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Hurricane winds can reach a constant speed of 74 miles per hour or more, according to FEMA. As a hurricane approaches, the skies will begin to darken and winds will grow in strength. As a single hurricane nears land, it can bring torrential rains, high winds and storm surges. It can last for more than two weeks over open waters and can run a path across the entire length of the eastern seaboard, with August and September being peak months during a season that lasts from June 1 through Nov. 30.

The United States experienced one of the most active hurricane seasons in 2004. Families throughout the Southeast and Gulf Coast regions experienced tremendous loss due to the destruction brought on by the powerful storms.


Hurricane Preparation
Hurricane Recovery
Hurricane Terminology


Hurricane Preparation

Hurricanes can last for more than two weeks over open waters and can run a path across the entire length of the eastern seaboard, with August and September being peak months during a season that lasts from June 1 through Nov. 30. With the severity of these storms, preparation is key.
  • Develop a plan that best ensures the safety and survival of all family members. This should include a list of evacuation routes and shelters. Some shelters won't accept pets, so make sure a plan is in place for your family's animals.


  • Make plans to stay with friends or family outside reasonable evacuation zones until it is safe to return to your home.


  • Gather an appropriate supply of food and supplies for your family members if you decide not to evacuate. Don't forget your pets.


  • Teach family members how to turn off the gas, water and electricity supply to your home, in case of an emergency


  • Secure important documents (insurance policies, birth certificates, etc.) in a safe and readily accessible place.


As a hurricane approaches or a hurricane watch is issued:
  • Monitor the news and weather reports to stay abreast of current conditions.


  • Make sure your vehicle(s) is fully fueled.


  • Prepare to cover doors and windows with protective material such as heavy plastic or plywood panels.


  • Check your supplies and fill any needs.


  • Put your family's plan into action so that in the event you must evacuate you can do so on short notice.


When a hurricane warning is issued:
This means your area will experience winds in excess of 74 mph within the next 24 hours or less.
  • Consider evacuating. If officials order an evacuation, do so as soon as possible.


  • Take the contents of your supply kits with you when evacuating.


  • If you decide to remain in your home during the storm, gather the family in a safe place - protected from flying debris - such as a basement, interior room or hallway without windows. This location should be part of your overall plan.


  • Monitor storm conditions on a battery-powered radio.


  • Do not open widows or go outside to check on the storm.



Hurricane Recovery

Recovering from a hurricane's destruction can be very difficult and dangerous. Please note the following tips for safe clean-up.
  • Continue to monitor weather conditions on the radio; tornadoes can occur.


  • Stay indoors and stay home if possible; keep the street clear for emergency personnel.


  • Keep away from flood waters; they can rise rapidly and are extremely dangerous.


  • Contact relatives who may be concerned for your well-being.


  • Document any damage with a camera and carefully start the clean-up.


Hurricane Terminology

Category 1 Hurricane - winds 74-95 mph
No real damage to buildings. Damage to unanchored mobile homes. Some damage to poorly constructed signs. Also, some coastal flooding and minor pier damage.

Category 2 Hurricane - winds 96-110 mph
Some damage to building roofs, doors and windows. Considerable damage to mobile homes. Flooding damages piers and small craft in unprotected moorings may break their moorings. Some trees blown down.

Category 3 Hurricane - winds 111-130 mph
Some structural damage to small residences and utility buildings. Large trees blown down. Mobile homes and poorly built signs destroyed. Flooding near the coast destroys smaller structures with larger structures damaged by floating debris. Terrain may be flooded well inland.

Category 4 Hurricane - winds 131-155 mph
More extensive curtainwall failures with some complete roof structure failure on small residences. Major erosion of beach areas. Terrain may be flooded well inland.

Category 5 Hurricane - winds 156 mph and up
Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away. Flooding causes major damage to lower floors of all structures near the shoreline. Massive evacuation of residential areas may be required.

eye - The center of a tropical storm or hurricane characterized by a roughly circular area of light winds and rain-free skies and the lowest pressure. An eye will usually develop when the maximum sustained wind speeds exceed 78 mph. It can range in size from as small as 5 miles to up to 60 miles (20-50 km) but the average size is 20 miles. In general, when the eye begins to shrink in size, the storm is intensifying.

hurricane watch - Indicates that your area could experience hurricane conditions within 36 hours. Monitor weather reports.

hurricane warning - Indicates that your area will experience sustained winds of at least 74 mph within the next 24 hours or less. Complete protective steps and decide the safest location to be during the storm.

storm surge - The supply of water pushed shoreward by the force of the storm's swirling winds. Coastal areas often experience severe flooding due to storm surge that can often push the water level in excess of 15 feet above normal.

tropical depression - Organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and sustained winds of 38 mph or less.

tropical storm - Organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph.

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