No matter what else is happening in the world—pandemic, recession, civil unrest—you can be sure of one thing. We’ll still have to plan for hurricane season. Hurricanes, like tornadoes, aren’t going to stop forming just because our headlines are focusing on other events. And they aren’t going to be any less deadly, either.
The Atlantic hurricane season officially lasts from June 1st to November 30th, generally peaking in September. Of course, hurricanes, like tornadoes, don’t always respect the calendar and can form outside of these months.
Hurricanes, and the tornadoes, high winds, and flood waters that they bring with them, won't take a break this year (or any year). So it’s up to you to be as prepared as possible. Know where your nearest community shelter is. Make sure, also, that it will be open to you. And figure out exactly how you’ll get there.
You should also have a hurricane preparedness kit ready. And because we are still in the midst of a pandemic, your complete kit should contain additional pandemic-related items. Read on to learn more about hurricanes and the extra precautions you can take to protect yourself during the 2020 hurricane season.
First of all, we should say a bit about hurricanes themselves. Hurricanes are huge, rotating, low-pressure storm systems (tropical cyclones) that form over tropical or subtropical ocean waters. They bring with them strong winds and heavy rainfall. These hazards can cause tornadoes, flooding, and the associated potential for loss of life and destruction of property.
You may recognize a hurricane by the distinctive “eye” in its center. This is an area of calm surrounded by the storm’s fierce rotation. The “eyewall” which encircles the eye, closest to it, has the strongest winds.
A hurricane has winds that blow at 74 mph or higher. Tropical storms have winds just below that, falling in the range of 39-73 mph. Tropical depressions have winds that max out at less than 39 mph.
The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale divides hurricanes into five categories (labeled category 1-5) based on their sustained wind speeds. Any storm designated category 3 or above (those with winds at or exceeding 111 mph) is a “major hurricane.” Category 5 hurricanes can have sustained winds exceeding 180 mph and gusts that reach 200 mph.
Are Hurricanes, Cyclones, and Typhoons Different?
We have used the word “cyclone” in talking about hurricanes. You may be wondering what the difference is between a hurricane and a cyclone. And, how do typhoons fit in?
Hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons are all the same types of storm systems. This is true even though we use the word “cyclone” generically to describe large rotating storms. The differences lie in where they originate. Hurricanes form in the North Atlantic Ocean or in the Caribbean, and also on the North American side of the North Pacific Ocean. Typhoons are storms that form in the North Pacific Ocean but closer to Asia. Rotating storms that form in the Southern Hemisphere and throughout the Indian Ocean (even the parts of it that are north of the equator) are known simply as cyclones.
Incidentally, the winds of tropical cyclones move counter-clockwise north of the equator and clockwise south of the equator, due to the Coriolis Effect.
Hurricanes Versus Tornadoes
Unlike tornadoes, hurricanes can be tracked well before they strike land. Their movements are more predictable. Whereas tornadoes may strike with little to no warning, meteorologists often identify hurricanes days before they make landfall. Tornadoes may rampage through an area quickly—destroying homes in as little as four seconds—while hurricanes may linger for days.
Because meteorologists track hurricanes and warn members of the public in advance of their arrival on land, evacuation from the soon-to-be-affected area is a real option for most people. But there are those who are not able to evacuate, for a variety of reasons.
For these people, a dedicated storm shelter is still the best protection against the heavy winds and flying debris that these severe weather systems bring.
Community Storm Shelters and Hurricanes
Yes, Survive-a-Storm designs and builds our storm shelters to be strong enough to protect occupants during a hurricane, and, of course, from tornadoes that are spawned by hurricanes.
It’s important to note, however, that FEMA guidelines call for different occupancy numbers for hurricane shelters compared to tornado shelters. That’s because hurricanes are much longer-lasting storms, meaning that persons seeking shelter may need to do so for a greater length of time.
FEMA P-361, which provides guidelines for community safe rooms, advises that a standing or seated person be allotted at least 20 square feet of floor space in a hurricane shelter. This is a fourfold increase over the space that this same person needs to have in a tornado shelter (that is, five square feet). Individuals in wheelchairs and those in medical beds also require more space in community safe rooms during hurricanes (20 square feet and 40 square feet, respectively, compared to just 10 square feet and 30 square feet).
Community Storm Shelters, Hurricanes, and COVID-19
If you can’t evacuate to escape the projected path of a hurricane, then a dedicated storm shelter is the safest place for you to be. At Survive-a-Storm, we design, build, and install our storm shelters to withstand the strongest winds any hurricane or tornado can bring.
Some of you may worry about taking refuge in community shelters during the COVID-19 pandemic. We always stress that a shelter is still the safest place to be when severe weather is heading your way. This is true for both hurricanes and tornadoes.
We repeat: Don’t let your fears about the pandemic prevent you from taking proper shelter during a hurricane. You should take refuge in a community shelter if a hurricane is headed your way. Do this just as you would if your county were placed under a Tornado Warning.
Hurricane Preparedness Kits and Extra Precautions
There is no reason why you can’t (and shouldn’t) protect yourself from both severe weather and the pandemic. One way to do this is to take additional precautions when assembling your hurricane preparedness kit.
Under normal circumstances, a hurricane preparedness kit should contain, at a minimum, water, non-perishable food, a flashlight, a NOAA weather radio, extra batteries, a first-aid kit, and any prescription medications you or your family members will need.
In the age of COVID-19, you should equip your hurricane preparedness kit with some additional items that can help you to stay safe while seeking refuge in a community storm shelter. Remember that you may be sheltering in close quarters with others. Make sure that your kit has a supply of masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer. It’s wise to play it safe, wherever you are.
Survive-a-Storm Will Keep Your Community Safe
Whether you’re seeking a community storm shelter to protect your business, your school, your mobile home park, or your neighborhood, Survive-a-Storm has you covered. We have above ground shelters, underground shelters, and transitional shelters to protect your community, no matter who's in it.
Contact us at 1-888-360-1492 today! Find out how we can protect your community from hurricanes, tornadoes, and other severe weather events.[Read more]