NEWS | Sept. 16, 2015

Hurricane information and preparedness tips

By Steven Gottula Office of Emergency Management

Hurricane information and preparedness tips
The term hurricane is a regionally specific name for a strong tropical cyclone, a low-pressure system that originates in the tropics.
A hurricane is a tropical cyclone in the North Atlantic Ocean with a season that lasts from June 1 to November 30, with the peak season from mid-August to late October.
These cyclones usually include intense thunderstorms and strong winds that can exceed 157 mph. Hurricanes and tropical storms can also result in tornadoes and heavy flooding. They can cause extensive damage through strong winds, rain, flood waters and storm surges.
How to Prepare for a Hurricane
· Be informed and know your hurricane terminology:
  Tropical depression--A system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and sustained winds that do not exceed 38 mph.
  Tropical storm--a system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and sustained winds 39-73 mph.
  Hurricane/Typhoon--A system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and sustained winds 74 mph or higher.
  Storm surge--an abnormal rise of water pushed ashore by a storm, over and above the predicted astronomical tide. Storm surges, which are often the greatest threat to life and property, are affected by a number of complex factors and can vary in magnitude despite hurricane categories. For example, Hurricane Katrina, a category 3 hurricane, had a storm surge of 28 ft., while Hurricane Charley, a category 4 hurricane, had a storm surge of 6-8 ft.
  Storm tide--a combination of storm surge with normal tide, increasing the amount of water (e.g., a 15-foot storm surge with a 2-foot normal tide creates a 17-foot storm tide).
  Hurricane/tropical storm warning--Hurricane/tropical storm conditions are expected within 36 hours in specified areas.
  Hurricane/tropical storm watch--Hurricane/tropical storm conditions are possible within 48 hours in specified areas. Stay tuned to radio or TV for further information.
  Short-term watches and warnings--Provide detailed information about specific threats during hurricanes, such as flash flooding or tornadoes.
· Understand the categorization of hurricanes (Categorization adapted from the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale courtesy of the National Hurricane Center):
  Category 1--Winds 74-95 mph, 64-82 kt, 119-153 km/h, very dangerous winds will produce some damage.
  Category 2--Winds 96-110 mph, 83-95 kt, 154-177 km/h, extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage.
  Category 3--Winds 111-129 mph, 96-112 kt, 178-208 km/h, devastating damage will occur.
  Category 4--Winds 130-156 mph, 113-136 kt, 209-251 km/h, catastrophic damage will occur, well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of roof structure and/or some exterior walls.
  Category 5--Winds exceeding 157 mph, 137 kt, 252 km/h, catastrophic damage will occur, high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed with total roof failure and wall collapse.
  Category 3, 4, and 5 hurricanes are considered "major hurricanes."
· Understanding Hurricane Conditions. Hurricane conditions (HURCONS) are the Air Force's guidelines for estimating how long an installation has and the actions necessary before it will be struck by destructive winds. The Navy uses Tropical Cyclone Conditions of Readiness (TCCOR) as their guidelines. Destructive winds are defined as winds of 58 mph or greater.  At each HURCON level, the installation and tenant commands have set actions or checklists to complete prior to the storms arrival.  These checklists range from verifying recall procedures to closing facilities and sandbagging. 
· HURCON 5 - Indicates that we are in hurricane season.  From June 1 to November 30, all vulnerable installations should maintain at a minimum HURCON 5 levels of readiness.
  HURCON 4 - Trend indicates possible destructive winds within 96 hours.
  HURCON 3 - Destructive winds of force are possible within 72 hours.
  HURCON 2 - Destructive winds of force are anticipated within 48 hours.
  HURCON 1 - Destructive winds of force are anticipated within 24 hours.
  HURCON 1E - Indicates surface winds in excess of 58 mph are occurring and other dangerous condition associated with the storm are present. All outside activity is strictly prohibited.
  HURCON 1R- Indicates life-threatening storm hazards have passed but damage may persist and only emergency responders and damage assessment personnel are released to move about.
· Determine whether your property is in danger from tidal floods, storm surges or dam failures and take flood precautions.
· Learn community evacuation routes and how to find higher ground.
· Make a written family evacuation and communication plan in case you are separated. Keep in mind phone lines and cell phone towers may be down.
· Make plans to secure your property:
  Cover all of your home's windows with permanent storm shutters,
  Trim trees and shrubs around your home so they are more wind resistant.
  Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  Reinforce your garage doors to prevent dangerous and expensive structural damage.
  Bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down.
· Build an emergency kit.
What to Do If There Is a Hurricane
· Avoid using the phone, except for serious emergencies.
· Listen to the radio or TV for more information and further instructions.
· Create a supply of water for sanitary and household purposes by filling bathtub and large containers.
· Turn your refrigerator to the coldest setting and keep the door closed.
· Turn off propane tanks and utilities, if told to do so.
· Moor your boat if time permits.
· You should evacuate under the following conditions:
  If you live in a mobile home or temporary structure--such shelters are particularly hazardous during a hurricane no matter how well fastened to the ground.
  If you live in a high-rise building--hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations.
  If you live on the coast, on a floodplain, near a river or on an island waterway.
  If told to do so by local authorities, following their instructions.
· If you are told to evacuate:
  NEVER ignore an evacuation order.
  Follow instructions and the guidelines given regarding times and routes.
  Take only essential items and your emergency kit.
  Turn off gas, electricity and water if you have not already done so.
  Disconnect all appliances.
  Make sure your car's gas tank is full.