Hurricane season comes every year, bringing with it special responsibilities for people who live near the East and Gulf Coasts. There are practical tasks like stocking up on bottled water and batteries, but if you’re unfamiliar with hurricane preparedness, the most fundamental way to prepare is to heed hurricane watches and warnings.
Hurricane Watch vs Hurricane Warning
- A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible.
- A hurricane warning means hurricane conditions are expected.
Hurricane watches and warnings are issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Hurricane Center when tropical storms or hurricanes approach coastal areas. These alerts are your cues to take specific actions, and it’s important to take them seriously.
You can register to receive these alerts via text or email, and you will also see them on local television and hear them on local radio. But if you live in a hurricane prone area, you should be aware of approaching storms days before the first hurricane watches are issued. It’s important to follow local weather reports all hurricane season long to maximize your preparation time.
What it means: Hurricane conditions — sustained winds of 74 mph or higher — are possible within the specified area. Hurricane watches are issued 48 hours before the expected onset of tropical force winds, which are between 39 and 73 mph. This lead time is intended to give you the opportunity to make preparations that will become difficult or dangerous in high winds, such as hanging storm shutters or trimming trees.
What to do: Secure loose items outside your home. If you plan to board up windows or install storm shutters, do it now. Review your evacuation plan in case an evacuation is ordered. Make sure you have a way to monitor additional hurricane alerts. Review your hurricane preparedness plan and be ready to put it into action. If you don’t have a hurricane preparedness plan, make one as soon as possible.
What it means: Hurricane conditions are expected within the specified area. Hurricane warnings are issued 36 hours before the expected arrival of tropical force winds.
What to do: Launch your hurricane preparedness plan. If your plan is to shelter in place, monitor local safety announcements and evacuate immediately if an evacuation order is issued.
Stay Connected Through the Storm
Here are a few tips to make sure you don’t miss the latest alerts, news and forecasts when a tropical storm or hurricane is bearing down on your area:
- Download the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) app to receive alerts and information on your tablet or smartphone.
- Purchase an emergency weather radio and a backup supply of batteries. When other communications services go down, terrestrial radio may be the most reliable source of information. Many emergency radios have integrated solar chargers and hand-crank generators so that you can stay connected no matter what.
- Consider purchasing alternate chargers and battery packs for your phones, radios and other devices. USB-connected solar chargers and power banks offer convenience during prolonged power outages.
Hurricane Preparedness Tips
Stay prepared during hurricane season with these hurricane preparedness tips:
- Locate a safe room in your home or a safe place in your community.
- Have a hurricane preparedness kit on hand that includes non-perishable food, a first aid kit and a flashlight. Find everything you need on our hurricane grocery list.
- Have a plan in place for electronic devices and appliances in case of power outages or evacuation.
- Keep your phones fully charged. Consider purchasing a portable charger in case of power outages or the need to evacuate.
- Determine the best escape route in case of evacuation. Read our tips on how to create a hurricane evacuation plan for your family.
- Bring in plants, flags, house ornaments, outdoor furniture and other items that could be hazardous in high winds.
- Turn off the water to prevent broken pipes. Fill your bathtub and sinks with water to have for flushing the toilet.
- Turn off the gas to prevent leaks.
- Make sure pool covers are secure.
- Don’t leave your car parked under a tree. You should also make sure you have a full tank of gas in case of emergency evacuation.