The Atlantic hurricane season runs June 1 to November 30 each year. Residents of Atlantic and Gulf coastal areas should have a plan in place for rough weather. The National Hurricane Center monitors tropical storm activity as it develops, issuing a hurricane watch or warning as necessary.
A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible in a specified area and is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds in an area.
A hurricane warning indicates that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the specified area.
In the event of a hurricane watch:
Listen for weather updates on local stations and on NOAA Weather Radio.
Stock up on battery powered flashlights and a radio. Avoid using candles, especially around children and pets.
Review your disaster plan with your family. If you don’t have one, make one.
Gather important papers – insurance, titles, deeds, birth certificates, prescriptions – along with any valuable or irreplaceable objects, like family photos and memorabilia. Place items that you cannot evacuate in watertight containers or seal them in plastic bags.
Refill prescriptions and obtain an adequate supply of baby food, diapers and sanitary needs. Maintain at least a two-week supply of these items and nonperishable food during hurricane season.
Clear your yard of potential flying debris, like lawn furniture, potted plants, bicycles and trash cans.
Protect your windows and glass doors.
Fill your vehicle’s gas tank and check oil, water and tires. Gas pumps don’t operate without electricity.
Secure your boat early. Some drawbridges on evacuation routes may be locked down and closed to boat traffic after an evacuation is ordered.
Leave your swimming pool filled and super-chlorinated. Cover your filtration system.
Get cash. Banks and ATMs cannot operate without electricity, and stores may not be able to accept credit cards.
Take your pets with you or board them at a veterinarian. Evacuate large and exotic animals early. Pets are not allowed in American Red Cross shelters.
Evacuate if you live in:
an area that will be subjected to storm surge
a mobile home
a flood-prone area
an area where officials have issued an evacuation order
When you evacuate:
Evacuate early – evacuation routes will likely be busy.
Take an emergency supply kit with you.
Take important papers with you.
Tell friends or family where you are going.
Turn off your electricity, gas and water at their main switches or valves. Do not attempt to turn off gas at a meter.
Bring travelers checks since banks and ATMs may be closed or out of cash.
Never try to ride out the storm in your car. If it becomes apparent that traffic will prevent you from getting anywhere, seek shelter immediately.
If you choose not to evacuate:
Stay off roads.
Protect your doors and windows.
Store drinking water in clean containers and your bathtub. You may lose public utilities for weeks following a hurricane.
Stay inside and away from windows, skylights and glass doors. Find a safe area in your home – an interior, reinforced room, closet or bathroom on the lower floor.
Turn off major appliances, such as air conditioners and hot water heaters, to reduce damage if you lose power.
Turn off the electricity at the main fuse box if flooding threatens your home.
Be aware of your surroundings and be prepared to locate to an upper floor quickly. Flooding by tidal surge is a leading cause of death and destruction in hurricanes.
Consider purchasing a portable generator, especially if someone in the household is on oxygen or other electrical powered medical equipment. If you do choose to use a generator, please follow all instructions and safety precautions. Do not operate it indoors as this may lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Do not go outside. Once the eye of the storm passes over your area, there will be a short period of calm. However, on the other side of the eye, wind speed will increase rapidly to hurricane force and will come from the opposite direction. There may be flying debris.
Remember that hurricanes often spawn tornadoes during and after the main storm. Keep your home property inventory up to date, and store it in a safe location that you will be able to access even if your home is damaged or destroyed.
After a hurricane blows through, non-coastal areas should be on the alert for residual effects.