A hurricane or typhoon is a type of tropical cyclone, or severe tropical storm. They form in almost all ocean basins. A typical cyclone is accompanied by thunderstorms, and in the Northern Hemisphere, a counterclockwise circulation of winds near the earth's surface (clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere).
All Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas are subject to hurricanes. Parts of the Southwest United States and the Pacific Coast also experience heavy rains and floods each year from hurricanes spawned off Mexico. The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June to November, with the peak season from mid-August to late October. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15 and ends November 30.
In the Pacific and Indian Oceans, typhoons can affect all land masses from Asia to the Middle East to Australia.
Hurricanes and typhoons can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland. They can produce winds exceeding 155 miles per hour as well as tornadoes and microbursts. Additionally, hurricanes and typhoons can create storm surges along the coast and cause extensive damage from heavy rainfall. Floods and flying debris from the excessive winds are often the deadly and destructive results of these weather events. Slow moving hurricanes and typhoons traveling into mountainous regions tend to produce especially heavy rain. Excessive rain can trigger landslides or mud slides. Flash flooding can occur due to intense rainfall.
Between 1970 and 1999, more people lost their lives from freshwater inland flooding associated with tropical cyclones than from any other weather hazard related to such storms.
Hurricane and Typhoon Preparedness Checklist
- Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan
- Know your surroundings
- Learn the elevation level of your property and whether the land is flood-prone, which will help you know how your property will be affected when storm surge or tidal flooding are forecasted
- Identify levees and dams in your area and determine whether they pose a hazard to you
- Learn community hurricane evacuation routes and how to find higher ground
- Determine where you would go and how you would get there if you needed to evacuate
- Make plans to secure your property:
- Cover all of your home's windows with permanent storm shutters or 5/8 inch marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install (tape does not prevent windows from breaking!)
- Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure
- Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed so they are more wind resistant
- Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts
- Reinforce your garage doors; if wind enters a garage it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage
- Plan to bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down
- Determine how and where to secure your boat
- Install a generator for power outages
- If in a high-rise building, be prepared to take shelter on or below the 10th floor
- Consider building a safe room
During a Hurricane or Typhoon
- Listen to the radio or TV for information, and keep your weather radio handy
- Secure your home, close storm shutters and secure outdoor objects or bring them indoors
- Turn off utilities if instructed to do so. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed
- Turn off propane tanks
- Avoid using the phone, except for serious emergencies.
- Moor your boat if time permits.
- Ensure a supply of water for sanitary purpose such as cleaning and flushing toilets: fill the bathtub and other larger containers with water
- Find out how to keep food safe during and after and emergency
You should evacuate under the following conditions:
- If you are directed by local authorities to do so, and be sure to follow their instructions
- If you live in a mobile home or temporary structure—such shelter are particularly hazardous during 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
Read more about evacuating yourself and your family. If you are unable to evacuate, go to your wind-safe room. If you do not have one, follow these guidelines:
- Stay indoors during the hurricane and away from windows and glass doors
- Close all interior doors, secure and brace external door.
- Keep curtains and blinds closed. Do not be fooled if there is a lull; it could be the eye of the storm, and winds will pick up again
- Take refuge in a small interior room, closet or hallway on the lowest level
- Lie on the floor under a table or another sturdy object
- Avoid elevators.