Storm systems travel across water and threaten coastal regions (e.g., Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, Hawaii, Pacific, and other coastal areas over 100 miles inland) each year. These storm systems bring strong winds and heavy rainfall that can lead to coastal flooding, structural damage to inland infrastructure, rip currents, water spouts, and tornadoes. The storms are most commonly referred to as hurricanes or their lesser counterparts, tropical storms. The Atlantic hurricane season is from June 1st to November 30th each year. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season runs May 15th through November 30th (DHS n.d.).
From lowest to highest severity, hurricanes are rated from Category 1 to Category 5 (NOAA 2018). Hurricane ratings are summarized in the table below.
Wind Speed (mph)
Moderate damage; small trees down, root damage
Moderate to heavy damage; damage to homes, many trees down
Major damage to all structures
Severe damage to all structures
Hurricane Harvey devastated South Texas, damaging 203,000 homes and destroying 12,700 during August 2017. Two feet of water fell within the first 24 hours during this Category 4 storm. The devastation cost an estimated $125 billion to repair (Amadeo 2018).
Hurricane Irma hit the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean Sea as a Category 5 storm before it struck Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina as a Category 4 storm. It is estimated that Hurricane Irma caused more than $50 billion in damage (WV, 2018).
Though we cannot prevent a hurricane or tropical storm, we can take the following steps to ensure we are prepared to protect ourselves and our families (CDC 2017).
- Know if you live in a hurricane evacuation or flooding area. Research your local government or emergency-management office for additional information.
- Ensure you have an emergency kit. Your kit should include water, nonperishable food, flashlights, first-aid supplies, and a generator or storm shutters, if possible.
- Educate your family about your emergency-response plan before the storm. Decide how you will communicate with each other if you are in different locations, where you will meet following the storm, and safe places to wait during the storm.
- Avoid flooded areas during and after a flood.
Regularly review weather forecasts during storm season. To learn more about hurricanes, visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA 2018) Web page.
Amadeo, K. 2018. Hurricane Harvey Facts, Damage and Costs: What Made Harvey So Devastating. Available from: https://www.thebalance.com/hurricane-harvey-facts-damage-costs-4150087
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2017. Preparing for a Hurricane or Tropical Storm. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/features/hurricanepreparedness/index.html
Department of Homeland Security (DHS). n.d. Hurricanes. Available from: https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 2018. National Hurricane Center. Available from: https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/aboutsshws.php
World Vision (WV). 2018. Hurricane Irma: Facts, FAQs, and how to help. Available from: https://www.worldvision.org/disaster-relief-news-stories/hurricane-irma-facts