Hurricanes are among nature’s most powerful natural disasters. With destructive flood waters and winds that could exceed 150 miles per hour, it only takes one storm to dramatically change the landscape of a community. The state of Florida has a long history of hurricanes and tropical storms making landfall. All Florida residents and visitors must ensure they have a plan in place to keep their families, loved ones, and property safe well before the next hurricane strikes. This page includes life-saving information and external resources that will prepare you, your family or your business for the threat of tropical storms.
Storm surge is flooding caused by the force of high winds pushing sea or inland waters onto shore, and for many, it is the primary threat faced during a hurricane. Storm surge is not limited to hurricanes, nor is it limited to water from the sea. Tropical storms with lower wind speeds can be devastating. As an example, tropical storm Allison produced more than 40 inches of rain in the Houston area in 2001, causing about $5 billion in damage and taking the lives of 41 people. Winds from the 1928 Lake Okeechobee Hurricane generated storm surge from Lake Okeechobee, which killed more than 1800 people.
In addition to storm surge, inland flooding caused by heavy rainfall also poses a significant threat. A mere six inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. It takes only two feet of rushing water to carry away most vehicles –including large pickup trucks and SUVs. For this reason, it is critically important that you follow the instructions of your local emergency management officials closely and if asked to evacuate, then do so. Even if you are in an area where storm surge may not be a concern, you could remain isolated for weeks before the help you need arrives.
While storm surge and flooding are the primary risks associated with hurricanes and tropical storms, strong winds and tornadoes also pose a very real threat, and will uproot trees and take down power lines. If you are unable to evacuate, you must have a plan in place to keep yourself alive until after the storm passes, and emergency responders can safely assist you.
The threat from hurricanes and tropical storms may be present well in advance of the storm making landfall. In the days leading up to a hurricane landfall, the strong winds and changing seas can combine to cause dangerous waves and rip currents that pose a significant hazard to areas along the coast. These strong waves and rip currents often occur well in advance of the approaching storm – even if the skies appear to be clear.
So, what should you do to prepare for a hurricane?
First and foremost, you need to get a plan. Know your zone. If you live in an evacuation zone, decide now where your family will evacuate, and which essential items you will need to safely do so. In many cases, you need only move a few miles inland to avoid the dangers of flooding and storm surge.
Once you understand hurricane risks and potential impacts, you should create a safety plan. This plan should be comprehensive and should identify all of the steps you need to take before, during, and after a disaster to ensure your family and property are safe. Visit Florida’s “Get a Plan” website. This easy-to-use, interactive website will generate a personalized disaster plan for you, your family, and your business. The Florida Division of Emergency Management website also contains a vast amount of preparedness knowledge, including links to resources in your local community.