What is a hurricane? A hurricane is an intense, rotating oceanic weather system that possesses maximum sustained winds exceeding 119 km/hr (74 mph). It forms and intensifies over tropical oceanic regions.
The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale
This scale was developed in the early 1970s by Herbert Saffir, a consulting engineer in Coral Gables, Florida, and Dr. Robert Simpson, then director of the National Hurricane Center. The scale is based primarily on wind speeds and includes estimates of barometric pressure and storm surge associated with each of the five categories. It is used to give an estimate of the potential property damage and flooding expected along the coast from a hurricane landfall.
Category 1 - Minimal (74-95mph winds; 4-5ft storm surge)
Damage primarily restricted to shrubbery, trees, and unanchored mobile homes; no substantial damage to other structures; some damage to poorly constructed signs.
Some coastal road flooding and minor pier damage.
Category 2 - Moderate (96-110mpg winds; 6-8ft storm surge)
Considerable damage to shrubbery and tree foliage, some trees blown down; major damage to exposed mobile homes; extensive damage to poorly constructed signs and some damage to windows, doors and roofing materials of buildings, but no major destruction to buildings.
Coastal roads and low-lying escape routes inland cut off by rising water about two to four hours before landfall; considerable damage to piers, marinas flooded; small craft in protected anchorage torn from moorings.
Category 3 - Extensive (111-130mph winds; 9-12ft storm surge)
Foliage torn from trees; large trees blown down; poorly constructed signs blown down; some damage to roofing, windows, and doors; some structural damage to small buildings; mobile homes destroyed.
Serious flooding along the coast; many small structures near the coast destroyed; larger coastal structures damaged by battering waves and floating debris.
Low-lying escape routes inland cut off by rising water about three to five hours before landfall; flat terrain 5 feet or less above sea level flooded up to 8 or more miles inland.
Evacuation of low-lying residences within several blocks of shoreline may be required.
Category 4 - Extreme (131-155mph winds; 13-18ft storm surge)
Shrubs, trees, and all signs blown down; extensive damage to roofs, windows, and doors, with complete failure of roofs on many smaller residences; mobile homes demolished.
Flat terrain 10 feet or less above sea level flooded inland as far as 6 miles; flooding and battering by waves and floating debris cause major damage to lower floors of structures near the shore; low-lying escape routes inland cut off by rising water about three to five hours before landfall; major erosion of beaches
Massive evacuation of inland residences as far inland as 6 miles may be required.
Category 5 - Catastrophic (155+mph winds; 18+ft storm surge)
Trees, shrubs, and all signs blown down; considerable damage to roofs of buildings, with very severe and extensive damage to windows and doors; complete failure on many roofs of residences and industrial buildings; extensive shattering of glass in windows and doors; complete buildings destroyed; small building overturned or blown away; mobile homes demolished.
Major damage to lower floors of all structures less than 15 feet above sea level within 1500 feet of the shore.
Low-lying escape routes inland cut off by rising water about three to five hours before landfall; major erosion of beaches.
Massive evacuation of residential areas on low ground as far inland as 10 miles may be required.
If No Evacuation Has Been Ordered
- Get updates from The Weather Channel, weather.com or your local TV or radio station.
- Make sure you have a battery-powered radio, preferably a NOAA weather radio, and listen for up-to-date storm information.
- Keep your Family Emergency Supplies Kit, blankets and sleeping bags with you.
- Keep children and pets indoors.
- Call your family's emergency contact person to report your plans.
- Make sure you have cash and your car has a full tank of gas in case you must evacuate.
- Beware of high winds and flooding.
- If you are not told to evacuate, stay put. Roads should be available for emergency vehicles and those who must evacuate.
- Beware of a false sense of security. If winds die down, this could be the calm before the other half of the storm.
Inside the Home
- Fill containers with water from your tap and place them in the refrigerator for drinking water.
- Thoroughly clean bathtub with bleach and fill with water for drinking in case the water supply becomes contaminated.
- Place all valuables and records in a waterproof container and store on the highest floor of your home or in the safest area.
In a Mobile Home
- Recheck tie-downs then leave immediately and take shelter elsewhere.
- Protect all windows with shutters or plywood. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking, so taping windows is not recommended.
- Anchor objects that could become projectiles in high winds.
If Evacuation Is Advised
- Do not disregard an evacuation notice.
- Turn off water and electric utilities.
- Pack your Family Disaster Supplies Kit, extra blankets and sleeping bags.
- Lock windows and doors before leaving home.
- Follow recommended evacuation routes to avoid flooded roads and washed out bridges.
- If you are on the immediate coast and in danger of a serious storm surge, but it is too late to evacuate, find a room, closet or alcove without windows on an upper floor for refuge until the storm passes.
- If you are not in a location susceptible to a coastal storm surge, go to an interior room on the lowest floor of the building to protect yourself against wind-related damage.
- Bring bedding, food and water for each family member, even if you plan to stay in a shelter.
What is a tornado? A tornado is a violently rotating column of air, in contact with the ground, either pendant from a cumuliform cloud or underneath a cumuliform cloud, and often (but not always) visible as a funnel cloud. For a vortex to be classified as a tornado, it must be in contact with both the ground and the cloud base.
The Fujita Scale
The Fujita scale (F-Scale), or Fujita-Pearson scale, is a scale for rating tornado intensity, based primarily on the damage tornadoes inflict on human-built structures and vegetation. The official Fujita scale category is determined by meteorologists (and engineers) after a ground and/or aerial damage survey; and depending on the circumstances, ground-swirl patterns (cycloidal marks), radar tracking, eyewitness testimonies, media reports and damage imagery, as well as photogrammetry/videogrammetry if motion picture recording is available.
Tornado Safety Tips
When a tornado warning has been issued, you may have very little time to prepare. How you respond now is critical. And how you react depends on where you are.
In a Frame Home
- Make sure you have a portable radio, preferably a NOAA weather radio, for information.
- Seek shelter in the lowest level of your home (basement or storm cellar). If there is no basement, go to an inner hallway, a smaller inner room, or a closet. Keep away from all windows.
- You can cushion yourself with a mattress, but do not use one to cover yourself. Do cover your head and eyes with a blanket or jacket to protect against flying debris and broken glass. Don't waste time moving mattresses around.
- Keep your pet on a leash or in a carrier.
- Multiple tornadoes can emerge from the same storm, so do not go out until the storm has passed.
- Do not leave a building to attempt to "escape" a tornado.
In a Mobile Home
- Leave your mobile home immediately and take shelter elsewhere.
- Try to get inside and seek a small protected space with no windows.
- Avoid large-span roof areas such as school gymnasiums, arenas, or shopping malls.
- If you cannot get inside, crouch for protection beside a strong structure, or lie flat in a ditch or low-lying area and cover your head and neck with your arms or a piece of clothing.
In a Car
- Ideally, you should avoid driving when tornadoes or other kinds of dangerous weather threaten, because a vehicle is a very unsafe place to be. If, however, this is not possible, stay as calm as possible, and assess the situation.
- Your best option might be to get out of the car and lie flat in a ditch or other low-lying area that is sufficiently deep enough to protect against the wind.
- If you do so, beware of water runoff from heavy rain that could pose a hazard; get as far away from the vehicle as possible and shield your head from flying debris.
- Or, if possible, take shelter immediately in a nearby building.
Severe Thunderstorm Information
What is a severe thunderstorm? A severe thunderstorm is a thunderstorm that contains any one or more of the following three weather conditions: Hail that is 3/4 of an inch or greater in diameter, winds 58 miles per hour or greater, or tornadoes
Thunderstorm Safety Tips
Before Lightning is About to Strike
-Watch the sky for approaching dark clouds, increasing winds, and flashes of light.
-Listen for thunder.
-If thunder can be heard, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning, and you should take shelter immediately.
-Keep up to date on weather forecasts through local TV stations and NOAA Weather Radio.
Steps to Take as a Storm Approaches
-Seek shelter in a building or vehicle (avoid convertibles). Keep windows closed.
-Avoid using electrical equipment/appliances, and preferably, unplug things such as televisions, air conditioners, and computers. Electrical lines are excellent conductors of electricity. (Leaving electric lights on, however, does not increase the chances of your home being struck by lightning.)
-Do not take baths or showers during storms, as water is an excellent conductor of electricity. Use as little water as possible during storms.
-Draw blinds and shades over windows as a precaution to prevent windows shattering into your home, should they be broken by blowing debris.
If You are Caught Outdoors:
-Attempt to seek shelter in a vehicle or building.
-If no structure is available, stay as low to the ground as possible. In the woods, find a group of smaller trees. Avoid standing under single tall trees. Be aware of the potential for flooding in low-lying areas.
-Remember to avoid tall structures, such as towers, tall trees, fences, telephone lines, or power lines. Also avoid golf clubs, tractors, fishing rods, bicycles, and camping equipment. All are excellent electrical conductors.
-Stay away from all types of bodies of water. If you are boating or swimming, get to land and find shelter immediately.
-If you feel your hair stand on end (which indicates lightning is about to strike), squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands over your ears and your head between your knees. Make yourself the smallest target possible and minimize your contact it the ground. DO NOT lie flat on the ground.
Stuck in a Vehicle:
-Find a safe place on the side of the road and pull over. Make sure there are not any trees that could blow over onto the car.
-Put on emergency flashers, especially during heavier rains.
-Remain in the car, only leaving in the case of a flash flood.
-Watch for possible flash flooding. Should you notice the beginnings of flooding, abandon your vehicle, and seek higher ground immediately.
-Avoid flooded roadways.
Safety Steps to Take Indoors:
-Secure outdoor objects, such as lawn furniture, that could blow away or cause damage or injury.
-Listen to a battery-operated radio or television for the latest storm information.
-Do not use any electrical equipment or telephones, especially television sets. Lightning could follow the wire into the house, and do extensive damage to electrical equipment, such as air conditioners and TV's. Use telephones ONLY in an emergency.
-Do not take a bath or shower. Metal pipes can transmit electricity.
If Someone is Struck by Lightning:
-People who have been struck by lightning can be cared for safety, and do not carry any type of electrical charge.
-Call for help. Get someone to dial 9-1-1 or your local Emergency Medical Services number.
-Look for burn marks on the victim's body where the charge both entered and exited. Lightning strikes can also cause neurological damage, broken bones, and loss of sight or hearing.
-Give first aid. If breathing has stopped, begin rescue breathing. If the heart has stopped beating, a trained person should give CPR. If the person has a pulse and is breathing, look for and care for other possible injuries.
Weather Information Center
Other Weather Information
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