Starting your hurricane prep before the season comes in full force is probably one of the smartest things you can do. Knowing the essentials of hurricane preparedness could be a life saver for you and your family.

Prepping for hurricane season or any natural disaster can be stressful. In this post, you will learn hurricane preparedness tips and gain a better understanding on what hurricanes are. Be sure to check the bottom of this post for your FREE Hurricane Checklists too!

Hurricane clouds

Basic Hurricane Knowledge

Understanding common terms related to hurricanes and learning some hurricane facts is very important. Hurricane season begins June 1st. and usually lasts about 5 months. August and September are commonly the peak months.

These storms vary on intensity and size so be sure to pay attention to your weather forecasts and any alerts or directions you are given.

Let’s look at the three basic stages of hurricanes – tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes. The main difference in these three is their wind speed and therefore the amount of damage.

  • Tropical depressions: cyclones with winds of 38 mph
  • Tropical storms: wind speeds of 39 to 73 mph
  • Hurricanes: wind speeds of 74 mph or greater
hurricane rains

Important Storm Terms

There are typical storm terms you may hear when listening to the forecast. You need to understand what these terms mean so you can practice hurricane safety.

Tropical Storm Watch: This means tropical storm conditions are possible in your area.

Hurricane Watch: Hurricane conditions are possible in your area. These are usually issued 48 hours in advance of the expected tropical storm force winds. At this time, you should prepare your home and have an evacuation plan if a warning is issued.

Tropical Storm Warning: Your area is expecting tropical storm conditions.

Hurricane Warning: A hurricane is expected in your area. These warnings are issued about 36 hours in advance of the tropical storm force winds also. This is when you should heed what officials are saying for you to do.

Evacuation route sign

Eye: This is the clear, defined center of the storm itself. Usually it has calmer conditions than the rest of the storm.

Eye Wall: This is the area that surrounds the eye. Here, is the most severe weather and the highest wind speed. It also contains the most precipitation.

Rain Bands: The bands of weather that surround the eye that produce the most severe weather conditions (heavy rain, wind, tornadoes).

Storm Surge: Rising ocean water that swiftly causes flooding along coastal areas and possibly further inland.

Storm surge
Storm surge

You may also hear the term “extreme wind/warning advisory”. This means that extreme winds of 115 mph or greater can be expected within the next hour. In this case you should seek shelter in an interior portion of your home or a well-built and stable structure.

Hurricane Categories

A hurricane’s strength is normally described as being in one of five categories. These categories have been extracted from the SAFFIR-SIMPSON Hurricane Scale. They are listed below along with the wind strengths and potential damage to be experienced.

As the category level increases so does the amount of danger involved with the storm. Pay close attention to which category the hurricane is being noted for.

Category One:

Winds 74 to 95 miles per hour (mph). May cause damage primarily to shrubs, tree foliage, poorly constructed items, and unanchored mobile homes.

Storm Surges 4′ to 5′ above normal tide levels. Low lying coastal roads may become unusable. Some minor pier damage may develop, and some small craft torn from moorings in exposed anchorage.

Category one damage
Category One damage is minor

Category Two:

Winds 96 to 110 mph. Can cause considerable damage to trees and shrubs. Trees may be blown down. Major damage to poorly constructed items and some damage to other structures (such as roofing material).

Storm Surge of 6′ to 8′ above normal tide levels. Low lying escape routes and coastal roads may be cut by rising water from 7 to 8 hours before the arrival of the hurricanes center.

Considerable damage to piers and marinas may be flooded. Small craft in unprotected anchorage can be torn from moorings. Evacuation of some shoreline residences and low lying areas may be required.

Category Three Damage
Category two damage

Category Three:

Winds 111 to 130 mph. Foliage torn from small and medium sized trees and large trees can be blown down. Poorly constructed items destroyed, damage to roofing materials windows, and doors expected. Mobile homes destroyed and possible structural damage to smaller buildings.

Storm Surge 9′ to 12′ above normal tide levels. Serious flooding at coastline with small structures located there could be completely destroyed. Larger structures near coast will be damaged by battering waves and floating debris.

Low lying escape routes blocked by rising water from 9 to 10 hours prior to hurricane center arrival. Major erosion to beaches and massive evacuation of all residences within 500 yards of beach and single story residences on low ground within 2 miles of shore.

Category three damage
Category Three damage

Category Four:

Winds 131 to 155 mph. Shrubs, trees, and signs blown down. Extensive damage to roofing materials, windows and doors. Complete failure of roofs on many small residences.

Storm Surge 13′ to 17′ above normal tide levels. Flat terrain 2 feet or less above sea level flooded up to 6 miles inland. Major damage to lower floors of structures near shore due to flooding and battering of waves and debris.

Low lying escape routes inland covered with rising water 11 to 12 hours prior to hurricane center arrival.

Category four damage
Category four damage

Category Five:

Winds greater than 155 mph. Damage as above plus complete failure of roofs on may residential and industrial buildings. Extensive shattering of window and door glass. Many complete building failures and small buildings overturned or blown away.

Storm Surge greater than 18′ above normal tidal levels. Low lying escape routes inland cut by rising water 12 to 13 hours before hurricane center arrival.

Massive evacuation of residential areas on low grounds within 5 to 10 miles of shore possibly required.

Category five damage
Category five damage

How Do You Prepare for a Hurricane?

It is extremely important that you first create a hurricane preparedness kit as part of your hurricane prep. This kit is very similar to an Emergency Go Bag.

You can take this kit with you if you have to evacuate your home. You can also use it while being able to stay at home in the case of power outages also.

Your kit should be prepared well ahead of the warnings and watches. Many people wait until the last minute to buy supplies and normally it is too late because the shelves are empty.

Installing hurricane shutters

Creating a Hurricane Preparedness Kit

Creating a hurricane preparedness kit to be prepared for an evacuation should start with three main things – non-perishable food for at least three days per person, water for three days per person, and a first-aid kit that includes any regularly taken medications.

Your kit should be created in a bag or container that can easily be grabbed and taken with you if you are evacuated from your home. If there are many people in your family, each member should have their own bag.

The rest of the kit should include:

  • Personal hygiene/sanitary items
  • Cooler/Ice packs
  • Flashlights and extra batteries
  • Waterproof container for cash and important documents
  • Lighter and/or matches (waterproof)
  • Battery operated radio
  • Pet supplies
  • Baby supplies
  • Written evacuation plan if anyone gets separated
  • Entertainment such as books, puzzles etc.

For more specific lists and suggestions of what to put in your hurricane prep kit, make sure you download the Free Hurricane Prep Checklists at the bottom of this post.

emergency kit supplies

Hurricane Prep for your Home

Regardless of whether or not you get told to evacuate, you should prep your home ahead of time also. You want to secure your home from damaging winds, rain, and possible storm surge or flooding.

Here is a basic list for securing your home before a hurricane happens:

  • Cover any glass windows or doors with hurricane shutters or plywood of at least 1/2″ in thickness.
  • Make sure any nearby trees or bushes are trimmed and any dead branches are removed.
  • Make sure any outdoor furniture, toys, garbage cans, lawn decorations, or anything lightweight and not anchored down is taken indoors whether to a shed or under the home.
  • Double check any hurricane strapping on a mobile home to make sure they are tight and secure.
  • Make sure any garage or barn doors are reinforced.
Trimming Trees

Preparation for Power Outages

Hurricane prep also includes being prepared during the storm. One of the biggest issues during and sometimes well after the storm passes is power outages. These can last from a few hours to weeks and possibly months.

Here are some suggestions on how to be ready and stay safe during power outages.

  • Make sure your gas tanks are full. This includes you car and any propane tanks you may have.
  • Charge all of the cell phones in the home. You may want to invest in a solar charger too.
  • Have a generator on hand and working. You may need this for keeping a fridge running or turning on the Ac in extreme heat situations.
  • Fill all of the bathtubs and any large containers with water. This water can be used for washing and flushing toilets only.
  • Turn the fridge temp down and start freezing food and water. Having a few coolers ready for the ice you made can allow you to save a good bit of refrigerated food in the event of a power failure.
power outage supplies

Staying Safe After the Hurricane

Sometimes conditions are not ideal after the hurricane has passed. As part of your hurricane prep, you need to take precautions and be smart afterwards.

Here are some simple tips to staying safe after the hurricane:

  • Follow any “Stay-Home” warnings issued. It may be dangerous to drive anywhere due to storm damage. heed the warning and stay put.
  • Avoid any flooded areas. It is not safe. And. never drive through flood water!
  • Prevent Carbon-monoxide poisoning by keep generators at least 20 feet from any open doors or windows. Make sure you have CO detectors in place and working.
  • Comfort anyone in the home that may be feeling anxiety or stress. Disasters can cause many emotions, especially in the elderly or in children. Comfort them and try to make them as comfortable as possible.
hurricane aftermath

Remember that conditions may not go back to normal quickly, especially after a more damaging storm. Be patient, use your smarts and stay as safe as possible.

Final Thoughts on Hurricane Prep

There is no reason to wait until the last minute to be prepared for a hurricane. Be smart and start preparing for hurricanes or any natural disaster today. Use the tips above and these FREE Hurricane Checklists to make sure you and your family stay safe this year.

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