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Facts About Hurricanes

A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone, the generic term for a low pressure system that generally forms in the tropics. A typical cyclone is accompanied by thunderstorms, and in the Northern Hemisphere, a counterclockwise circulation of winds near the earths surface.

All Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas are subject to hurricanes or tropical storms. Parts of the Southwest United States and the Pacific Coast experience heavy rains and floods each year from hurricanes spawned off of Mexico. The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June to November, with the peak season from mid-August to late October.

Hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland. Winds can exceed 155 miles per hour. Hurricanes and tropical storms can also spawn tornadoes and microbursts, create storm surges along the coast, and cause extensive damage from heavy rainfall.

Hurricanes are classified into five categories based on their wind speed, central pressure, and damage potential (see chart). Category Three and higher hurricanes are considered major hurricanes, though Categories One and Two are still extremely dangerous and warrant your full attention.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale
Scale Number
Sustained Winds
Storm Surge
Minimal: Unanchored mobile homes, vegetation and signs.
4-5 feet
Moderate: All mobile homes, roofs, small crafts, flooding.
6-8 feet
Extensive: Small buildings, low-lying roads cut off.
9-12 feet
Extreme: Roofs destroyed, trees down, roads cut off, mobile homes destroyed. Beach homes flooded.
13-18 feet
More than 155
Catastrophic: Most buildings destroyed. Vegetation destroyed. Major roads cut off. Homes flooded.
Greater than 18 feet

Hurricanes can produce widespread torrential rains. Floods are the deadly and destructive result. Slow moving storms and tropical storms moving into mountainous regions tend to produce especially heavy rain. Excessive rain can trigger landslides or mud slides, especially in mountainous regions. Flash flooding can occur due to intense rainfall. Flooding on rivers and streams may persist for several days or more after the storm.

Between 1970 and 1999, more people lost their lives from freshwater inland flooding associated with land falling tropical cyclones than from any other weather hazard related to tropical cyclones.

Naming the Hurricanes

Since 1953, Atlantic tropical storms have been named from lists originated by the National Hurricane Center and now maintained and updated by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization. The lists featured only womens names until 1979. After that, mens and womens 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.

Sometimes names are changed. Lorenzo replaced Luis and Michelle replaced Marilyn. The complete lists can be found at www.nhc.noaa.gov under Storm Names.

Know the Terms

Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a hurricane hazard:

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 3973 MPH (3463 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 to 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 tide).

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.

For More Information

If you require more information about any of these topics, the following are resources that may be helpful.

FEMA Publications
Against the Wind: Protecting Your Home from Hurricane and Wind Damage. FEMA-247. A guide to hurricane preparedness.

Community Hurricane Preparedness. IS-324. CD-ROM or Web-based training course for federal, state, and local emergency managers.

Safety Tips for Hurricanes. L 105. Publication for teachers and parents for presentation to children. To order, call 1 (800) 480-2520.

Other Publications
Protect Your Home against Hurricane Damage, Institute for Business and Home Safety. 110 William Street, New York, NY 20038

Take Protective Measures

Before a Hurricane
To prepare for a hurricane, you should take the following measures:

  • Make plans to secure your property. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8 marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.
  • Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure. This will reduce roof damage.
  • 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.

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 by local authorities to do so. Be sure to follow their instructions.
  • If you live in a mobile home or temporary structuresuch shelters are particularly hazardous during hurricanes no matter how well fastened to the ground.
  • If you live in a high-rise buildinghurricane 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 glass doors.
  • Close all interior doorssecure and brace external doors.
  • Keep curtains and blinds closed. Do not be fooled if there is a lull; it could be the eye of the storm - winds will pick up again.
  • 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.
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Related Info

Are You Prepared?

Here are suggestions to prepare yourself for a hurricane:

Prevent Water Damage:

1. Dawg Absorbent Socks can be used along doors and windows and walls to absorb water so it won't enter in and cause damage. These lightweight absorbents are flexible to wrap around or fit into tight spaces.

2. Use our 5 N 1® Mat for a variety of areas. You can roll it out like a absorbent carpet runner for aisle ways and walk ways. Use is it as a pad to soak up smaller areas or wipe down small puddles. Tear it into strips and place along window sills to keep rainwater from seeping in.

Personal Safety Protection:

If you are in a damaged area make sure you have adequate PPE supplies for safe cleanup.

1. Hand and arm protection:Disposable gloves to protect your hands and arms from sharp debris and bacteria and chemcials that made be in water.

2. Respiratory protection: Disposable respirators to protect you from breathing in dust, debris and any harmful airborne substances.

3. Protective Suits and Clothing:Depending on your situation and exposure to harmful materials having the proper protective wear will minimize risks of direct contact to a large variety harmful elements.
We offer a variety of Protective Suits and ClothingRubber bootsShoe Covers

4. First Aid Kit: You never know what circumstances will arrive during a natural disaster. It is essential to have an emergency first aid kit at your disposable.

Business and Job Sites:

1. BMP Products from Dawg are your frontline defense for keeping waterways clean from harmful and costly pollutants. 
Use Drain InsertsGrateGuard to stop contaminants and sediment from entering water systems.

For a complete listing of stormwater protection products click here.

3. Post hurricane Cleanup: Skim and absorb oil from water with Dawg Oil Only Products, such as Skimming Booms,and Oil Sweep and our Oil-Only Absorbents.

While pumping out water after storms, use our Dewatering Bags orPipeSocks to help contain sediment and oil during dewatering operations.

4. Material handling equipment andhand trucks are helpful after storms to help clear or move heavy debris.

4. Post Hurricane Protection: Secure your job site with lockable safety storage chests for tools and/or flammable liquids with our variety of Justrite Safesite Storage Chests.

5. If you have to deal with chemicals and/or oil in water try our spill kits in 3 types and a variety of size configurations.

For Information About 
Hurricane Emergency First Aid KitsDeveloping A Hurricane Disaster Plan 
Hurricane Readiness