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Posted: May 16, 2018

Everything you need to know to prepare for hurricane season


By The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean begins June 1 and runs until Nov. 30. Officials agree that the best way to avoid catastrophic damage is to be proactive.

"Advance planning and preparation are essential for protecting property, reducing risk and ultimately saving lives," National Weather Service officials said in the introduction the NWS hurricane guide for the Southeast.

Charley English, former director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security said in a news release from 2014: "Learn your flood risk, create a ready kit for your home and car, and develop an evacuation and family communications plan."

GEMA said in that release that research shows "69 percent of Georgians do not know designated evacuation routes from their community, and 67 percent have not arranged a family meeting place or reconnection plan."

Ready Georgia provides a host of tools and information at its website.

It recommends evacuation:

• If you are directed by local authorities to do so. Be sure to follow their instructions.

• If you live in a mobile home or temporary structure – such shelters are particularly hazardous during a hurricane no matter how well fastened to the ground.

• If you live in a high-rise building – hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations.

• If you live on the coast, on a floodplain, near a river, or on an island waterway.

• You should be able to move your valuables within 15 minutes. 

Here are more tips to help you prep for the storms, from the NWS guide.

• Elevation matters: Are you in a flood or evacuation zone?

• Mobile homes: Check tie-downs and prepare to evacuate.

• Landscaping: Always trim trees, shrubbery and dead limbs, especially close to your home.

• Roofing: Inspect it for loose tiles, etc., and clear loose or clogged gutters and drainspouts.

• Doors: Reinforce garage doors and tracks or replace with a hurricane-tested door; and reinforce double-entry doors with heavy-duty foot and head bolts. Use security dead bolts with a minimum 1-inch bolt length.

• Windows: If possible, install hurricane shutters. Alternatively, use five-eighths inch (or greater) grade exterior plywood secured by 2 1/2 inch screws and/or special clips. 

• Renters need to prepare, too: Review your renter's and flood insurance; prepare to relocate to a lower floor

• For pets: Update their vaccinations and have proof; have a current photo; have properly sized pet carriers; pack enough food and water for the duration of the evacuation; and be sure to have proper ID collars. Read more.

The NWS also recommends preparing emergency evacuation kits for functional and medical needs clients, those clients who either require support to maintain their independence or support of trained medical professionals.

• Contact information, including doctor's contact

• Special equipment, if needed; and a list with style and serial numbers of included medical devices


Related

Everything you need to know to prepare for hurricane season

Everything you need to know to prepare for hurricane season

(Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

5 things to know before hurricane season

Here are five things the National Weather Service recommends to prepare for hurricane season, which starts June 1:

1. Be aware of risks in your area: Hurricanes can bring flooding and damaging winds, including tornadoes, to the area. Store outdoor objects such as patio furniture, trash cans or grills before they become deadly missiles during high winds. Move outdoor furniture and valuables to higher ground before flooding.

2. Assemble disaster supplies: Think about surviving the storm’s aftermath, too. Disaster supplies should include a week’s worth of nonperishable food, water and medicine for each person in your household, as well as extra cash, a battery-powered radio and flashlights. Consider getting a crank- or solar-powered charger for your cellphone.

3. Get an insurance checkup: See if you have enough homeowners insurance to repair or even replace your home. Standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding, which requires a separate policy. Act now, because flood insurance requires a 30-day waiting period.

4. Check on your neighbors: Because we often rely on neighbors after a disaster, use this week to start a conversation about neighborhood strategies.

5. Complete a written plan: Determine your emergency evacuation plan and assemble your contact list. Take photos of your valuables, including photos of serial numbers. Keep your important documents together for quick access.

  Why you should never use a generator during a storm
  Florida's 10 safest cities in a hurricane
  How to use internet during a storm when your internet is down
  Hurricane safety: 15 tips that could save your life during a storm
  Storm evacuations: How coin, frozen cup of water could keep you from getting sick
  Here's how to keep your pets safe during a hurricane
  Everything you need to know to prepare for hurricane season
  Family emergency supply kit must-haves
  How dangerous is a hurricane? Understanding hurricane categories

Why you should never use a generator during a storm

If you are in a mandatory evacuation area, you need to leave. If you feel unsafe in your home,  you should get out. If you are making a decision to stay, safety in the home should obviously be your No. 1 priority.

For many, a portable generator feels like a guarantee of a semblance of normalcy following a storm. While it can keep refrigerators on and fans or a small air conditioner running, there are dangers associated with using it.

Here are some tips on generators and why you should never use one during a storm.

From the National Safety Council

1. Always read and follow the manufacturer's operating instructions before running generator.

2. Engines emit carbon monoxide. Never use a generator inside your home, garage, crawl space or other enclosed areas. Fatal fumes can build up, and neither a fan nor open doors and windows can provide enough fresh air. 

3. Only use your generator outdoors, away from open windows, vents, or doors. 

4. Use a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector in the area in which you’re running a generator. 

5. Gasoline and its vapors are extremely flammable. Allow the generator engine to cool at least two minutes before refueling, and always use fresh gasoline. If you do not plan to use your generator in 30 days, don’t forget to stabilize the gas with fuel stabilizer. 

6. Maintain your generator according to the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule for peak performance and safety. 

7. Never operate the generator near combustible materials. 

8. If you have to use extension cords, be sure they are of the grounded type and are rated for the application. Coiled cords can get extremely hot; always uncoil cords and lay them in flat, open locations. 

9. Never plug your generator directly into your home outlet. That’s known as “backfeeding” and puts people in risk of electrocution – especially utility workers trying to reconnect electric power after the storm.

10. Generators produce powerful voltage. Never operate under wet conditions. Take precautions to protect your generator from exposure to rain.

11. Plug appliances directly into the generator, or use a heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cord that is rated, in watts or amps, at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads.  

 

Florida's 10 safest cities in a hurricane

There’s really no place that’s 100 percent safe in Florida when it comes to hurricanes.

Even Orlando got hit twice in 2004 by hurricanes Charley and Frances.

>> Read more trending news

And, although Florida enjoyed a more than 10-year hurricane drought after 2005’s Hurricane Wilma, Hurricane Hermine made landfall in the Florida Panhandle in 2016. 

Still, Homeinsurance.com has ranked Florida’s cities based on their evaluation of NOAA-identified storms from 1965 to October 2014, doling out scores based on the number of storm events, number of storm-related deaths, property damage and storm-related injuries.

The top 10 safest cities in Florida during a hurricane, according to the insurance study, are:

  1. Leesburg
  2. Orlando
  3. Sanford
  4. Kissimmee
  5. Palatka
  6. Lake City
  7. Naples
  8. Ocala
  9. Gainesville
  10. Fernandina Beach

The entire ranking is below.

Read more about the Home Insurance study here.

How to use internet during a storm when your internet is down

If you are near the forecasted path of a hurricane and you fear the loss of communications that will come when power and internet service is disrupted, don’t worry.

>> Read more trending news

While there’s not an app for that, there is a workaround, as long as you have cellular service.

During and after the storm, you may find that making phone calls becomes impossible, and that 3G and 4G internet service isn’t working, or at least not working well. The good news is that you may still be receiving text messages. 

A story from The Washington Post offers some tips on how to use Twitter in a situation where internet service is spotty. Twitter was originally a text-based service, so it lends itself well to such a use.

Here are a few other ways to keep in touch with the outside world:

Every phone has an email address, and every provider offers something called an email “gateway.” The gateway allows you to send and receive emails via the text message function on your phone.

Here, courtesy of HumanInet, is how to find your phone’s email address:

If you’re on Verizon, it’s yournumber@vtext.com (as in 5551234567@vtext.com), or if that doesn’t work, yournumber@vzwpix.com

If you’re on AT&T, it’s yournumber@txt.att.net, or if that doesn’t work yournumber@mms.att.net

If you’re on Sprint, it’s yournumber@messaging.sprintpcs.com

If you’re on T-Mobile, it’s yournumber@tmomail.net

(For other carriers, or to troubleshoot yours, check here.)

Once you have your gateway address, you’ll need to forward your email via SMS to that address.

To do that, go into “settings” in your phone and look for something like “add a forwarding address.” When you find that, type in your phone’s email address.

According to HumanInet, that method may not work on some phones. If you have a problem with your phone, you can use an automated forwarding service like TXTJet, they suggest.

If you want to send an email via text, you can enter you email address instead of a phone number.

If you want to get updates from Twitter accounts when the internet gets spotty, you can set up a SMS “Fast Follow.” You don’t even have to have a Twitter account to get updates from those you choose to follow.

You do this by texting “Follow (username)” to 40404. (Follow@nhc_atlantic to follow the National Hurricane Center, for instance).

You cannot use this function to post on Twitter, only to receive notices.

To post something on Twitter, the social media company says to do this:

Send a text to Twitter code [40404] with the word START.

Twitter will reply and ask you to text YES to the Twitter short code.

Text your username to the same number. Do not use the @ symbol or quotation marks. Send your username only. For example: larrybird

Next, text your password. This is case sensitive, so be sure you are sending your password correctly.

Then you can text messages to go out on your Twitter account.

If you can’t go without Facebook, even during a storm, activate Facebook via SMS by going to Facebook account settings and clicking “Mobile,” it’s on the left side of the page.

Turn on Facebook Message Forwarding and Notifications. After it’s set up, post by texting to 32665 or FBOOK.

You can even search Google by adding 466453 (GOOGLE) to your phonebook, then text to it to search.

Sources: Twitter, The Washington Post; HumanInet; Facebook; Google

 

Hurricane safety: 15 tips that could save your life during a storm

Here are some safety tips emergency management and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials are offering that could save your life during a hurricane:Evacuation

1. If you are ordered to evacuate, you need to evacuate. The best way to stay safe is to be away from the storm's landfall. The orders to evacuate are issued based on historical flood maps and the strength of the storm. 

2. A Category 5 hurricane will bring “catastrophic damage,” officials with the National Hurricane Center warn, adding that “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.”

3.  If you are in a mobile home, leave. Mobile homes will not survive a Category 5 hurricane.

4. Do not leave your pets at home, especially if they are outside.

If you stay

If you choose not to evacuate, or cannot leave, here are a few things you should do:

1. Get in a more secure room in your home – a closet or a bathroom without a window.

2. Stay on the bottom floor of your home unless water is rising.

3.  Do not go into your attic to escape rising water because you could get trapped. If you absolutely have to get in the attic to survive rising water, make sure you take an ax with you so you can cut a hole in the roof to escape.

4. If you are in an area that will flood, turn off electricity at the main breaker before water gets in your home to reduce the risk of electrocution.

5. Of course, do not try to go outside during the storm. Pieces of buildings, roofs, trees and other objects will be flying through the air.

6. Do not use candles as a light source – flashlights are what you need to use.

7. When you lose power, click here to see how you can use the internet.

During or after the storm

1. Do not use a generator during a storm.

2.  Never use portable generators inside a home, in your garage, in your basement or in a crawl space.

3. Generators produce carbon monoxide and if they are inside your house, your home can fill up with carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide will kill you if you breathe too much of it. If you are using a portable generator to power appliances in your home following the storm, make sure you have a carbon monoxide alarm. Appliances should be plugged directly into a generator. Do not hook the generator to your household electrical system. You can hurt yourself and kill utility workers when they begin to reconnect electricity to homes.

4. Do not get anywhere near standing water. It could contain live electric wires. If you come in contact with it, you could be electrocuted. If you see wires on the ground after the storm, assume they are live.

 The 5 ‘p’s of evacuation

 Don’t’ go farther than you have to

Storm evacuations: How coin, frozen cup of water could keep you from getting sick

If you evacuate because of a storm, here is one thing that you can do to help ensure you and your family members don’t get sick after returning to your home.

>> Read more trending news 

You may have seen this post on your Facebook feed. It suggests to putting a quarter on a cup of frozen water in the freezer before you leave. When you return, you can see if the quarter stayed put or if it sank. The sinking will tell you that the water melted. If the water in the cup melted then refroze, the same can be said for the food in the freezer.

But can you believe all of the tips and hacks you see on Facebook and other social media?

In this case, experts said yes, but with a slight change. 

The Houston Chronicle reported that instead of a quarter, you’ll want to use a penny.

That’s because pennies contain copper and copper is a better conductor of heat, Don Mercer told the Chronicle. Mercer is an associate professor in Food Science at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.

Mercer said that food will stay frozen in a freezer for about 24 hours, as long as you don’t open the freezer door to check on what is inside.

The coin/cup trick helps when you’re away and are not sure if there’s been an extended power outage. Mercer said if the contents of the freezer thawed and then refroze, you’d have no way of knowing without the hack. If food thaws then refreezes, microorganisms that were there before the first freeze can multiply, posing a threat of food poisoning. 

 

Here's how to keep your pets safe during a hurricane

Hurricane season begins every year on June 1. Here are some simple tips to keep your pets safe if you are in the path of a storm.

Prepare ahead for safety and comfort of your pet

Do not leave pets at home, especially if you live in an evacuation area. Even if they survive the storm, they might flee a damaged home and be lost in the chaos.

It might be difficult, if not impossible, to find shelter for your animals in the midst of a disaster, so plan ahead. Here are some options:

Hotels: Contact hotels and motels outside your area in advance to check policies on accepting pets and restrictions on number, size and species. Ask whether “no pet” policies could be waived. Keep a list of “pet-friendly” places, including phone numbers, with other disaster information. For an impending storm, call ahead for reservations. The Humane Society of the United States recommends the following websites to find pet-friendly lodgings.

Friends and relatives: Ask friends, relatives or others outside the area if they can shelter your animals. Make arrangements with neighbors to help evacuate pets in the event you can’t get home.

Pet-friendly shelters: Find out if pets will be permitted at an evacuation shelter.

If you haven’t already done so, get those shots now. Infectious diseases can become a big threat after a disaster.

If a pet becomes lost or escapes during the confusion of an evacuation, proper identification will increase the chances of a safe return home. Tag should include your cell number and, if space allows, the number of an out-of-town contact. Consider having your pet tattooed or having an ID microchip implanted.

You will need a pet carrier or cage for each dog, cat, bird or small animal. Make sure it is large enough for each pet to stand up and turn around comfortably.

Take clear, color photos (frontal, left and right sides) of you with your pet, and store these with your pet’s license, medical records and ownership papers in a waterproof carrier to take with you. Include pictures of the pet with you to help with any challenge to your ownership. Take photos with your cellphone so they’re stored there as well.

Set up a pet disaster kit

Put together a pet disaster kit with medications and medical records in a waterproof container, a leash and collar or harness for each pet, non-spill food and water dishes, a 14-day supply of food, water in non-breakable containers, a manual can opener, grooming supplies, your pet’s blanket and a favorite toy, cleanser and disinfectant to handle waste, newspapers or litter, paper towels and plastic bags.

Everything you need to know to prepare for hurricane season

Hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean begins June 1 and runs until Nov. 30. Officials agree that the best way to avoid catastrophic damage is to be proactive.

"Advance planning and preparation are essential for protecting property, reducing risk and ultimately saving lives," National Weather Service officials said in the introduction the NWS hurricane guide for the Southeast.

Charley English, former director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security said in a news release from 2014: "Learn your flood risk, create a ready kit for your home and car, and develop an evacuation and family communications plan."

GEMA said in that release that research shows "69 percent of Georgians do not know designated evacuation routes from their community, and 67 percent have not arranged a family meeting place or reconnection plan."

Ready Georgia provides a host of tools and information at its website.

It recommends evacuation:

• If you are directed by local authorities to do so. Be sure to follow their instructions.

• If you live in a mobile home or temporary structure – such shelters are particularly hazardous during a hurricane no matter how well fastened to the ground.

• If you live in a high-rise building – hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations.

• If you live on the coast, on a floodplain, near a river, or on an island waterway.

• You should be able to move your valuables within 15 minutes. 

Here are more tips to help you prep for the storms, from the NWS guide.

• Elevation matters: Are you in a flood or evacuation zone?

• Mobile homes: Check tie-downs and prepare to evacuate.

• Landscaping: Always trim trees, shrubbery and dead limbs, especially close to your home.

• Roofing: Inspect it for loose tiles, etc., and clear loose or clogged gutters and drainspouts.

• Doors: Reinforce garage doors and tracks or replace with a hurricane-tested door; and reinforce double-entry doors with heavy-duty foot and head bolts. Use security dead bolts with a minimum 1-inch bolt length.

• Windows: If possible, install hurricane shutters. Alternatively, use five-eighths inch (or greater) grade exterior plywood secured by 2 1/2 inch screws and/or special clips. 

• Renters need to prepare, too: Review your renter's and flood insurance; prepare to relocate to a lower floor

• For pets: Update their vaccinations and have proof; have a current photo; have properly sized pet carriers; pack enough food and water for the duration of the evacuation; and be sure to have proper ID collars. Read more.

The NWS also recommends preparing emergency evacuation kits for functional and medical needs clients, those clients who either require support to maintain their independence or support of trained medical professionals.

• Contact information, including doctor's contact

• Special equipment, if needed; and a list with style and serial numbers of included medical devices

  5 things to know before hurricane season
  Why you should never use a generator during a storm
  Florida's 10 safest cities in a hurricane
  How to use internet during a storm when your internet is down
  Hurricane safety: 15 tips that could save your life during a storm
  Storm evacuations: How coin, frozen cup of water could keep you from getting sick
  Here's how to keep your pets safe during a hurricane
  Everything you need to know to prepare for hurricane season
  Family emergency supply kit must-haves
  How dangerous is a hurricane? Understanding hurricane categories
  5 hacks to keep your smartphone charged during a power outage
   Hurricane season: What is the Saffir-Simpson scale; how does it work; is there a Category 6?
  Hurricane, tropical storm and tropical depression: What’s the difference?

Family emergency supply kit must-haves

Emergency Supplies:

Water, food, and clean air are important things to have if an emergency happens. Each family or individual's kit should be customized to meet specific needs, such as medications and infant formula. It should also be customized to include important family documents..

Recommended Supplies to Include in a Basic Kit:

     
  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert, and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First Aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Infant formula and diapers, if you have an infant
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Dust mask or cotton t-shirt, to help filter the air
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)

Clothing and Bedding:

If you live in a cold weather climate, you must think about warmth. It is possible that the power will be out and you will not have heat. Rethink your clothing and bedding supplies to account for growing children and other family changes. One complete change of warm clothing and shoes per person, including:

     
  • A jacket or coat
  • Long pants
  • A long sleeve shirt
  • Sturdy shoes
  • A hat and gloves
  • A sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person

Below are some other items for your family to consider adding to its supply kit. Some of these items, especially those marked with a * can be dangerous, so please have an adult collect these supplies.

     
  • Emergency reference materials such as a first aid book or a print out of the information on www.ready.gov
  • Rain gear
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils
  • Cash or traveler's checks, change
  • Paper towels
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Tent
  • Compass
  • Matches in a waterproof container*
  • Signal flare*
  • Paper, pencil
  • Personal hygiene items including feminine supplies
  • Disinfectant*
  • Household chlorine bleach* - You can use bleach as a disinfectant (diluted nine parts water to one part bleach), or in an emergency you can also use it to treat water. Use 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
  • Medicine dropper
  • Important Family Documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container
  Hurricane safety: 15 tips that could save your life during a storm
  Everything you need to know to prepare for hurricane season
  5 things to know before hurricane season
  Hurricane season is officially here: How much damage will 2018 bring?
  Building an emergency disaster kit can be easy and cheap, here's how

How dangerous is a hurricane? Understanding hurricane categories

Hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30, and residents in a storm's path should become familiar with hurricane categories in order to better protect themselves.

The National Hurricane Center uses the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale to measure a storm's strength and potential destruction. The scale analyzes a hurricane's wind speed and assigns it a 1 to 5 rating.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

The categories for the hurricanes listed below are determined by the storm's strength when it made landfall in the U.S., according to the National Hurricane Center.

Tropical Storm — Winds 39-73 mph  Category 1 Hurricane — winds 74-95 mph (64-82 kt) 

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. 

- Examples: Irene 1999 and Allison 1995

Category 2 Hurricane — winds 96-110 mph (83-95 kt) 

Well-constructed frame homes could receive 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. 

- Examples: Bonnie 1998, Georges (FL & LA) 1998 and Gloria 1985

Category 3 Hurricane — winds 111-129 mph (96-112 kt) 

Well-built frame 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.

- Examples: Katrina (LA) 2005, Keith 2000, Fran 1996, Opal 1995, Alicia 1983 and Betsy 1965

Category 4 Hurricane — winds 130-156 mph (113-136 kt) 

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.

- Examples: Andrew (FL) 1992, Hugo 1989 and Donna 1960

Category 5 Hurricane — winds 157 mph and up (137+ kt) 

A high percentage of frame 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.

- Examples: Camille 1969 and Labor Day storm 1935

5 hacks to keep your smartphone charged during a power outage

A smartphone can be a lifeline in a storm, but it's useless without power. Fortunately, there's never been more ways to keep a smartphone juiced up

>> Read more trending news

Here are some easy ways to keep your phone in the green if you lose power: 

1. Charge up every laptop in your home. If you lose power, turn a laptop on (but don't unlock the screen) and use your iPhone or Android cable to charge your phone via the USB ports. Most newer laptops can charge a smartphone multiple times. 

2. Keep your phone on "Low Power Mode." This setting will use far less juice. On an iPhone, go to "Settings," scroll down to "Battery" and turn on "Low Power Mode." On an Android, swipe down from the top menu and find the "Power Saving" icon. 

3. Use your car to charge your phone. Most newer cars have a USB port – or two. Even if your car is out of fuel, you can turn it on and charge it using the car battery. It's a last resort, but if you have a newer car battery, it will charge a phone multiple times easily.

4. Buy an external charger if you don't have one; most drug stores have them. Portable smartphone battery chargers are getting better and less expensive. Most drug store chains have them near the counter, but you will pay more for the convenience. But if you need one right now, that is a good place to look. 

Companies such as Anker and Aukey sell high-quality, high capacity chargers on Amazon. Consider buying one before the next storm. Some of the new one have capacities approaching 30,000 mAh, which is enough to charge an phone over five times. 

5. Still have power but want to charge a phone quickly without using a wall socket? Plug it into the USB port on your TV. Most newer TVs have one. 

 

 Hurricane season: What is the Saffir-Simpson scale; how does it work; is there a Category 6?

One was a structural engineer who thought in the ways engineers are trained to – logically and result-oriented. 

The other, a meteorologist who, at age 6, had survived one of the deadliest hurricanes to ever hit the United States, and was eager to warn others of the destructive potential of a tropical weather system. 

Together, engineer Herbert Saffir and meteorologist Robert Simpson developed a system that offered people who live in storm-prone areas a clear early warning of trouble to come. 

It’s been 45 years since the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale was unveiled, and the names of the monster storms it classifies are still referenced today – Camille, Andrew, Hugo, Mitch.

As hurricane season approaches on June 1, here’s a look at the system that ranks tropical cyclones by their potential destructive power, how it works and the men who invented it.

What is the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale?

The scale rates the potential for damage from hurricanes based on the storm’s sustained wind speed. 

Who are Saffir and Simpson?

Herbert Saffir was a structural engineer who moved to Florida to become a county engineer after graduating from Georgia Tech and serving in World War II. 

After living in South Florida for a while, Saffir became interested in the effects of hurricane-force winds on coastal structures, and in 1959 opened a structural engineering firm in Coral Gables, Florida.

He quickly became an expert on the forces that damage buildings during a storm and was asked to help develop building codes for the region.

His expertise led to an appointment to head a United Nations project looking for a way to reduce damage to low-cost buildings in hurricane-prone areas. The work he did on that project became the basis for Saffir’s scale of wind damage. 

Saffir continued to work in structural engineering until four weeks before his death at age 90 in 2007.

Robert Simpson had first-hand knowledge of hurricanes from an early age. In 1919, when he was 6, he and his family survived a massive hurricane that made landfall near Corpus Christi, Texas. The family had to swim down the streets of the town to safety as the waters rose to 8 feet above street level. 

“The family had to swim — with me on my father’s back — three blocks in near hurricane force winds to safe shelter in the courthouse,” Simpson said. “A lot of what I saw frightened me, but also supplied a fascination that left me with a lifelong interest in hurricanes.”

After graduating from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, and then earning a master’s degree at Emory University in Atlanta, he worked as a music teacher in Texas high schools because he could not find work as a physicist. Finally, in 1940, he was hired by the U.S. Weather Bureau as a meteorologist. Simpson worked all over the world for the Weather Bureau, with stints in New Orleans, Panama, Miami, Hawaii and Washington D.C. 

In the 1950s, he lobbied officials at the Weather  Bureau (the forerunner of the National Weather Service) to do more research into tropical systems and the effects they have on coastal areas. His arguments worked, and in 1955, he was appointed to lead the National Hurricane Research Project.

He headed up the project for four years then left to get a doctorate at the University of Chicago. In the 1960s, he was in charge of Project Stormfury, an experiment in which clouds were seeded with silver iodide in the hopes of diminishing hurricane intensity. 

In 1967, Simpson became the deputy director of the National Hurricane Center. In 1968, he was named the center’s director. He stayed at NHC until 1973.

He retired to Washington to start a weather consulting firm with his wife, Joanne.

How was the Saffir-Simpson scale developed?

The system of categories that became the National Hurricane Center’s way of conveying the strength and destructive potential of a storm did not start out as an NHC project. 

Saffir’s United Nations project work led him to creating a rating system for hurricanes that the U.N.  could use to try to match buildings with their potential risks for damage. At the time, hurricanes were classified as either “minor” or “major” storms. In 1969, Saffir came up with a rating system that included five categories using wind speed, barometric pressure, likely flooding and storm surge as determining factors.

Saffir took his work to Simpson who was the head of the NHC at the time. Simpson wanted to have a system that gave people common sense information about storms to help them make a decision about staying put or evacuating a coastal area.

Neil Frank, who seceded Simpson as NHC director, told The Washington Post Simpson was, “very sensitive to being able to communicate to the public in meaningful terminology.”

Simpson and Saffir worked together and Simpson assigned a range of wind speeds and storm surges for each category, and the Saffir-Simpson scale was born. 

The NHC released the scale to the public in 1973 and began classifying storms the following season.

The system remained as it was developed until 2009 when the NHC eliminated storm surge, pressure and potential flooding from the factors that make up the categories. Those factors, the NHC explained, did not always match up with the damage that storms can inflict. 

Another change was made in 2012 when the wind speed for a Category 4 storm was changed by 1 mph at both ends of the category. That was done because winds speeds are measured in 5-knot increments by the NHC, and the conversion to a miles-per-hour-measurement was incorrectly classifying storms as either Category 3 or Category 5.

How does the Saffir-Simpson scale work?

The scale has five categories ranging from Category 1 – with winds from 74 mph to 95 mph to a Category 5 – with sustained winds in excess of 155 mph. The National Hurricane Center uses a one-minute averaging time to establish a measure of sustained winds. In other words, the highest winds speed maintained for a full minute would be the highest sustained wind speed for a storm.

Here, from the National Hurricane Center, are the categories for the scale:

Category 1: Maximum sustained winds are at 74-95 mph. 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.

Category 2: Maximum sustained winds are at 96-110 mph. 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.

Category 3: Maximum sustained winds are at 111-129 mph. 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.

Category 4: Maximum sustained winds are at 130-156 mph. 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.

Category 5: Maximum sustained winds are at 157 or higher. 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.

Can there be a Category 6 hurricane?

With stronger storms of the past decade, some have questioned whether there should be another category for hurricanes, a Category 6 that would be made up of storms with sustained winds of 158 mph-180 mph. 

Before his death in 2014, Simpson argued that there was no need for another category since what is measured is the potential damage a hurricane’s winds can inflict on human-made structures. Simpson once told The Washington Post that "...when you get up into winds in excess of 155 mph (249 km/h) you have enough damage if that extreme wind sustains itself for as much as six seconds on a building, it's going to cause rupturing damages that are serious no matter how well it's engineered." 

In other words, winds from a Category 5 storm will be sufficient to severely damage or destroy most man-made structures.  

For more information on hurricanes, see:

>>What is a storm surge and why is it dangerous? 

>>How to use internet during a storm when your internet is down 

>>Why you should never use a generator during a storm 

>>9 weather terms you should know when preparing for a hurricane 

>>15 safety tips that could save your life during a hurricane 

>>Hurricane evacuation: Helpful apps for finding gas, hotel rooms, traffic routes 

Hurricane, tropical storm and tropical depression: What’s the difference?

There are a ton of weather terms that might be easy to confuse including hurricanes, tropical depressions and tropical storms. Here’s the difference.

>> Read more trending news

Tropical depressions form when a low-pressure area is accompanied by thunderstorms that produce maximum winds below 39 mph. 

As for tropical storms, those are more severe. Depressions become storms when winds reach between 39 and 73 mph. They also must follow a cyclone pattern to become a storm.

Hurricanes are a step up from a tropical storm, with winds of more than 74 mph. Hurricanes are further rated into five categories based on their wind speed:

Category 1: 74-95 mph

Category 2: 96-110 mph

Category 3: 111-129 mph

Category 4: 130-156 mph

Category 5: above 157 mph

However, all three types of storms are fueled by warm, moist air near oceans in tropical areas.

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