Storm is Threatening


This section of the HunkerDown.Guide is focuses on the short-term period as a storm approaches. This includes practical, fast preparations your can take in the days and hours before a hurricane or tropical storm hits. Be prepared by learning what is likely to happen during different types of storms, as well as by studying the experiences of others. We also explore actions and backup plans to protect yourself and family from the wind, water, and other dangers during the hurricane or tropical storm.

If you have any questions, feel free to send them in to us using the contact form.

Jamie Robe, Your Hunker Down Guide

Tracking the Threat with Tropical Weather Resources

If you are reading this, you are probably facing a possible hit by a tropical storm or hurricane. The most important thing to do is to know the facts about what type of storm (Category / Strength) you may be facing, and where that storm is probably going to go.

We have a Tropical Weather Briefing page that has automatic feeds from the National Hurricane Center. It also has links to many weather sites. Knowledge is power.

One of the weather links on the briefing page is the National Hurricane Center (NHC) website ( ) is the official source of hurricane tracking maps and information. This is the most important source for tropical weather information.

watches and warnings

Definition of an Advisory, Watch, and a Warning

The NHC will issue all sorts of alerts about hurricanes called advisories, watches, and warnings. According to FEMA or the Federal Emergency Management Agency:

Tropical Storm or Hurricane Advisory—The NWS issues an Advisory when it
expects conditions to cause significant inconveniences that may be hazardous.
If caution is used, these situations should not be life-threatening.


So in other words, an advisory lets you know you should take precautions, but that things are not supposed to get really bad.

FEMA goes on to define a watch:

Tropical Storm or Hurricane Watch—The NWS issues a Watch when a tropical storm or hurricane is possible within 48 hours. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards, local radio, TV, or other news sources for more information. Monitor alerts, check your emergency supplies, and gather any items you may need if you lose power.


This is getting more serious. For a hurricane watch, hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or greater) are possible within 48 hours. For a tropical storm watch, tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are possible within the specified area within 48 hours.

FEMA describes a warning:

Tropical Storm or Hurricane Warning—The NWS issues a Warning when it expects
a tropical storm or hurricane within 36 hours. During a Warning, complete your
storm preparations, and immediately leave the threatened area if directed to do so
by local officials.


This is very serious. For a hurricane warning, hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or greater) are expected somewhere within the specified area within 36 hours. At this point, all preparations should be complete because winds and other threats are upon you. You must also evacuate immediately if ordered by authorities. For a tropical storm warning, tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are expected within your area within 36 hours.

Extreme Wind Warning

This is very very dangerous, with extreme sustained winds of a major hurricane (115 mph or greater) coming within one hour! This is usually associated with the eye-wall, and you should take immediate shelter in the interior part of your house or shelter.

Destructive Potential

Almost everyone is familiar with the news media talking about hurricanes in terns of its Category (e.g. “Dorian could be a CAT 3 at landfall”). But what does that mean?

There is an internationally recognized system called the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. This scale divides up all hurricanes into 5 categories or “CATs”. I will summarize here:

  • Category 1 – Very dangerous winds will produce some damage – Sustained winds of 74-95 mph
  • Category 2 – Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage – Sustained winds of 96-110 mph
  • Category 3 – Devastating damage will occur – Sustained winds of 111-129 mph
  • Category 4 – Catastrophic damage will occur – Sustained winds of 130-156 mph
  • Category 5 – Catastrophic damage will occur – Sustained winds of 157 mph or higher

While a Cat 1 is obviously weaker than a Cat 5, the weaker winds can still knock down hundreds of trees and branches in an area, delivering multi-day power outages. Anything from a Cat 3 and up is considered a major hurricane. These can dish out the most destruction.

Don’t forget about dangers of weaker winds:

  • Tropical Depression – is a cyclonic storm that has maximum sustained surface winds of 38 mph or less.
  • Tropical Storm – is a tropical cyclone that has maximum sustained surface winds ranging from 39-73 mph

Wind Types

  • Sustained winds are measured by averaging observed values over a two-minute period.
  • Wind gusts are higher speed events that might last only for a 20 second burst.
  • Think of it like this: You have built a sand castle in your back yard and take a garden hose with a spray nozzle and direct water on it. If you hit is full strength for a couple seconds – that is a burst. Keep spraying it at half power but for 5 minutes – that is sustained. The sustained can cause more damage or time.

Even with this scale there are some gray areas. A tropical storm is below a CAT 1, but it could be marginally lower. So you can’t assume that there won’t be damage similar to a CAT 1. The other issue is that wind speed is not the only factor to consider. The size of the storm and also its capacity to create storm surge are additional things not directly considered in the current category scale. Meteorologists are working on new rating systems that will give people a better ides of the damage potential. For now, look at the NHC Storm Surge interactive maps to see what they are projecting.

The size and forward speed are factors that the current scale doesn’t clearly address.

  • A smaller storm might be a higher CAT, but if you are lucky you might miss the core with the highest wind speeds.
  • A larger storm will have a larger area of destruction. Perhaps it is a CAT 5 at the central part (called an eye-wall), but the equivalent to a lower CAT storms extends out over a huge radius. This might not be a near miss in terms of damage.
  • A slow moving storm can sometimes cause more damage because the winds have longer to grind away at trees and buildings.
  • A slow moving storm or one that stalls out and stops can cause massive flooding.
  • Water kills more people in hurricanes than winds.


Another risk factor are tornadoes and other extreme wind events that are often associated with a hurricane. It is common for tornadoes to be spawned by a strong hurricane, often up to an EF2. I have seen very large trees in our neighborhood twisted and snapped in half by very localized winds, while just a few feet away damage is negligible.

Evacuate or Not? How to Make the Hurricane Evacuation Decision

The big question in many people’s minds when a tropical storm or hurricane threatens is “Should I stay or should I go now?”.  

It reminds me of the lyrics to one of my favorite songs by the Clash – “Should I Stay or Should I Go”:

  • “Should I stay or should I go now?
  • If I go, there will be trouble
  • And if I stay it will be double
  • So come on and let me know”

The decision to either evacuate your home or shelter in-place is not an easy one to make. This is outside the normal scope of daily life, and it involves a combination of logic and emotion. The earlier you think through your plan, the less stress you will experience.  Early planning will help reduce the panic-factor that sets in when a big hurricane seems to be pointing right at you.

This guide is meant to help you as you ponder your situation and your options.  This is not a black and white check-list. It is really a “think-list”, designed to help coach you as you educate yourself on your specific situation and options.

I have confidence that you can and will make a sound, educated decision.   

Let’s start off with some logic and facts…

Review of Logical Facts

  • Water is a much bigger threat that wind, but surveys consistently show most people fear the high winds more.  Days before the storm even gets near your community, TV news plays endless hours of palm trees blowing in howling winds. 
  • Storm surge is a real danger along the coast.  It is not just a tall wave crashing ashore, but a massive swelling up of the ocean for miles. It has tremendous, unstoppable force.
  • A survey showed that only 20% of people in the path of Hurricane Sandy had a plan. Last minute, unplanned, and panic driven actions can lead to mistakes.
  • Storm paths can and often do change radically, even with our best computer forecasting. During Hurricane Charlie, many people who evacuated from the West Coast of Florida, where the models were sending it as a CAT 5, only to find themselves sitting in a hotel room on the East Coast in the middle of the storm, after It surprised everyone by taking a hard right turn south of Tampa.
  • While any tropical system can produce dangerous weather conditions and should be granted due respect, not all tropical storms and hurricanes are catastrophic. Follow reputable, official weather forecasts to determine the most likely level of intensity and path of the storm.  
  • If you decide you are going to evacuate in the event of a storm, and/or you believe that officials are going to order you to evacuate, try to go as early as you can.  Some of the people evacuating from Hurricane Irma experienced 20 – 30 hours drives (lots of traffic jams).
  • Gasoline and hotel rooms can become limited commodities, so plan ahead on both. Keep your tank full, and know your destination.
  • The risk of traffic accidents and breakdowns should be factored into your decision, especially on how far away you are willing to travel ( Long distance evacuation to family in another city or state, or short distance to a local hurricane shelter? )
  • Many newer homes built in coastal communities have been constructed to more stringent building codes. An example is the Florida Building Code developed after Hurricane Andrew smashed South Florida in 1992. Another is the 2000 International Residential Building Code (IRC), which requires the use of impact-resistant doors and windows in hurricane-prone communities. New homes in areas where wind speeds equal or exceed 110 mph should now meet storm-resistant standards. In Florida, roof straps that connect the roof to the cement foundation became mandatory in areas where 120 mph winds can be expected in tropical events.  Your home may be hurricane-resistant, and you can check with your local building department or other officials to verify.

Your Think-List Decision Making Exercise

The decision making process is like solving a puzzle

Here are seven think-list questions to help you examine and evaluate the potential risks and benefits of staying in your home or evacuating before a tropical storm or hurricane impacts your community.

Try to find a calm place to sit down and read through these one by one, giving thought to your specific home, family, and life circumstances. Not all of the points will apply to you, but if you find that any of them spark questions or concerns with your personal situation, then write those notes down.  

If one or more of the seven questions generates significant concerns, the next step is to dig deeper into the facts.  If you need technical answers about your flood zone, your home’s resistance to winds, or your evacuation and shelter options, I strongly recommend that you contact your state or local emergency operations center or agency.  Those links are found at the bottom of this guide, and the officials in your area are professional, trained and ready to help you. A home’s construction can be evaluated by a specially trained home inspector.

If you are still unclear as to what to do, you could choose to discuss the seven questions and your concerns with a trusted family member or close friend, in order to get their perspective.  You may find that they have experience going through hurricanes, or you may find they are also seeking guidance and information. Sometimes the bonds between friends and neighbors become stronger when nature threatens.  A stronger community is also a safer community. 

Ultimately the decision is yours to make.  Whatever you decide to do, stay or leave, take decisive, timely action.  It could save your life.

Question 1

Do you live in a hurricane evacuation zone and officials have, or are likely to, declared a mandatory evacuation?

This video walks you thru an example of finding and reviewing a hurricane evacuation map
  • Hurricane Evacuation Zones are based on scientific slosh models, which predict what areas are likely to become flooded based on the elevation, projected strength and path of the storm, and other technical factors.
  • Find your home’s location on official maps showing what areas will be evacuated for various storm categories.  The zones usually indicate what level of storm might trigger an evacuation. Also look at the roads you use to get to and from your home, as they might go thru a zone and become closed to traffic during and evacuation, even if your home is high and dry. I have researched and compiled a list of official evacuation maps and routes.
  • I have seen storm surge first hand.  My parents were caught unawares, like most of the Florida Gulf Coast residents, in what was called the “No-Name” storm of  March 1993 ( ).   It was not a tropical system, but it had the characteristics of a hurricane, with 90 mph winds and a massive storm surge. It hit over-night,  causing $2 billion in damage. My parents were in their 2 story, waterfront beach house, up on stilts, in Hudson Florida. They were awakened in the middle of the night by the 9 foot storm surge, which swept away all their decks, outside stairways, as well as topsoil and plants from the yard.  The house held and they were safe, but many people died in one story houses in the area that became totally submerged by the ocean. I went up the morning after to help them recover and was shocked. It looked like a war zone. The house next door to my parents home was pulverized from the inside out, as its refrigerator had floated inside all night inside, pummeling all the interior walls and belongings into rubble. It took 10 years for the community to rebuild.
  • Storm surge can take out almost any structure. Do not risk your life. If you are told to go, just go.

Question 2

Do you live in a mobile home or building that is not structurally sound?

  • Mobile homes are very susceptible to wind damage. Small tornadoes and wind vortexes are common in the eye-wall of tropical storms and hurricanes.
  • Buildings caught in the middle of a roofing job or major renovation might be more vulnerable to damaging winds and rain. A pile of lumber at a construction site can become a  rain of missiles coming at you in 75+ MPH winds.
  • Even if you are not in a flood area, if your building is old and not well maintained, it might have vulnerabilities.
  • I would point out the “tree” factor – Are you surrounded by very large, very old, or rotten and diseased trees that could fall on your house? If you can’t afford to have an arborist thin trees and cut down weakened limbs, then try to evaluate what could end up damaging your roof, windows, or vehicles. 
  • Are you able to put up shutters and take other protective measures? If not, will you be safe in the structure as-is?
  • Check when your house was built.  Newer construction generally is required to follow more stringent building codes, requiring things like hurricane straps – metal that reinforce the attachment between the roof trusses and the walls. If in doubt, check with your local building officials or hire a wind survey or other inspector.  I had a new roof put on my home 3 years ago and we had a wind survey done. It showed we were safer than before and qualified for a reduction in our homeowners insurance! 

Question 3

Do you live in a high-rise building?

  • In some communities, high-rises might be part of an official evacuation order. Your local officials and building management should be able to provide guidance.
  • Water coming up from below might not be an issue if you are above the second or third floor, but remember that wind speed increases with altitude. 
  • This means there might be extremely high winds during a hurricane, pressing against your windows. Wind direction shifts radically, depending where you are in relation to the eye of the storm. 
  • You might have a window on your floor hit by flying debris, and a blow out could allow 100+ mph winds to build up air pressure that could rupture interior walls and blow out other windows
  • Roofs could be damaged, causing water damage many floors below..
  • Power might go out and lights, air-conditioning, and elevators might not work.
  • I witnessed a downtown high-rise building in Tampa, along the Hillsborough River, have its parking garage with hundreds of cars inside become inundated when winds from a tropical system pushed water from Tampa Bay up and over the seawall. It wasn’t even raining during this event. Check with other long-time residents and building managers about known flooding risks and other hazards.

Question 4

Do you live in an inland area that is prone to flooding?

  • Inland locations can be vulnerable to flooding from heavy rains, rising rivers, overflowing levees, and other hazards.  If you are new to an area, ask neighbors what has flooded in the past. Look at official flood maps. Talk to your local emergency officials. See our resource list for official maps.
  • You may have a house that is not on the coast and is very high, but perhaps your access roads or bridges are vulnerable.  You must evaluate the flood maps and official recommendations to see if you might be at risk for getting cut-off from supplies and services due to this type of flood damage.
  • Cars are often swept away and occupants drowned, when drivers attempt crossing flooded roadways.  Water can conceal hidden dangers. Cars will begin floating and become uncontrollable in surprisingly shallow water. Do not take risks after a storm.
  • I have a friend who was almost flooded out when a strong tropical storm hit his area and it turned out that flood control drainage canals had become silted in and clogged over a period of years. Tropical systems are infrequent events and infrastructure in this country is often sadly neglected.
  • The worst case in modern times was probably Hurricane Katrina causing the public and private levees to overflow, flooding thousands of homes. Many people were caught in the floods and had to be rescued by helicopter and boat. Some did not survive.  Check with officials and longtime residents to find out if your home is located in a potential flood area.

Question 5

Do you or a family member have special medical needs, are pregnant, or are elderly?

  • Think oxygen tanks, ventilators, dialysis, insulin, pacemakers – there may be no electric power to run machines and access to supplies may be disrupted.
  • 911 emergency services are usually unavailable during the high winds and driving rains of a tropical storm or hurricane. Afterwards, the roads may be blocked by trees, power poles, or flood waters. Roads and bridges might be washed away by storm surge or overflowing rivers.  Rescue vehicles might take hours or days to reach your area.
  • Pregnant women should consider evacuating to areas with appropriate birthing care.
  • Seniors may experience extra stress,  especially if the storm is particularly menacing. The American Heart Association did a study 10 years after Hurricane Katrina ( , and found that 10 years after the storm, heart attacks went up 3-times the pre-storm levels! Other conditions that worsened were coronary artery disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking.  
  • There are physical and mental stresses associated with evacuation too. Consult with your family physician or local emergency officials. I will relate a personal story about evacuating my Mom out of a hurricane’s path later in this document.
  • If there is really a risk of a major hurricane devastating your community, you need to think about long-term recovery conditions. The timeline to rebuild could be weeks, months, or longer. Will the situation be comfortable enough for yourself and/or the ones you are responsible caring for? Besides limitations to treatment and medication, think about the living conditions if the electric power, clean water,  and/or air-conditioning go out for extended periods.    

Question 6

Do you suffer from Storm Anxiety?

  • Some people experience anxiety reactions when storms threaten. A major hurricane is a major stressor. It may come down to what levels of stress and anxiety you are willing to experience before, during, and after a major hurricane.
  • I can tell you from experience that the pre-storm news cycle is personally painful for me. Watching long range models bounce all over the place, endless speculation by news media, and the panic buying in stores makes me cringe.  That is the main reason I have spent time and money preparing as much as possible in advance. Being prepared makes my stress and anxiety levels go down. Imagine going, at the last minute, from store to store trying to find water, batteries, or plywood and there is nothing but huge lines and empty shelves. The 80% who have no hurricane plan often end up in such situations – I have seen it many times. I have been to big box improvement stores before a major hurricane and witnessed hundreds of panicked people in line trying to buy ineffective things like drywall and rolls of plastic to cover windows. 
  • During the storm it can be scary. I have family and friends who rode out Hurricane Andrew, lying under mattresses as the roof peeled away.  I have personally experienced the eerie sounds of high winds, pounding rain, and electric transformers exploding. The good thing about most tropical storms and hurricanes is that they tend to move in and out pretty quickly.  If a hurricane stalls in one area too long, it quickly weakens. I always feel pretty secure during these storms, as I have my family, emergency equipment, and hurricane supplies safely behind shuttered windows. If you unable to secure your home or stockpile emergency supplies, then consider evacuating to a place that has these things in place.
  • The time after a storm can be stressful, even if the damage is not catastrophic.  There is always a lot of cleanup to do, cutting limbs and clearing debris. Electric power is often out.  In 2017, the Tampa Bay Area got very lucky when Hurricane Irma decided to shift east of the projected path.  After preparing for the devastation of major CAT 4 impact, what ended up happening was more like a tropical storm, with trees and power lines down all around town. Electric power at my house was out for 5 very hot, humid, and uncomfortable days. Again, we were lucky. Others in Florida had severe damage to roofs and structures.  Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017 and there are still people living in tents and FEMA trailers. If you feel you would not be able to cope well with such conditions, you may want to consider evacuation out of the hazard area.
  • There are ways to cope with the anxiety and stress, but you need to take proactive action to become as prepared as possible.  Talk to friends and family members about your concerns and how you might best support one another, regardless if the decision is to stay or evacuate.  These situations often bring out the best examples of community spirit.

Question 7

Do you feel you are in danger?

  • Ultimately, you must weigh the risks and benefits of staying or evacuating.  If you truly feel like your living situation, inability to prepare, or dwelling condition is putting you in unacceptable levels of danger, then you must find a local shelter or evacuate out of the path of the hurricane.
  • If you make advanced plans and leave early enough, evacuation is just another road trip. Sure it can be costly, time consuming, and/or uncomfortable to evacuate or stay in a shelter, but if it gives you peace of mind, it may be worth it.
  • If you feel that your home is not in a flood or evacuation zone, and that you can adequately secure it to ride out the storm safely, then hunkering down at home is an option. Preparation can give you peace of mind too.

My Evacuation Story 

I am sharing the following experience I had with a hurricane evacuation in order to demonstrate how calm thinking and timely action can help give you some sense of control, even in a very uncertain situation.

Normally, we have boarded up and hunkered down where we live in the Tampa Bay Area.  Our home does not have a storm surge or flood risk. Our biggest problems are usually trees blowing down in our neighborhood and long power outages. In 2018, everyone was closely watching Hurricane Florence, a major hurricane with 140+ mph winds. We were safe, but some of my family live in Coastal South Carolina, literally in the bulls-eye of Florence’s path.  

I got a call from my sister, asking me to come up ASAP, pick up Mom, and bring her back to our Florida home.  My sister is very calm, logical person, but I could hear the urgency in her voice. 

She had gotten word that a huge evacuation of all coastal areas was going to be declared within 24 hours, and she and her husband own a business one block from the Atlantic ocean.  They had their hands full with packing up and securing the office, before they would evacuate 150 miles inland to Columbia.  

During the previous few days of watching the tropical weather forecasts, I had been thinking about the possibility of this happening. It was not a complete shock, but Florence was a massive and extremely dangerous hurricane, and I got a lump in my throat just thinking about the potential danger to everyone up there.  

I immediately called my 25 year old son and asked him to help me evacuate his Granny.  Within a few hours the two of us jumped in the car and drove straight to South Carolina, picked up Mom (staying only 15 minutes!), and then drove straight back to Florida.  It was a marathon 19 hour, 1040 miles round trip. It helps to have two drivers to take turns at the wheel, especially under this type of stressful situation.  

Driving up there felt surreal because the traffic was still relatively normal on the Interstates, even though we were driving into the projected path of such a major storm.  Literally, the calm before the evacuation “storm”. 

It was also surreal driving straight back to Florida all night, as we passed convoys of National Guard vehicles, power company trucks, and ambulances, all heading toward the coastal area we were leaving. We took turns driving and decided to not stop at a hotel, because we feared getting snarled in Georgia the next day, or not being able to buy gasoline. The whole South East US coastline was about to get on the road!

With decisive action, we got Mom out of there just a few hours before the mandatory evacuation started.   Officials reversed all the lanes on the highways to go inland only, and over 1.5 million people left their homes to escape Hurricane Florence.  

My sister and brother-in-law were able to prepare the business and get out safely.   My Mom stayed about two weeks with us, not really knowing what the condition of her home or community was after Florence went ashore.  It was a stressful situation, but we were so happy that all our family had evacuated and were safe. 

In the end, Hurricane Florence’s path veered to the east, taking the eye, the record breaking storm surge of 9 to 13 feet, and devastating rainfall of 20 to 30 into North Carolina ( My Mom’s place and the business were undamaged.  Others in the actual path were not so fortunate.  

I relate this story to emphasize that having a plan and executing it quickly might make a big difference in the experience you have.  You should also remain flexible, so that you can adapt to rapidly changing situations. 

The stress of that drive also made me appreciate that my immediate family should not ever have to evacuate. We have our planning and preparations in place at our Florida home, so that we can safely hunker down and ride out any storm. 

In Case You Decide to Evacuate

  • If you decide that in a certain storm threat you will be evacuating, you need to decide what your destination will be.  See the section called “Evacuation & Shelter Worksheet”
  • If you have friends or family out of harm’s way, then that might be the best choice. Call them and make arrangements. Bring your food and other supplies.
  • If instead you need to stay at a hotel or Airbnb, you need to research the distances you will drive and make reservations.
  • If you can make plans early enough, air travel out of the region might be an option. I have had friends who have flown out days early, before any bad weather veen got to us.
  • If you do not have reliable transportation, or you decide that you do not want to drive a great distance away, there is the local hurricane shelter option.  Check ahead if you have special medical needs, or if you need a pet friendly shelter. There are often restrictions. 
  • Shelters are there to provide safety, but they can also be crowded and have limited privacy. You will still need to bring your hurricane supplies, bedding items, medications, and things like books and games to pass the time.
  • One possible advantage of a local shelter is that you might be able to get back to your home to inspect it for damage far faster.  Often times, officials restrict reentry to coastal or damaged areas due to safety and looting concerns. Make sure you take all important papers and proper ID required to get back home.
  • Make arrangements for your pets well in advance. Do not leave them unattended in your home if you are evacuating.  They light not survive if your home floods or if you can’t get back to feed and water them. Most shelters will only take service animals.
  • One trick I used when driving into South Carolina and back to evacuate my Mom was to keep very careful track of my MPG and amount of fuel in the tank, so I knew exactly how far I could go before refueling. I tanked up well outside the immediate evacuation area, knowing that I had enough fuel to get in and back out.  I was very concerned about getting stranded inside the danger zone. When I did see a gas station with fuel closer to her town, I stopped and filled back up. Luckily we beat the mass exodus of vehicles by about 6 hours. 

Timing and Safety

Evacuating should not be delayed too long, since even tropical storms wind speeds and conditions can be extremely dangerous to drive in. Some things to consider:

  • People often ask if it is safe to drive in high winds. Even winds speeds as low as 35 – 40 mph can make driving very difficult and dangerous
  • The type of vehicle you drive can become a factor, with high profile trucks, vans, and SUVs more at risk from higher wind speeds
  • Live power lines could be down across roadways
  • What look like puddles might conceal washed away roads that could float you and your vehicle into oblivion
  • Flying limbs, parts of roofs, and even garbage cans could smash out your cars windows
  • Avoid bridges and other areas where winds might be stronger
  • You might stall in high water or even run out of gas – a vehicle is not a desirable place to ride out a hurricane
  • Evacuations should be planned out as much as possible to avoid adding unnecessary risks

In Case You Decide to Stay and Hunker Down at Home

If you decide that is better for you to hunker down and shelter in your home, take advantage of the resources on this site and official government resources as well.

  • Perhaps you are reading this well in advance of any tropical threat. If so, you can take a look at our Before the Storm section, with the longer-term preparations that are possible without time limitations.
  • If you do not have lots of time (perhaps you are reading this with only a few days or hours left before a storm impacts you), then keep reading below:

Procrastinator How-to

  • Remember, whatever the situation is, you can make it!
  • It is never too late to make preparations.
  • Make an informed decision and then execute your plan.
  • People are always more important than things, and that includes you!
  • No matter how menacing these destructive storms are, they are after all, just a storm that will soon pass.
  • You can and will make the right decision, and you can do it!
  • Good luck!

Final Testing of Generator, Batteries

When To Put Up Shutters

Yard Preparation

  • Walk around your yard and secure everything that can blow around in the extreme winds, as even heavy objects can become projectiles in a hurricane
  • Before a storm hits, review your property and buildings for places where water might get trapped or impeded during heavy rains,and clean out the gutters, downspouts, drainlines, gullies and other paths for the water to flow away from your house
  • Well in advance of a storm, either DIY or hire a professional to trim dead tree limbs, thin out foliage, and evaluate any tree or limb that hangs over your home or is likely to break off during high winds
  • Long before a storm threat, call the power utility to report tree limbs or foliage that are against power lines or could cause a problem during a hurricane, so that their crew can come out and trim anything that might knock out wires
  • Gather up yard tools, hand saws, chainsaws, axes and other things useful for cleanup after a storm knocks down limbs and other debris
  • Get free sandbags from local government to place in front of your garage or other doors that could have wind-driven rains or flood waters 
  • Heavy duty garbage bags filled with sand, soil, or landscape pebbles can also function as makeshift sandbags
  • Buy heavy duty synthetic rope and metal stakes and use them to create tie downs for sheds and outbuildings, by going over the roof multiple times and staking down on all sides

Protecting Valuables + Documents

Riding It Out

The Winds

A hurricane or tropical storm is a giant weather system, sometimes over 100 miles across, so bad weather will often start many hours before the eye reaches you. You should wrap up outdoor preparations before the heavy weather begins.

As the eye of the hurricane moves closer, it’s winds begin to be more of a threat. As much as you want to watch the storm, as soon as the wind and rain begin to blow, stay away from your windows to avoid injury from flying parts and broken glass.

In the northern hemisphere, the right front quadrant of a hurricane generally has the strongest winds. It is the left front in the Southern Hemisphere. The reason that the winds are at the front right side of a storm is because the forward motion of a tropical cyclone is added to its rotational speed. So a 100 MPH hurricane moving at 15 MPH will have 115 MPH winds in that quadrant.

Definitely do not go outside, even if it becomes unusually calm. You may be in the eye of the storm, which can even provide a brief period of relative calm, with little rain, and even clear skies. However, the backside if the eye wall will hit you with hurricane force winds in the opposite direction.

Hurricanes can be very noisy events. It can be a combination of the roar of high winds, pounding of driving rains on the roof and walls, and scary sounds of transformers exploding and trees crashing down. This can often be expected to last many hours. It all depends on the speed and path of the storm.
If it is a major hurricane and you become afraid for your safety, keep away from all windows and exterior doors. If the roof is damaged by trees, flying debris, wind, or heavy rain during the hurricane, try to find shelter on the lowest floor of your home. A small interior room or hallway are possible shelters. Close all interior doors. Squat in a room with no windows (or few windows). A closet can be made into a “safe room”, by putting in pillows and using a mattress as additional protection. Seek shelter in a bathroom. Bathtubs can provide protection when covered with plywood, mattresses, or other materials.

Always have an escape route in case of fire, structural failure, or flooding.

Water Threats

Big hurricanes can cause storm surges, often more than 15 – 20 feet of sea water, that can be pushed towards the shore and several miles inland, destroying property and endangering life on its way. Storm surges are fast and can lead to extreme flooding on the coast. Streams, rivers, and canals can carry a surge to inland areas miles from the ocean.

In addition to storm surge, the rains of a hurricane or tropical storm can cause extensive flooding. This is true along the coast and sometimes hundreds of miles inland. When flood waters get near your house, turn off the power at the main switch.

It is critically important that you know your risk of storm surge or flooding. Do not stay in an area where this risk exists, as the water is almost unstoppable. If you find yourself caught in a flood, try to remain calm while moving to the highest location possible. People can often survive by climbing on top of furniture or getting into attic spaces. If you need to climb into an attic space, bring cutting and prying tools in case you need to get out into the roof.

If flood waters approach your house, turn off the power at the main switch. If you suspect that flood water has entered your well, do not turn on the pump as there is a risk of electric shock and the risk of damaging the well and pump. Private drinking water wells in flooded areas should always be considered as contaminated. You should not drink or wash with the well water until it is disinfected.

If you are in a public water supply, check with your local health and utility company before using water to see if the local water supply has been approved for use. Ask your local health authority for specific recommendations on how to cook or treat water in your area. To be safe, assume the water supply is contaminated and use your stored water until you find out for sure.

While You Have Power

  • Wash and dry all your clothes, and run your dishwasher, all well before a storm hits your area, as these appliances will not function without power
  • Keep all your phones fully charged before a storm hits
  • Buy an external USB battery, for recharging cell phones, and make sure you have the right cables to connect things to it
  • Resist opening the refrigerator or freezer doors during the last hours before a storm hits, as every time you open up the compartments will warm up
  • Turning the refrigerator and freezer temperatures to the lowest settings before the storm hits, could help keep the food fresh longer, in case of a power outage
  • Charge up all cordless power tool batteries and store them in a handy location
  • If you are going to power your fridge with a generator or battery backup, turn off the ice maker or defrost cycle if possible to save energy
  • Fill small plastic water bottles and containers with fresh water and put them in your freezer to fill in empty areas, to build up ice in case of a power outage
  • If the electricity goes out and you have a well, your fresh water supply will eventually stop working as there will be no pressure, and power failures in public pumping stations can cause contamination in the pipe network, so buying and storing water for drinking, and filling a bath tube can give you a non-potable water to use by the bucketful to flush toilets

Power Failure

If the power fails, turn off all major equipment to reduce the risk of damage in the event of a power surge during the repair phase later

  • Make sure you know how to open your garage door during a power outage, usually by pulling a release cord near the motor

Keeping Calm Inside While Winds Rage Outside

Always Have a Plan-B