Whether you live close to the sea, high in the mountains, or in a desert, you need to know what this type of storm is and how to handle the destruction it leaves in its wake. Why? Because you never know if you’ll be caught in one someday.
But before discussing how to survive a hurricane, let’s look at what they are exactly.
So what is a hurricane?
As stated by the National Ocean Service, a hurricane is a “tropical cyclone [which] is a rotating, low-pressure weather system that has organized thunderstorms but no fronts (a boundary separating two air masses of different densities).” The organization further states the requirements for categorizing a storm, saying that when “a storm’s maximum sustained winds reach 74 mph, it is called a hurricane.” So storms that have winds anywhere below that, although dangerous and destructive, are not considered hurricanes until they reach that wind speed. Tropical depressions are cyclones that only have a winds that reach maximum speeds of 39 mph, and those storms that have winds higher than 39 mph are referred to as tropical storms.
Also, there are different parts of a hurricane that you should know. In an article written by NASA titled, “What Are Hurricanes?” there are three specific parts of a hurricane. The first is called the eye, and it looks just like that. It’s a large hole in the center of the storm, ranging anywhere from 20-30 miles in circumference, an inside it is calm, quiet even. There are partial clouds, but the winds are calm. Isn’t it interesting that amidst such chaos and havoc, some have described it as eerie, and surreal? The second part is called the eye wall. “The eye wall is a ring of thunderstorms. These storms swirl around the eye. The wall is where winds are strongest and rain is heaviest.” The third and final part of a hurricane has been labeled as rain bands. These bands of rain, although stretching hundreds of miles at a time from the hurricane’s eye, are still incredibly destructive and contain thunderstorms and sometimes even tornadoes can occur.
But how do hurricanes form?
NASA teaches that hurricanes “form over warm ocean waters. Sometimes they strike land. NASA then goes on to explain that “when a hurricane reaches land, it pushes a wall of ocean water ashore.” This particular type of water pushed by a hurricane is specifically called a storm surge. The combination of extremely heavy rain coupled with a storm surge usually results in flooding. The results of flooding can be extensive or minimal, depending on your location in regards to the hurricane.
Nevertheless, exactly how hurricanes form is still being studied and researched. The “how,” to this day, is still not fully understood, but scientists do know that two main factors must occur in order for a hurricane to form. The two essential ingredients are these: warm water and winds that are steady and do not change much in direction or speed as they climb towards the sky. The reason being is that storms that have winds that constantly change in height and speed rip storms apart. Warm water is needed because it provides “the energy a storm needs in order to become a hurricane. Usually, the surface water temperature must be 26 degrees Celsius (79 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher for a hurricane to form” (“What Are Hurricanes,” NASA).
Additionally, even though hurricanes are formed over the ocean, they can move across the land as well. However, The Weather Channel notes that “only 2 percent of tropical cyclones have formed over land in the Atlantic Basin” from the years 1851-2015. So the chances of land hurricanes happening are pretty minimal, but on a rare occasion, they do still happen. So it’s good to prepare either way!
According to the National Hurricane Center and Central Pacific Hurricane Center, there are 5 types/categories of hurricanes that are sorted based on wind speed and potential danger to human life and property. The scale of categories is referred to as the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. The categories are as follows:
The seasons in which hurricanes appear most frequently is from June 1st to November 30th, although hurricanes have still been known to happen outside of this time period. The area in which these storms appear most frequently is in the Atlantic Basin. This area covers the eastern North Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, Carribean Sea, and in some cases, the central North Pacific Ocean (National Ocean Service).
What you should do BEFORE a hurricane strikes:
At Survivable, we are all about planning and preparing so we can keep those we love safe. It is important to make sure that you are well-equipped to survive a hurricane before it hits instead of trying to scramble and get prepared in the middle of things. You will have a lot better peace of mind if you prepare sooner rather than later. As the old saying goes, “Better safe than sorry!”
Steps to take to prepare for a hurricane:
- Have a plan. Know where the local shelters are should you need to evacuate. Make sure that every member of your family knows what to do/where to go should you be separated in a storm. Designate a friend/family member (preferably out of town) whom everyone can call to report their whereabouts.
- Get flood insurance.
- Make sure you know how to shut off gas, electricity, and water—safely! (*However, if you return to your property after a hurricane and are unsure if your house is safe or not, be sure to have a professional come and help you. You do not want to be electrocuted when you try to reenter your home. Always exercise extreme caution).
- Secure your property. Storm shutters that are permanent are great protection for windows. Additionally, officials have stated that a good second option is to board up windows with a ⅝” marine plywood. It should be all ready to install. Windows can break regardless if they’ve been taped or not as well.
- To reduce roof damage, install straps or clips to fasten your roof securely to the frame.
- Go about your yard and trim trees and shrubs to reduce the amount of broken branches and debris that could ripped apart due to high winds.
- Clear out your clogged rain gutters and downspouts. This will help to better redirect the water to minimize the possibility of misdirected flooding.
- Secure your boat in a safe location.
- Consider the possibility of building a safe room.
- Have protective clothing.
- Secure important documents in waterproof containers.
- Have current roadmaps.
- In your basement, elevate items to avoid flooding. Even minor flooding can cause severe damage.
- Make sure that you have a good emergency survival kit or 72/hr bag. This should include flashlights (with extra batteries), a three-day water supply for each member of your family (should be a gallon per person, per day), 3-day supply of nonperishable food per person (should not require cooking), a battery-powered radio (should be able to receive broadcasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), and a first aid kid (should have a seven-day supply of medications necessary for each family member.
- Fully fuel each of your cars.
Now all of that is what you should do before a hurricane. Next is a list of what to do DURING a hurricane.
- Stay informed at all times during the storm. Be sure to monitor it using the Internet, radio, or TV.
- Secure your home. Close the shutters. Bring loose things outside such as trash barrels, lawn mower, furniture, hanging plants, toys, and other things inside.
- If you are instructed by authorities (and only if you know how to do so safely), turn off utilities. Turn your refrigerator thermostat to its coldest and put perishable foods inside. Reduce the number of times you open the freezer. If you lose power, your freezer will be able to keep foods inside it good for about 48 hours after the power went out.
- Turn off propane tanks if you have any.
- Only use your cell phone for serious emergencies.
- Have some cash on hand. ATMs may be out of service if the power is lost.
- Moor your boat.
- Make sure you have enough water for sanitary purposes such as flushing toilets and cleaning (should be separate from your drinking water of a gallon per person, per day). Fill up your bathtub and other large containers with water if you have any.
Some important tips to remember (only if you are unable to evacuate and if you do not have a safe room):
- Do not go outside. Stay indoors and keep away from windows.
- Close your doors and brace external doors.
- Keep your curtains and blinds closed. If there is a lull in the storm, do not go outside. You could be in the eye of the storm.
- Go to the lowest level of your home and take refuge there. This could be a closet, hallway, or a smaller room.
- Lie down on the floor underneath a table or another sturdy object should the roof cave in.
Planning and preparing ahead of time can help you have better peace of mind when natural disasters do strike. Unfortunately, bad things do happen. It is impossible to avoid them, no matter how hard we try. And it is unwise thinking to assume that such things could never happen to you, because they can. I’m not saying that they necessarily will, but you should take the necessary precautions to keep yourself and your family safe.
Plan and prepare so the people you love can be safe!
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