:
Listen to the radio or TV for information
Secure your home, close storm shutters and secure outdoor
objects or bring them indoors
Turn off utilities if instructed to do so. Otherwise, turn
the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep
its doors closed.
Turn off propane tanks
Avoid using the phone, except for serious emergencies
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
You should evacuate under the following conditions:
If you are directed to do so
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, go to your wind-safe room. If
you do not have one, follow these guidelines:
Stay indoors during the hurricane and away from windows and
Close all interior doors—secure and brace external doors
Keep curtains and blinds closed
Do not be fooled if there is a lull; it could be the eye of
Take refuge in a small interior room, closet or hallway on
the lowest level
Lie on the floor under a table or another sturdy object
What do I do After a Hurricane?
Follow the instructions for recovering from a disaster.