Categories of Hurricanes Defined – And How to Prepare for Them

Careful planning can help keep you safe before, during, and after a hurricane strikes. If you live in an area prone to hurricanes, this is a must-read!

Hurricanes can and do form in several areas of the world, including the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, or the eastern Pacific Ocean. These severe tropical depressions produce intense winds, heavy rains, devastating floods, and high waves. Hurricanes cause billions of dollars in damages.


Hurricanes come in different strengths; the weakest being a category one, the strongest being a category five.

Category One- Winds are 74-95 miles per hour with a 4-5 feet storm surge. The area may experience some minor flooding, damage to vegetation and mobile homes.

Category Two- Winds are 96-110 miles per hour with a 6-8 feet storm surge. Major flooding may occur as well as major damage to vegetation and mobile homes. Roofs, doors, and windows may be damaged.

Category Three- Winds are 111-130 miles per hour with a 9-12 feet storm surge. Residential buildings may be damaged structurally. Mobile homes may be destroyed. Flooding occurs farther inland with damage caused by loose debris.

Category Four- Winds are 131-155 miles per hour with a 13-18 feet storm surge. Flooding occurs well inland with major beach erosions. More extensive damage of residential areas occurs.

Category Five- Winds are 155+ miles per hour with an 18 feet storm surge. Massive evacuation of areas may be mandatory as residential structures and buildings may receive major damage. Small buildings may actually be blown away.

Early Preparation….

You turn on the television only to see that a hurricane is headed your way. Now what? First, make sure you know what supplies you may need. You may be facing days without power or running water. Check your emergency equipment. Do you have working flashlights? How is your supply of batteries? Do you have a working generator? Do you need one? How about a battery-operated radio? Do you know where your local evacuation shelter is located? These are questions you need to ask yourself in the event of such an emergency.

While you do have power, keep tabs on where the hurricane is and how much time you have before it affects your area. Just because the eye of the hurricane isn’t hurtling toward you doesn’t mean you won’t be affected. Widespread areas are affected in the wake of a hurricane. Keeping up with weather bulletins is a must.

Make sure you stock up on necessities such as water, non-perishable food, and medicine. If you have a baby, you’ll want to have an ample supply of baby food/formula on hand. Also, if you have pets, make sure you have plenty of pet food and water for them. After the hurricane, it may be days before you can make your way to a store to restock.

Keeping your vehicle’s gas tank filled is important. You may have to evacuate the area. Also, be sure to have plenty of cash on hand. If there’s no power, there are no working ATM’s. Ensure your washer, dryer, water heater, and furnace are located above potential floodwaters.

Secure your home inside and out. Be sure to store or tie down lawn items such as your patio furniture, grill, garbage cans, yard debris, etc. Anything can become a lethal object when combined with high winds. Also, use plywood as a deterrent to keep windows from shattering. If your trees have dead or hanging limbs, be sure to trim them as they could become projectiles in high winds.

During and After the storm….

Hope for the best but anticipate the worst. Determine the safest room in your house, if you choose to stay. A safe room should be located in the middle away from any windows if possible. In most dwellings this would be a centrally located bathroom. Put your emergency supplies in here where they will be accessible should you need them. Be sure to wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes. You may need to evacuate quickly. If you must evacuate, use the route designated by authorities. A short cut may be dangerous during the storm. Before leaving, post a note stating where you are going, then turn off all gas and electricity. If staying, unplug all electrical appliances except refrigerators and freezers. Turn them to their coldest settings to keep food from perishing as long as possible due to power failure. You may want to invest in a cooler to help foods stay cold. A full freezer can keep food cold for up to 48 hours. That time is cut in half for only half-filled freezers. After 2 hours of no power, a refrigerator begins to get too warm to keep food fresh and safe to consume. If it seems the power outage will be longer than 2 hours, pack perishables in coolers surrounded by ice. If you find that foods have been over 40 degrees for more than 2 hours, discard any meat, dairy products except for hard cheeses, refrigerated cakes, pies, or pastries, casseroles, soups, canned biscuits, and mayonnaise. (For a more complete listing, see the link below).

Remember safety above all. Watch out for downed power lines when venturing outside your home. If you’re resetting circuit breakers be sure to wear rubber-soled shoes and stand on something dry. If you have any doubts or cannot reset your breakers, call a licensed electrician. If you use a portable generator, NEVER use it indoors. Generators are made for outdoor use and are dangerous when used inside a dwelling, even a garage. If you need to be away from home, or are asleep at night, turn the generator off. Do not venture outside if lightning is present. Hundreds of people in the United States are struck each year. Staying away from the ocean is imperative during a hurricane. Large waves can cause devastating storm surges that can damage trees, vehicles, and buildings.

If you evacuate, let someone who is out of your area know when and where you’ll be going. Make sure you have a disaster kit in your car. A disaster kit should include a working flashlight, non-perishable food, a can opener, sleeping bags, water, toiletries, battery-operated radio, insect repellent, a fire extinguisher, prescription medication, your important papers, credit cards, cash, and a first aid kit.

After the storm, be sure to stay out of disaster areas. Some people who have survived hurricanes have been victims of electrocution. Do not turn on your utilities until you are sure it’s safe. If your home or property has been damaged during the storm, call your insurance company right away.

Hurricane preparedness is key to the safety of you and your loved ones. Becoming aware of the danger is just the first step. Preparing for what may occur will ensure your best chance of safety and survival in the face of these severe storms.

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