About Hurricanes

If we look at past hurricane events, they show us that lack of hurricane awareness
and preparation are common threads among all major hurricane disasters. By knowing your vulnerability, developing an emergency plan and keeping an emergency kit, you can reduce the effects of a hurricane's impact on you or your family.

There are many hazards associated with hurricanes, including storm surge, heavy rainfall, inland flooding, high winds, tornadoes, and rip currents. Of these, storm surge has the most potential for loss of life on the coast.

Storm Surge

Storm surge is an abnormal rise in sea level accompanying a hurricane or other intense storm. This advancing surge combines with the normal tides and increases the water level to heights that will impact roads, homes, and other critical infrastructure. This rise of water can cause severe flooding in coastal areas, particularly when the storm tide coincides with the normal high tide.

Storm Surge

Hurricane Strength Scale

Hurricanes are classified into five categories based on their wind speed, central pressure, and damage potential. Hurricane categories do not account for storm surge.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale
Category Sustained Winds Types of Damage Due to Hurricane Winds
1 74 - 95 Very dangerous winds will produce some damage
Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.
2 96 - 110 Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage
Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.
3 111 - 129 Devastating damage will occur
Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.
4 130 - 156 Catastrophic damage will occur
Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
5 > 156 Catastrophic damage will occur
A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

Watches & Warnings

Unlike locations further inland, any tropical weather (tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes) is cause for concern on the Island. Because most of the Island is close to sea level, storm surge and wind shear pose a greater threat.

The National Hurricane Center uses watches and warnings to inform the public of possible impacts from a storm. Familiarize yourself with the terms used to identify a tropical weather threat.

Tropical Storm Watch

  • Sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph possible within the specified area within 48 hours.
  • Conditions associated with a tropical, subtropical, or post-tropical cyclone.

Tropical Storm Warning

  • Sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph expected somewhere within specified area within 36 hours.
  • Conditions associated with a tropical, subtropical, or post-tropical cyclone.

Hurricane Watch

  • Sustained winds of 74 mph or higher possible within the specified area.
  • Conditions associated with a tropical, subtropical, or post-tropical cyclone.
  • Alert issued 48 hours in advance of anticipated tropical storm force winds.

Hurricane Warning

  • Sustained winds of 74 mph or higher expected somewhere within the specified area.
  • Conditions associated with a tropical, subtropical, or post-tropical cyclone.
  • Alert issued 36 hours in advance of anticipated tropical storm force winds.
  • The warning can remain in effect when dangerously high water or a combination of dangerously high water and waves continue, even though winds may be less than hurricane force.