Hurricane season in the U.S. reaches its peak from August to October, but that doesn’t mean they can’t hit earlier or later. The full season runs from June to November, making now the perfect time to get prepared for weather to come throughout the summer and fall.
Let’s take a look at this year’s forecast and a pre-storm checklist that will see you through the season safely.
Understanding hurricane terminology
The first step to being prepared is understanding what weather reports are saying. When it comes to hurricanes, there are a few key terms to know:
- Hurricane watch. This means the area may see hurricane conditions in the next 48 hours.
- Hurricane warning. This means the area will see sustained winds of 74 mph or higher in the next 36 hours.
- Named storm. This is a storm that causes winds of 39 mph or higher. Storms are reclassified as hurricanes when winds reach 74 mph or higher.
- Major hurricane. This is the name for hurricanes that fall into categories 3-5 on the wind scale, with five being the highest.
Major hurricanes are capable of extreme damage, including uprooted trees, flooding, downed power lines and extended outages, as well as home destruction.
2020 hurricane season predictions
This year the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting an above-average season across the Atlantic coast of the U.S. The predictions include:
- 13 to 19 named storms
- 6 to 10 which become hurricanes
- 3 to 6 which become major hurricanes
For context, an average season includes about 12 named storms. While there is a chance this season may be less severe than anticipated, NOAA is recommending all residents in hurricane zones begin to prepare now.
How to prepare for a hurricane
Preparing for a hurricane starts long before a watch or warning arrives. Start with preventative measures that won’t impact your daily life but will make it easier to get ready when storms arrive. When the weather turns, follow up with a few extra protections.
At the beginning of the season:
- Create an emergency kit. This includes any essential supplies you’ll need to survive for a few days.
- Install hurricane-proof windows and shutters. This is a larger upgrade that could pay off big time when it protects the inside of your home from storm wreckage.
- Buy surge protectors. Plug small electronics into these so it’s easy to switch everything off at once.
- Set your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest temperature. This way food will stay fresh for as long as possible if the power goes out.
- Designate a safe room. Pick an interior room without windows and make sure everyone knows where it is.
When a hurricane watch or warning is called:
- Bring patio furniture inside. This will minimize the risk of dangerous debris blowing around. Do this early on or not at all – do not go outside if the wind gets too strong,
- Turn off surge protectors. Keep them shut off for the duration of the storm.
- Unplug appliances and large electronics. This will protect them (and you) from electrical surges and floodwater.
- Prepare your safe room. Gather all family members and make sure all your essential supplies is in the room with you.
How to prepare your emergency kit
You should always have an emergency kit in your home, but especially during hurricane season. This kit should include everything you and the members of your household need to survive for at least 72 hours. This includes:
- Clean water. Tap water may not be safe to drink after an emergency. Keep one gallon or water per person per day.
- Non-perishable foods. This includes canned goods, dried fruits, and any other long-lasting items. Don’t forget food for your pet.
- Pack multiple.
- Backup power. Bring batteries and chargers for phones and flashlights. If you have a generator, you can use this for essential appliances.
- Store essentials in a dry, sealed container.
- First aid kit. Stock it with gauze, bandages, tweezers, alcohol swaps, and other sterile items.
- Also, sleeping bags and pillows. Seal these in a water-proof bag.
- Clean clothes. Take at least one extra outfit per family member.
- ATMS and card readers may be down.
- Or anything else to help you get someone’s attention.
- Face masks. Bring coverings for everyone ages 2 and above as well as soap and hand sanitizer, as needed.
This is just a small selection of everything you could include in your kit. It will depend on the members of your household and your needs. For more options, see the Department of Homeland Security’s full list.
What not to do during a hurricane
As with any emergency, there are also a few things you absolutely should not do during a hurricane. Stay away from all bodies of water and avoid stepping in puddles. Be especially aware in areas near downed power lines or damaged electrical equipment. During a hurricane, you may notice a period of calm. Do not go outside until you have confirmation that the storm is over. Additionally, don’t drink the tap water until you have heard from local authorities that it is safe.
Throughout the season, be overly cautious and make sure to pay attention to all weather alerts, regardless of what you’re seeing outside your window. Prepare now to keep yourself and your family safe later. Visit the National Hurricane Center for current alerts and more information.