Are you ready for hurricane season? The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30. Being prepared for natural disasters and other emergencies is very important and being prepared ahead of time can help you better to respond once a disaster occurs.
Hurricanes are products of the interaction between the tropical ocean and the atmosphere. They are powered by heat energy from the sea and are steered by the easterly trade winds and the temperate westerlies as well as by their own energy. Around its core, winds grow with great velocity, generating violent seas. Moving ashore, they sweep the ocean inward while spawning tornadoes and producing torrential rains and floods.
Understanding what to look for, and what you should do before, during and after a hurricane will make you more ready to deal with their effects.
What are types of hazards associated with Hurricanes & Tropical Storms?
Tropical cyclones often produce widespread, torrential rains in excess of 6 inches, which may result in deadly and destructive floods. In fact, flooding is the major threat from tropical cyclones for people living inland. Flash flooding, defined as a rapid rise in water levels, can occur quickly due to intense rainfall. Longer term flooding on rivers and streams can persist for several days after the storm. When approaching water on a roadway, always remember Turn Around Don't Drown. Rainfall amounts are not directly related to the strength of tropical cyclones but rather to the speed and size of the storm, as well as the geography of the area. Slower moving and larger storms produce more rainfall. In addition, mountainous terrain enhances rainfall from a tropical cyclone. (NOAA)
The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane's sustained wind speed. This scale estimates potential property damage. Hurricanes reaching Category 3 and higher are considered major hurricanes because of their potential for significant loss of life and damage. Category 1 and 2 storms are still dangerous, however, and require preventative measures.
Category: 1 - Sustained Winds: 74-95 mph
Very dangerous winds will produce some damage: Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.
Category: 2 - Sustained Winds: 96-110 mph
Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage: Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.
Sustained Winds: 111-129 mph
Devastating damage will occur: Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.
Sustained Winds: 130-156 mph
Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
Sustained Winds: 157 mph or higher
Catastrophic damage will occur - A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months
Some tropical cyclones seem to produce no tornadoes, while others develop multiple ones. Studies have shown that more than half of the land falling hurricanes produce at least one tornado; Hurricane Buelah (1967) spawned 141 according to one study. In general, tornadoes associated with hurricanes are less intense than those that occur in the Great Plains. Nonetheless, the effects of tornadoes, added to the larger area of hurricane-force winds, can produce substantial damage.
- When associated with hurricanes, tornadoes are not usually accompanied by hail or a lot of lightning.
- Tornadoes can occur for days after landfall when the tropical cyclone remnants maintain an identifiable low pressure circulation.
- They can also develop at any time of the day or night during landfall. However, by 12 hours after landfall, tornadoes tend to occur mainly during daytime hours.
A tornado watch is usually issued when a tropical cyclone is about to move onshore. The watch box is generally to the right of the tropical cyclone’s path.
Power Outages are one of the most common impacts from a Hurricane or Tropical Storm. When power lines are brought down by strong winds, falling trees or debris, it may take days, weeks, or longer to get power back up and running. CenterPoint Energy, our region's electric provider works with local communities to identify ways to speed up that time, but residents should be prepared to be without electricity for a bit of time. To view current power outages, visit their Outage Tracker map, and be sure to sign up for their Power Alert Service, which can send you a text message or call you when an outage occurs in your area.
The time to prepare for a hurricane is before the season begins, when you have the time and are not under pressure. If you wait until a hurricane is on your doorstep, the odds are that you will be under duress and will make the wrong decisions. Take the time now to write down your hurricane plan. Know where you will ride out the storm and get your supplies now. You don’t want to be standing in long lines when a hurricane warning is issued. Those supplies that you need will probably be sold out by the time you reach the front of the line. Being prepared, before a hurricane threatens, makes you resilient to the hurricane impacts of wind and water. It will mean the difference between your being a hurricane victim and a hurricane survivor.
Here are templates that you can download, print, and fill out to help you in making a plan:
- For parents (PDF)
- For kids (PDF)
- For transit commuters (PDF)
- For your wallet (PDF)
- Steps to make a plan (PDF)
- Tips on emergency alerts and warnings (PDF)
Here are a few easy steps to start your emergency communication plan:
Understand how to receive emergency alerts and warnings. Make sure all household members are able to get alerts about an emergency from local officials. Sign up for KTAlert and make sure all household members phone numbers or emails are listed.
Discuss family/household plans for disasters that may affect your area and plan where to go. Plan together in advance so that everyone in the household understands where to go during a different type of disaster like a hurricane, tornado, or wildfire.
Collect information. Create a paper copy of the contact information for your family that includes:
- phone (work, cell, office)
- social media
- medical facilities, doctors, service providers
Identify information and pick an emergency meeting place. Things to consider:
- Decide on safe, familiar places where your family can go for protection or to reunite.
- Make sure these locations are accessible for household members with disabilities or access and functional needs.
- If you have pets or service animals, think about animal-friendly locations.
Examples of meeting places:
- In your neighborhood: A mailbox at the end of the driveway, or a neighbor’s house.
- Outside of your neighborhood: library, community center, place of worship, or family friend’s home.
- Outside of your town or city: home of a relative or family friend. Make sure everyone knows the address of the meeting place and discuss ways you would get there.
Share information. Make sure everyone carries a copy in his or her backpack, purse, or wallet. You should also post a copy in a central location in your home, such as your refrigerator or family bulletin board.
Practice your plan. Have regular household meetings to review your emergency plans, communication plans and meeting place after a disaster, and then practice, just like you would a fire drill.
More information to complete your written hurricane plan can be found at Ready.gov/MakeAPlan!
Have a Plan
- Discuss what to do in an evacuation with everyone in your family.
- Know where you will go if an evacuation is called.
- Review at least two exit routes from your home or neighborhood to a designated meeting place for your family.
- Don’t forget about your pets; they are not allowed at most public shelters.
Pack Your Bags
- After a disaster, you may not be able to return to your home for some time.
- Assemble everything your family will need in advance if you must evacuate your home.
- Pack one change of clothes and shoes per person as well as one blanket or sleeping bag per person.
- Write down the name of your insurance company, policy number and telephone number and keep it in a safe place.
- Include an extra set of car keys, your credit cards, cash and/or traveler’s checks. Don’t forget your important emergency contact numbers.
- Create a first aid kit that includes your family’s prescription medications.
- Pack sanitation supplies and special items for babies, senior citizens or disabled family members
- Bring extra eyeglasses and a favorite family board game to help pass the time away from home.
If You Must Evacuate
Before You Go
- Unplug electrical equipment such as radios, televisions and small appliances. Leave freezers and refrigerators plugged in unless there is a risk of flooding. If there is damage to your home and you are instructed to do so, shut off water, gas and electricity before leaving.
- Post a note telling when you left and where you are going.
- Don’t forget about your pets and be sure to lock your home.
- Evacuate immediately if authorities tell you to do so.
- Listen to your battery-powered radio and follow the instructions of local emergency officials.
- Wear layered warm, dry clothing and sturdy shoes.
- Be sure to take your disaster supply kit with you to a shelter or safe location. Use travel routes specified by local authorities — don’t use shortcuts.
Do I Need to Evacuate?
Most people in the City of Katy do not need to evacuate during a hurricane. The City encourages those who require electricity for medical purposes or live in mobile homes to evacuate ahead of a storm.
Remember, that after a hurricane or tropical storm, especially one that generates a lot of rain, it may be necessary to evacuate areas around streams, creeks, rivers and bayous. Be prepared to evacuate and to shelter in place, depending on the situation. Stay tuned to local information sources (such as Radio and TV), including City of Katy Facebook to find out about evacuation orders in your neighborhood.
If you are ordered to evacuate, do so as quickly as possible.
Hurricane Evacuation Routes
Once you have determined whether you need to evacuate, and which route you and your family should take to leave town, become familiar with the Hurricane Evacuation Contraflow. During hurricane evacuations, at the discretion of the county Judge - inbound lanes of local freeways can be reversed to allow vehicles moving outbound to do so faster. Some lanes normally closed to regular freeway traffic are also opened to help speed evacuations, these "evaculanes" are designated with a blue circular shield on the roadway. Check your evacuation route to read more about the Contraflow for your chosen route.
You’re going to need supplies not just to get through the storm but for the potentially lengthy and unpleasant aftermath. Have enough non-perishable food, water and medicine to last each person in your family a minimum of 3 days. Electricity and water could be out for at least that long. You’ll need extra cash, a battery-powered radio and flashlights. Many of us have cell phones, and they all run on batteries. You’re going to need a portable, crank or solar powered USB charger.
Always to remember that no two families are alike. If you have infants or very young children, or if you are elderly or disabled, you may have additional items that you need everyday that should be in your go kit.
View Emergency Essentials Kit Checklist!
Your shelter-in-place kit should be used for emergencies where you might have to quickly evacuate or shelter in place. Supplies in a shelter-in-place kit are intended to help people survive the first 24-72 hours in an evacuation or shelter-in-place situation.
Your shelter-in-place kit should contain:
- Copies of your important papers in a waterproof bag.
- Extra set of car and house keys.
- Extra mobile phone charger.
- Bottled water and snacks such as energy or granola bars.
- First-aid supplies, flashlight, and whistle.
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (with extra batteries, if needed).
- A list of the medications each member of your family needs and at least a 14-day supply of each medication.
- Toothpaste, toothbrushes, wet cleansing wipes, and so on.
- Contact and meeting place information for your family and a map of your local area.
- A stuffed animal or toy for your child and something to help occupy their time, like books or coloring books. If this includes a hand-held video game, make sure you have extra batteries.
- Rain ponchos.
- External mobile phone battery pack or solar charger. Some hand-crank flashlights will also include a phone charger
There may be situations where you need to stay in your home for a period of time. This includes riding out a hurricane.
- Water (one gallon per person per day, for drinking and sanitation—up to a 7-day supply).
- Non-perishable food (up to a 7-day supply per person).
- Battery-powered radio (with extra batteries) or hand-crank radio.
- Weather radio with tone alert and extra batteries.
- Flashlight and extra batteries.
- First-aid supplies.
- Whistle to signal for help.
- Filter mask or cotton t-shirt, to help filter the air.
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags, soap, disinfectant, and plastic ties for personal sanitation.
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities (water and electric).
- Manual can opener if your kit contains canned food.
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place (see pages 26-27).
- Plastic tarps for emergency roof repair.
- Items for unique family needs, such as daily prescription medications, infant formula, or diapers.
- Mess kits, paper cups, plates, and plastic utensils.
- Cash and change.
- Paper towels.
- Fire extinguisher.
- Matches in a waterproof container.
- Rain gear, sturdy shoes, long pants, and gloves.
- Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification, birth certificates, passports, and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container.
- A stuffed animal or toy for your child and something to help occupy their time, like books or coloring books. If this includes a hand-held video game, make sure you have extra batteries.
Keep Your Kit Fresh
Remember to replace stored food and water every six months, keep a supply of fresh batteries on hand and keep your most important up-to-date family papers in a fire and water proof container.
The Importance of Water
Stocking an emergency water supply should be one of your top priorities so you will have enough water on hand for yourself and your family.
While individual needs will vary depending on age, physical condition, activity, diet and climate, a normally active person needs at least two quarts of drinking water daily. Children, nursing mothers and people who are ill need more water.
Very hot temperatures can also double the amount of water needed. Because you will also need water for sanitary purposes, and possibly for cooking, you should store at least one gallon of water per person per day.
When storing water, use thoroughly washed plastic, fiberglass or enamel-lined containers. Don’t use containers that can break, such as glass bottles. Never use a container that has held toxic substances. Camping supply stores offer a variety of appropriate containers.
Plastic containers, like soda bottles, are best. Seal your water containers tightly, label them and store them in a cool, dark place. It is important to change stored water every six months.
Hurricanes can bring significant flood damage to your home or business. But with flood insurance, you’ll have peace of mind knowing you can recover more quickly. Talk to your insurance agent today about purchasing flood insurance.
Call your insurance company or agent and ask for an insurance check-up to make sure you have enough homeowners insurance to repair or even replace your home. Don’t forget coverage for your car or boat. Remember, standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding. Whether you’re a homeowner or renter, you’ll need a separate policy for it, and it’s available through your company, agent or the National Flood Insurance Program at www.floodsmart.gov. Act now as flood insurance requires a 30-day waiting period.
If you plan to ride out the storm in your home, make sure it is in good repair and up to local hurricane building code specifications. Many of these retrofits do not cost much or take as long to do as you may think. Have the proper plywood, steel or aluminum panels to board up the windows and doors. Remember, the garage door is the most vulnerable part of the home, so it must be able to withstand the winds.
Help protect your present dwelling by retrofitting your home. The most important precaution you can take to reduce damage to your home and property is to protect the areas where wind can enter. According to recent wind technology research, it’s important to strengthen the exterior of your house so wind and debris do not tear large openings in it. You can do this by protecting and reinforcing these four critical areas:
A great time to start securing, or retrofitting, your house is when you are making other improvements or constructing additions. Remember: building codes reflect the lessons experts have learned from past catastrophes. Contact the local building code official to find out what requirements are necessary for your home improvement projects.
Many Americans rely on their neighbors after a disaster, but there are also many ways you can help your neighbors before a hurricane approaches. Learn about all the different actions you and your neighbors can take to prepare and recover from the hazards associated with hurricanes. Start the conversation now with these Neighbor Helping Neighbor strategies.
Comprehensive preparedness requires the whole community to participate and FEMA places tremendous value on communities that embrace a local “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” approach. Neighbors Helping Neighbors empowers community leaders to involve and educate individuals from their community about simple steps one can take to become more prepared. Forty-six percent of individuals expect to rely a great deal on people in their neighborhood for assistance within the first 72 hours after a disaster. When the whole community comes together to respond to and help recover from these emergencies – neighbor helping neighbor – we can often meet the needs of everyone.
The Neighbor Helping Neighbor approach seeks to support state, tribal and local agencies, civic organizations, faith-based groups and other community organizations that serve the whole community. FEMA works to provide these organizations with additional tools and preparedness training opportunities so they can become more prepared. This includes Independent Study 909 – Community Preparedness: Implementing Simple Activities for Everyone and the Community Preparedness Toolkit.
Please read more about Neighbors helping Neighbors over at Ready.Gov!