Hurricane Season Facts and Preparation Guide
The winds and rains produced in a hurricane have the potential to do massive destruction in just a few hours.
Even with a couple days' notice before arrival, the force and power can still take us by surprise. Cities, towns, families, especially those with pets and anyone else living at risk of a hurricane need to have a decisive plan in place for dealing with this type of storm.
Hurricane Facts and Information: Definitions
Your first step in preparing for hurricane season lies in knowing what you are dealing with. Forecasters may be talking about an approaching storm for days, but you won't be able to properly prepare yourself, school, or town unless you know what they are referring to.
- Tropical Depression - A tropical depression is a low pressure area with thunderstorms. These storms have winds of up to 39 miles per hour and are first spotted out in the ocean. Weather forecasters analyze these for their potential to turn into something greater. Tropical depressions that make landfall are intense storms, but in most cases won't cause considerable damage.
- Tropical Storms - A tropical storm has variable speeds ranging from 39 to 73 miles per hour.
- Hurricanes - When a forecast is calling for a hurricane, you should expect winds starting at 74 miles per hour. Not only will this cause immense damage, there is also the threat of flooding and storm surges.
It is very important to pay attention to news broadcasts and weather reports that are providing you information about a possible hurricane. While never 100% accurate, they will give you a fairly good idea of when to expect the storm, and how severe it is going to be. Some terms you are likely to hear before and during a hurricane from weather analysts include:
- Tropical Storm Watch - Conditions exist that make it possible there will be a tropical storm in the area.
- Hurricane Watch - There is the likelihood of a hurricane in the area. This watch is almost always issued 48 hours before the expected start of winds that have tropical storm force.
- Tropical Storm Warning - You can expect a tropical storm.
- Hurricane Warning - These are issued 36 hours before the expected onset of tropical force winds and indicate a high possibility of a hurricane in the area.
- Eye - The center of the storm where the weather conditions are calmer.
- Eye Wall - This is the area surrounding the eye of the storm and where you will find the most severe weather conditions.
- Rain Bands - Rain bands are defined as bands which come off of the cyclone and produce their own waves of heavy rain and high winds.
- Storm Surge - As a tropical storm or hurricane makes landfall, the ocean swells, causing large waves to crash down on the affected beaches. This can cause coastal flooding and in some cases even flooding further inland.
At Which Point Do You Start Making Emergency Preparations?
When the WATCH is announced.
During the watch period of an incoming tropical storm or hurricane, you should be making basic preparations. Homeowners should clear their yards of any loose items, and stock up on canned food and water.
If weather analysts issue a hurricane warning, you need to stay abreast of what local officials are advising, and relay that information to as many individuals as possible.
For individuals and homeowners, a hurricane warning means you should follow any directions given by officials, including leaving the area if that is what is advised. If not, cover the windows with wood or shutters. If you don't have access to either you can tape the windows but keep in mind that this does not prevent breakage, it only stops the glass from shattering. You should have a kit prepared ahead of time that will allow you to ride out the storm and the first few days following it:
Turn your refrigerator to its coldest setting about six hours before you expect a hurricane to hit, and then only open the door sparingly. This will help to preserve whatever food you do have inside for as long as possible if the electricity does go out.
Preparing For a Hurricane Before the Warning:
Starts First of June
Prepare: create a communications plan for your family.
Plan: who will be responsible for the pets.
Create: Escape kit for you and your pets.
Practice: It only takes one storm.
National Hurricane Preparedness Week:
- Saving the Whole Family (AVMA brochure for free download in English orSpanish)
- Video: Saving the Whole Family
- Video: National Preparedness Month
- Podcast: AVMA Tips for Disaster Preparedness
- Podcast: Pets and Disasters: Advice for Safeguarding Your Pet (Featuring Dr. Gary Vroegindewey, U.S. Department of Defense Director of Veterinary Service Activity, recorded when he was assistant chief of the Army Veterinary Corps)
The Aftermath of a Hurricane
Being inside of a hurricane is an odd sensation. First there is the build-up towards the storm, which leads way to torrential rains and high winds that can be strong enough to lift furniture off of your patio. In the midst of all this chaos there might be a small pause and then it picks up right where that chaos left off before slowly dwindling down as it moves on.
Keep in mind that the momentary calm in the middle of the storm is fleeting, and not the time to take a trip to the beach to see how high the waves are.
Once emergency officials have declared that the threat is over, you need to take caution when leaving your home. Downed trees and power lines can still pose a risk, along with pools of water left over from flooding. Survey your own property carefully, and alert authorities immediately if you note any power lines that have been damaged. Take pictures of any damage for your insurance company, and then prevent any further damage by covering holes in the roof, etc.
If you were evacuated from your home, it is important that you do not return until the authorities have deemed it safe.
Your pets are may be anxious or nervous, take care to keep them inside until they are calm.