Until Hurricane Michael hit Florida’s Panhandle last year, that area of the state was considered less vulnerable than the eastward parts that jut out into the Atlantic Ocean’s preferred path for big storms. Hurricane season begins on June 1st and lasts six months, with storm threats typically peaking in August and September. But a major storm can target any part of Florida at any time.
First, know your hurricane facts and understand common terms used during hurricane forecasts. Storm conditions can vary on the intensity, size and even angle.
Tropical depressions are cyclones with winds of 38 mph. Tropical storms vary in wind speeds from 39-73 mph while hurricanes have winds 74 mph and greater.
- Tropical storm watch: Tropical storm conditions are possible in the area.
- Hurricane watch: Hurricane conditions are possible in the area. Watches are issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical storm force winds.
- Tropical storm warning: Tropical storm conditions are expected in the area.
- Hurricane warning: Hurricane conditions are expected in the area. Warnings are issued 36 hours in advance of tropical storm force winds.
- Eye: Clear, sometimes well-defined center of the storm with calmer conditions.
- Eye wall: Surrounding the eye, contains some of the most severe weather of the storm with the highest wind speed and largest precipitation.
- Rain bands: Bands coming off the cyclone that produce severe weather conditions such as heavy rain, wind and tornadoes.
- Storm surge: An often underestimated and deadly result of ocean water swelling as a result of a landfalling storm, and quickly flooding coastal and sometimes areas further inland.
Predicting a tropical cyclone’s path can be challenging – there are many global and local factors that come into play. Forecasters’ computers take huge amounts of data and try to predict where the storm will go and usually are 2-3 days out. This is where you hear the terms “computer models” and “spaghetti models” being used. Generally, the forecast track or path is given using the average consensus of these models.
The National Hurricane Center has the most up-to-date information on tropical cyclone developments, forecasts and weather alerts, discussions analyzing the data and more.
It’s important to create a kit of supplies you could take with you if forced to evacuate. This kit will also be useful if you are able to stay in your home but are affected by the storm, such as through a power loss. One common trend seen when hurricanes are approaching is a wide-spread panic. If you prepare a kit ahead of time, you can alleviate a lot of the potential stress of a very chaotic situation.
Recommended hurricane kit items
- Non-perishable food (enough to last at least 3 days)
- Water (enough to last at least 3 days)
- First-aid kit (include prescription medication)
- Personal hygiene items and sanitation items
- Flashlights (have extra batteries)
- Battery operated radio
- Waterproof container with cash and important documents
- Manual can opener
- Lighter or matches
- Books, magazines, games for recreation
- Special needs items: pet supplies and baby supplies, if applicable
- Cooler and ice packs
- An evacuation plan
Securing a home
- Cover all windows with hurricane shutters or wood. Note: While tape can prevent glass from shattering everywhere, it does not prevent the window from breaking
- If possible, secure straps or clips to securely fasten your roof to the structure of your home.
- Trim all trees and shrubs, and clear rain gutters.
- Reinforce garage doors
- Bring in outdoor furniture, garbage cans, decorations and anything else not tied down
- If winds become strong, stay away from windows and doors, and close, secure and brace internal doors.
In the event a storm leaves you without power, there are a few things to consider:
- Gas: Make sure your car’s tank is full far in advance of an approaching storm. Most people wait until the last minute, rush to get extra gas for cars and generators, and gas stations can run out.
- Money: ATMs can run out of money if everyone tries to use them quickly, and they can shut down completely if the power goes out.
- Cell phones: Charge cell phones pre-storm and limit use if the power goes out.
- A/C: Try to prevent as much light from entering and warming the house by covering up windows on the inside. If you have back-up or battery-operated fans, don’t run them unless you’re in the room.
- Water: Fill bathtubs and large containers with water for washing and flushing only.
- Food: Turn your fridge temperature down and/or freeze any food or drinking water that can be frozen if you expect a power outage.
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