When a hurricane rears up and heads for the Lone Star State, it can bring anything from drenching rain and street flooding to tornadoes and devastating storm surges. How you are affected depends on the power of the storm when it makes landfall and where you live in Texas.
If you live along the coast, the immediate threats come from the Gulf of Mexico in the form of high winds and storm surge — both of which can damage or destroy your home and put your family in harm’s way. If you live further inland, the main threats are high winds (even tornados) and severe flooding — all of which can leave long-lasting effects. To help you and your family prepare, let’s review the basic things you need to do when a hurricane is heading for the Lone Star State.
1) Stay Informed!
Listen to the news and weather reports. Hurricane headings and conditions can change hourly. NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR) broadcasts continuous weather information for Texas directly from the nearest National Weather Service office.
2) Know Your Storm!
Cyclone systems are rated according to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
- A tropical storm is an organized storm system with a defined surface circulation. Maximum sustained winds range from 39 mph to 73 mph.
- Category 1 hurricanes have a defined eye in its center. Maximum sustained winds range from 74-95 mph will produce some damage to homes, snapped tree limbs, and power line damage.
- Category 2 hurricanes come with maximum sustained winds ranging from 96-110 mph. These are capable of extensive damage to roofs, uprooting trees, and near-total power loss.
- Category 3 hurricanes produce maximum sustained winds from 111-129 mph. Devastating damage to homes, including roof decking and gable ends torn off. Most trees will be uprooted. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks.
- Category 4 hurricanes produce catastrophic winds at 130-156 mph. Most homes will be severely damaged; trees snapped or uprooted, and utility damage may take months to repair. In 2008, Hurricane Gustav produced a wind gust of 211 mph in western Cuba, one of the highest wind speeds ever recorded.
- Category 5 hurricanes pack sustained winds at 157 mph or higher that destroy most homes and other buildings. Affected areas will be uninhabitable for weeks or months. Hurricane Allen (1980) still holds the Atlantic basin record for highest sustained winds — 190 mph.
3) Follow the Landfall Probability
This is usually represented on weather maps as “uncertainty cones” showing where a hurricane will likely head and at what strength.
4) Organize Your Emergency Supplies
One of the most important things you can do is to assemble a basic emergency supply kit for your family. All of the top emergency authorities — US Coast Guard, FEMA, RedCross, and the CDC —all agree on packing these first:
- 5 gallons of drinking water per person which should last for three to five days. These should be seal-able such as a plain water cooler bottle or a camping jug.
- Nonperishable food for 3 to 7 days, including baby formula, a can opener, and eating utensils. If power fails, your refrigerator will keep food cold longer if the door is opened only when necessary. Don’t forget nonperishable foods for your pets.
- Plastic trash bags, moist towelettes, and toilet paper. Sanitation is vital to prevent disease. Keep garbage in closed containers and away from the living area such as in the garage or an unused room until you can properly dispose of them.
- First aid kit as well as medications and personal hygiene items (soap, toothpaste, feminine products, and diapers). Also include household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper for making disinfectant.
- Flashlight and tools. If the power goes out, avoid using candles. Keep handy enough flashlights for each family member. Also pack a battery-powered radio, extra batteries, and a box of strike anywhere matches. Solar powered chargers are also really handy. Remember that you’ll also want a basic tool set containing at least a hammer, screw drivers, pliers, and utility knife.
You should also keep handy:
- Family and emergency contact information
- Multipurpose tool
- Copies of important documents such as insurance cards, immunization records, etc.
- Extra cash
- Map(s) of the area
- Extra set of car keys and house keys
5) Make an Emergency Plan for Your Family
Hurricanes are part of life in Texas and being prepared for one can make all the difference in your family’s safety. Check out TexasPrepares.org for checklist, planning guides, and more so you can be ready when a storm hits.