Current and Historic
Atlantic Tropical Storms and Hurricanes
Gray's Seasonal Hurricane Forecast: As
of December of 2008 (pdf): "We foresee a somewhat above-average Atlantic basin tropical cyclone season in
2009. We anticipate an above-average probability of United States major
ABOVE NORMAL 2009ATLANTIC HURRICANE SEASON
Named Storms 14 -- Named Storm Days 70 -- Hurricanes 7 -- Hurricane Days 30
-- Intense Hurricanes 3
Talk About Hurricanes?
Recent Atlantic Hurricane Names
retired names by year
There are no other storms like hurricanes on
Views of hurricanes from satellites located thousands of miles above
Earth show how these powerful, tightly coiled weather systems are
year, on average, 10 tropical storms (of which six become hurricanes)
over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or Gulf of Mexico.
these storms remain over the ocean. However, an average of
strike the United States coastline every three years. Of these five,
will be major hurricanes, which are storms of category 3 or
on the Saffir-Simpson scale, which corresponds to hurricanes with winds
at or above 111 miles per hour.
Timely warnings have greatly diminished
in the United States. In spite of this, property damage continues to
There is little we can do about the hurricanes themselves. However, the
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) Tropical
Prediction Center and National
Service (NWS) field offices team up with other federal,
local agencies; rescue and relief organizations; the private sector;
the news media in a huge warning and preparedness effort.
What Are Hurricanes, and What Causes Them?
- Hurricanes and tropical storms are cyclones with tropical
cyclones). When the winds of a tropical storm (winds 39 to 73
per hour) reach a constant speed of 74 miles per hour or more, it is
a hurricane. Hurricane winds blow in a large spiral around a
calm center known as the "eye." The "eye" is generally 20 to 30 miles
and the storm may have a diameter of 400 miles across. As a hurricane
the skies will begin to darken and winds will grow in strength. A
can bring torrential rains, high winds, and storm surge as it nears
A single hurricane can last more than two weeks over open waters and
run a path across the entire length of the eastern seaboard.
- More dangerous than the high winds of a
hurricane is the storm surge
- a dome of ocean water that can be 20 feet high at its peak and 50 to
100 miles wide. The surge can devastate coastal communities
as it sweeps
ashore. In recent years, the fatalities associated with storm surge
been greatly reduced as a result of better warning and preparedness
- Most deaths due to tropical cyclones are
flood-related. Inland flooding
is a common occurrence with hurricanes and tropical storms. Torrential
rains from decaying hurricanes and tropical storms can produce
urban and river flooding. Winds from these storms located offshore can
drive ocean water up the mouth of rivers, compounding the severity of
flooding. Inland streams and rivers can flood and trigger landslides.
can occur in mountainous regions. In addition, hurricanes can spawn
which add to the destructiveness of the storm.
- Learn about hurricane risk in your community by
local emergency management office, National Weather Service office, or American
Red Cross chapter.
- A National Weather Service WATCH is a
message indicating that conditions
the occurrence of a certain type of hazardous weather. For example, a
thunderstorm watch means that a severe thunderstorm is expected in the
next six hours or so within an area approximately 120 to 150 miles wide
and 300 to 400 miles long (36,000 to 60,000 square miles). The NWS
Prediction Center issues such watches. Local NWS forecast offices issue
other watches (flash flood, winter weather, etc.) 12 to 36 hours in
of a possible hazardous-weather or flooding event. Each local forecast
office usually covers a state or a portion of a state.
- An NWS WARNING indicates that a
hazardous event is occurring or
is imminent in about 30 minutes to an hour. Local NWS forecast offices
issue warnings on a county-by-county basis.
- A hurricane WATCH is issued when there
is a threat of hurricane
conditions within 24 to 36 hours.
- A hurricane WARNING is issued when
hurricane conditions are expected
in 24 hours or less.
Many people do not realize the threat of hurricanes as
each one is different. Over the past several years, U.S.
warning systems have provided adequate time for people on barrier
and the immediate coastline to move inland when hurricanes threaten. However,
due to rapid population growth, it is becoming more difficult to
people from the barrier islands and other coastal areas because roads
not kept pace with the expansion. The problem is further
by the fact that 80 to 90 percent of the population now
living in hurricane-prone
areas have never experienced the core of a "major" hurricane. Many
of these people have been through weaker storms. The result is a false
impression of a hurricane's damage potential. This often leads to
and delayed actions, which could result in the loss of many lives.
Plan for a Hurricane
Develop a Family Disaster Plan. Please see the "Family
Disaster Plan" section for general family planning
planning should include the following:
- Learn about your community's risk from
hurricanes. Contact your
local emergency management office, local National Weather Service
or local chapter of the American Red Cross for more information on
and how to prepare for them.
- If your community is at risk from hurricanes,
contact the local emergency
management office or planning and zoning office to find out if you live
in an area that could flood during a hurricane or heavy rains.
live in a risk area, learn what types of supplies should be stored to
your home from flood waters. Knowing the elevation of your property in
relation to nearby streams and dams will let you know if forecasted
levels will affect your home.
If you are at risk from hurricanes:
- Talk to your insurance agent.
Homeowners' policies do not cover
flooding from hurricanes. Ask about the National
Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
- Ask about your community's hurricane
preparedness plan. The local
emergency management office or local chapter of the American Red Cross
should be able to provide you with details of this plan, including
on the safest evacuation routes, nearby shelters, advice on when
would be closed and what conditions are necessary for recommended
of certain areas.
- Develop an evacuation plan. (See "Evacuation
in the "Family Disaster Plan" section.) Everyone in your family should
know where to go if they have to leave. Trying to make plans at the
minute can be upsetting and create confusion.
- Determine where to move your boat in an
emergency. Marinas and other
storage facilities may fill up quickly. Some locations may have less
of damage than others. You may be required to secure your boat well in
advance of approaching hurricanes.
- Discuss hurricanes with your family.
Everyone should know what to
do in case all family members are not together. Discussing hurricanes
of time will help reduce fear and anxiety, and lets everyone know how
respond. Review flood safety and preparedness measures with your family.
Assemble a Disaster
Please see the section "Disaster
for general supplies kit information. Hurricane-specific supplies
include the following:
- A week's supply of food and water (to be kept at
home in addition to
the recommended three-day supply for your evacuation kit).
- Disaster Suplies Kit basics.
- Evacuation Supplies Kit.
How to Protect Your Property
- Make a list of items to bring inside in the
event of a storm. A
list will help you remember anything that can be broken or picked up by
strong winds. Hurricane winds, often in excess of 100 miles per hour,
turn unanchored items into deadly missiles, causing damage or injury
- Keep trees and shrubbery trimmed. Make
trees more wind resistant
by removing diseased or damaged limbs, then strategically remove
so that wind can blow through. Hurricane winds frequently break weak
and hurl them at great speed, causing great damage when they hit
Debris collection services may not be operating just before a storm, so
it is best to do this well in advance of approaching storms.
- Remove any debris or loose items in your yard.
Hurricane winds can
pick up anything unsecured, creating damage to property when the debris
- Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and
often bring long periods of heavy rain. Providing clear drainage will
prevent misdirected flooding.
- Install permanent hurricane shutters.
Hurricane shutters provide
the best protection for your windows and doors. Taping windows could
critical time from more effective preparedness measures. All tape does
is help prevent glass from broken windows from scattering all over
Tape does not prevent windows from breaking. Cover the outside of
with shutters or plywood.
- If you do not have permanent hurricane shutters,
install anchors for
plywood (marine plywood is best) and predrill holes in precut half-inch
outdoor plywood boards so that you can cover the windows of your home
Mark which board fits which window. Note: Tape does not prevent windows
from breaking, so taping windows is not recommended. Most homes
during recent hurricanes had no window protection. When wind enters a
through broken windows, the pressure builds against the walls and can
roofs, followed by collapsing walls.
- Install protection to the outside areas of
sliding glass doors.
Glass doors are as vulnerable as windows to breakage by wind-driven
- Well ahead of time, buy any other items needed
to board up windows and
protect your home. When a hurricane threatens, supplies are
sold out at many stores. Stock may not be replenished until after the
- Strengthen garage doors. Many houses
are destroyed by hurricane
winds that enter through damaged garage doors, lifting roofs, and
the remainder of the house.
- Have an engineer check your home and advise
about ways to make it more
resistant to hurricane winds. There are a variety of ways to
your home. Professionals can advise you of engineering requirements,
permits or requirements of local planning and zoning departments to
the most effective protection.
- Elevate coastal homes. Raising houses
to a certain height will make
them more resistant to hurricane-driven waters. There may be many local
codes affecting how and where homes can be elevated. Meet with your
manager or planning and zoning official for a description of the
to have your home elevated. There may also be community funds available
for such measures.
- If you live in a flood plain or are prone to
flooding, also follow flood
preparedness precautions. Hurricanes can bring great amounts
and frequently cause floods. Some hurricanes have dropped more than 10
inches of rain in just a few hours.
Media and Community Education Ideas
- Publish a special section in your local newspaper with
on hurricanes. Localize the information by printing the phone number of
local emergency services offices, the American Red Cross chapter, and
- Provide hurricane tracking charts to local schools.
- Work with local emergency services and American
Red Cross officials to prepare special reports to people
impairments on what to do if an evacuation is ordered.
- At the beginning of each hurricane season, encourage the
organizations to review community hurricane disaster plans.
- Publicize and promote a hurricane awareness week.
- Stage a simulated evacuation to show your community what
- Periodically inform your community of local public warning
- Publish emergency evacuation routes.
What to Do During a Hurricane WATCH
- Continue listening regularly to a NOAA Weather
Radio or local radio
or television stations for updated information. Hurricanes
direction, intensity, and speed very suddenly. What was a minor threat
several hours ago can quickly escalate to a major threat.
- Listen to the advice of local officials, and
evacuate if they tell you
to do so. Avoid flooded roads and watch for washed-out
an area that may be affected will help keep your family safe. Local
may call for evacuation in specific areas at greatest risk in your
Following the advice of local authorities is your safest protection.
officials may close down certain roads, especially near the coast, when
the outer effects of increasing wind and rain from a hurricane reach
- Prepare your property for high winds.
Hurricane winds can blow large,
heavy objects and send them crashing into homes. Anything not secured
become a deadly or damaging projectile.
- Bring lawn furniture inside, as well as outdoor
decorations or ornaments,
trash cans, hanging plants, or anything else that can be picked up by
- Make trees more wind resistant by removing diseased and
then strategically remove branches so that wind can blow through.
- Secure building by closing and boarding up each window of
your home. Remove
- Moor boat securely or move it to a designated safe place.
Use rope or chain
to secure boat to trailer. Use tie-downs to anchor trailer to the
- Fill your car's gas tank. If advised
to evacuate, you may have to
travel long distances or be caught in traffic, idling for long periods
of time. Gas stations along the route may be closed.
- Stock up on prescription medications.
Stores and pharmacies may
be closed after the storm.
- Recheck manufactured home tie-downs.
Manufactured homes may not
be as affected by strong winds if they are tied down according to the
instructions. Properly tied down homes are more likely to stay fixed to
- Check your Disaster
Supplies Kit. Some supplies
may need to be replaced or restocked.
- Turn refrigerator and freezer to coldest
setting. Open only when absolutely
necessary and close quickly. Keeping the coldest air in will
last much longer in the event of a power failure.
- Store valuables and personal papers in a safety
deposit box in a waterproof
container on the highest level of your home. Hurricanes leave
water damage inside homes. Historically, it is shown that protecting
in this manner will provide the best security.
- Turn off utilities if told to do so by
may ask you to turn off water or electric utilities to prevent damage
your home or within the community. Most of the time they will tell you
to leave the gas on because a professional is required to turn your gas
back on, and it may be several weeks before you receive service.
- Turn off propane tanks. Propane tanks
may be damaged or dislodged
by strong winds or water. Turning them off reduces the fire potential
they are damaged by the storm.
- Unplug small appliances. Small
appliances may be affected by electrical
power surges that may occur as the storm approaches. Unplugging them
- Review evacuation plan. Make sure your
planned route is the same
as the currently recommended route. Sometimes roads may be closed or
requiring a different route.
- Stay away from flood waters. If you
come upon a flooded road, turn
around and go another way. When you are caught on a flooded road and
are rising rapidly around you, if you can do so safely, get out of your
vehicle and climb to higher ground. Most hurricane-related deaths are
by floods, and most flood fatalities are caused by people attempting to
drive through water. The depth of water is not always obvious. The
may be washed out under the water, and you could be stranded or
Rapidly rising water may stall the engine, engulf the vehicle and its
and sweep them away. Two feet of water will carry away most automobiles.
What to Do During a Hurricane WARNING
- Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio,
or portable, battery- powered radio or television for updated
and official instructions. Hurricanes can change direction,
and speed very suddenly. Continue listening for local information.
- If officials announce a hurricane warning, they
may ask you to leave
your home as soon as possible to be safe. Take your Disaster Supplies
and go to a shelter or your family contact's home. Call your check-in
so someone will know where you are going. Local officials
only if they truly believe your location is in danger. It is important
to follow their instructions as soon as possible. Roads may become
and the storm can worsen, preventing safe escape. Having your disaster
supplies will make you more comfortable while you are away from home.
- If you are not advised to evacuate, stay
indoors, on the first floor
away from windows, skylights and glass doors, even if they are covered.
Stay on the floor least likely to be affected by strong winds and flood
waters. A small interior room without windows on the first floor is
the safest place. Have as many walls between you and the outside winds
as possible. Sometimes strong winds and projectiles may tear hurricane
shutters off, so stay away from windows even if they are covered. Lie
the floor under a table or other sturdy object. Being under a sturdy
will offer greater protection from falling objects.
- Close all interior doors. Secure and brace
external doors. Closed
doors will help prevent damaging hurricane winds from entering
- Have a supply of flashlights and extra batteries
handy. Avoid using
open flames (candles and kerosene lamps) as a source of light.
provide the safest emergency lighting source. Between 1984
candle-related deaths from home fires following hurricanes were three
greater than the number of deaths related to the direct impact of the
Kerosene lamps require a great deal of ventilation and are not designed
for indoor use.
- Store drinking water in clean bathtubs, sinks,
plastic bottles, and
cooking utensils. Public water supplies and wells may become
or electric pumps may be inoperative if power is lost. Survivors of
disasters have said the individual's greatest need following the
- If power is lost, turn off major appliances to
reduce the power "surge"
when electricity is restored. When electricity is restored,
from many major appliances starting at the same time may cause damage
destroy the appliances. Turning off or unplugging major appliances will
allow you to decide when it is best to turn them back on.
- If in a mobile home, check tie-downs and
evacuate immediately. Historically,
manufactured homes suffer the greatest amount of damage during
Prior to 1994, most manufactured homes were not designed to withstand
- Be aware that the calm "eye" is deceptive; the
storm is not over.
The worst part of the storm will happen once the eye passes over and
winds blow from the opposite direction. Trees, shrubs, buildings, and
objects damaged by the first winds can be broken or destroyed by the
winds. The opposing winds begin suddenly, and have surprised and
many people who ventured out during the eye.
- Watch out for flooding. Hurricanes and
tropical storms often drop
large amounts of rainfall and cause severe flooding, even when they are
weakening or are no longer a named storm. "Weak" tropical storms are
as capable of producing heavy rainfall and flooding as major hurricanes.
- Be alert for tornadoes. Tornadoes can
happen during and after a
hurricane passes over. Remain indoors on a lower level, in the center
your home, in a closet or bathroom without windows. Going below ground,
such as to a basement or storm cellar, increases your risk from flood.
What to Do if Evacuation Is Necessary
- Leave as soon as possible (if possible, in
daylight). Avoid flooded
roads and watch for washed-out bridges. Roads and bridges frequently
crowded and traffic moves slow. Evacuation will probably take longer
expected. Give yourself plenty of time.
- Secure your home by unplugging appliances and
turning off electricity
and the main water valve. This will reduce potential damage
appliances (from power surges) and to your home.
- Tell someone outside of the storm area where you
are going. Relatives
and friends will be concerned about your safety. Letting someone know
travel plans will help relieve their fear and anxiety.
- If time permits, and you live in an identified
surge zone or area prone
to flooding, move furniture to a higher floor. Moving
helps reduce potential damage.
- Bring preassembled emergency supplies and warm
People frequently arrive at shelters or hotels with nothing. Having
items will make you more comfortable in other locations.
- While shelters provide a safe place to stay and
food, specialty items
for infants and individuals on restricted diets may not be available.
It may take several days until permission is given by local authorities
to re-enter an evacuated area. Bring these items with you to
- First aid kit, manual, and prescription
- Baby food and diapers.
- Cards, games, books.
- Battery-powered radio and extra batteries.
- Flashlight (one per person) and extra
- Blankets or sleeping bags.
- Valuable papers (copies of insurance papers,
passports, and other essential
- Lock up your home and leave. There may
be individuals evacuating
after you, or returning before you. Police may be busy with
emergencies and not able to patrol neighborhoods as usual. Lock your
as you normally would when leaving home.
What to Do After a Hurricane
Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
Telephone lines are
frequently overwhelmed in disaster situations. They need to be clear
emergency calls to get through
- Continue listening to local radio or television
stations or a NOAA Weather
Radio for information and instructions. Access may be limited
parts of the community, or roads may be blocked.
- If you evacuated, return home when local
officials tell you it is safe.
Local officials on the scene are your best source of information on
areas and passable roads.
- Stay alert for extended rainfall and subsequent
flooding, even after
the hurricane or tropical storm has weakened. Hurricanes may
or change direction when they make landfall, or they may bring a lot of
rain upriver, causing additional flood hazards for hours or days after
- Stay away from flood waters. Drive
only if absolutely necessary
and avoid flooded roads and washed-out bridges. Continue to follow all
flood safety messages. Flood waters may last for days following a
If you come upon a flooded road, turn around and go another way. When
you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around
if you can safely get out of the car, do so immediately and climb to
ground. Never try to walk, swim, or drive through such swift water.
flood fatalities are caused by people attempting to drive through water
or people playing in high water. If it is moving swiftly, even water
inches deep can sweep you off your feet, and two feet can carry away
- If you come upon a barricade, follow detour
signs or turn around and
go another way. Barricades are put up by local officials to
people from unsafe roads. Driving around them can be a serious risk.
- Stay on firm ground. Moving water only
six inches deep can sweep
you off your feet. Standing water may be electrically charged from
or downed power lines.
- Help injured or trapped persons. Give
first aid where appropriate.
Do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate
of further injury. Call for help.
- Help a neighbor who may require special
assistance - infants, elderly
people and people with disabilities. Elderly people and
disabilities may require additional assistance. People who care for
or who have large families may need additional assistance in emergency
- Avoid disaster areas. Your presence
might hamper rescue and other
emergency operations, and put you at further risk from the residual
of floods, such as contaminated waters, crumbled roads, landslides,
and other hazards.
- Avoid loose or dangling power lines; immediately
report them to the
power company, police, or fire department. Reporting
will get the utilities turned off as quickly as possible, preventing
hazard and injury.
- Electrical equipment should be checked and dried
before being returned
to service. Call an electrician for advice before using
which may have received water damage.
- Stay out of the building if water remains around
the building. Flood
waters often undermine foundations, causing buildings to sink, floors
crack, or walls to collapse.
- When entering buildings, use extreme caution.
flood waters may have damaged buildings where you least expect it.
watch every step you take.
- Wear sturdy shoes. The most common
injury following a disaster is
- Use battery-powered lanterns or flashlights
when examining buildings.
Battery-powered lighting is the safest and easiest, preventing fire
for the user, occupants, and building.
- Examine walls, floors, doors, staircases, and
windows to make sure that
the building is not in danger of collapsing.
- Inspect foundations for cracks or other damage.
Cracks and damage
to a foundation can render a building uninhabitable.
- Look for fire hazards. There may be
broken or leaking gas lines,
flooded electrical circuits, or submerged furnaces or electrical
Flammable or explosive materials may come from upstream. Fire is the
frequent hazard following floods.
- Check for gas leaks. If you smell
gas or hear a blowing or hissing
noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas,
using the outside main valve if you can, and call the gas company from
a neighbor's home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be
back on by a professional.
- Look for electrical system damage.
If you see sparks or broken or
frayed wires, or if you smell burning insulation, turn off the
at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water
get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first for
Electrical equipment should be checked and dried before being returned
- Check for sewage and water line damage.
If you suspect sewage lines
are damaged, avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes
are damaged, contact the water company, and avoid using water from the
tap. You can obtain safe water from undamaged water heaters or by
- Watch out for animals, especially poisonous
snakes, that may have come
into buildings with the flood waters. Use a stick to poke through
Flood waters flush many animals and snakes out of their homes.
- Watch for loose plaster, drywall, and ceilings
that could fall.
- Take pictures of the damage, both of the
building and its contents,
for insurance claims.
- Open windows and doors to ventilate and dry
- Check refrigerated food for spoilage.
If power was lost, some foods
may be spoiled.
- Avoid drinking or preparing food with tap
water until you are certain
it is not contaminated. Hurricane-driven flood waters may
public water supplies or wells. Local officials should advise you on
safety of the drinking water. Undamaged water heaters or melted ice
can provide good sources of fresh drinking water.
- Pump out flooded basements gradually (about
one-third of the water per
day) to avoid structural damage. If the water is pumped out
in a short period of time, pressure from water on the outside could
basement walls to collapse.
- Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits,
and leaching systems
as soon as possible. Damaged sewage systems are health
Produced by the National Disaster
Education Coalition: American
Red Cross, FEMA,
IAEM, IBHS, NFPA, NWS, USDA/CSREES,
and USGS. HTML
formating By the
From: Talking About Disaster: Guide for Standard
by the National Disaster Education Coalition, Washington, D.C., 1999.