By Marchim Williams, Consumer Outreach Specialist
Hurricane season is from June 1 to November 30. The peak months for hurricanes are July through September. During the hurricane season, you may hear the terminology of “tropical depression,” “tropical storm,” “hurricane” and “major hurricane.” The National Hurricane Center defines these terms as:
- Tropical Depression:A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 38 mph (33 knots) or less.
- Tropical Storm: A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph (34 to 63 knots).
- Hurricane: A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher.
- Major Hurricane:A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 111 mph (96 knots) or higher, corresponding to a Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.1
The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale identifies the strength of a hurricane through maximum strength winds and storm surge. An example of a Major Hurricane is Hurricane Katrina that slammed into gulf coast near New Orleans, Louisiana in 2005.
Typically, hurricanes make landfall in the US in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. Washington, DC is especially susceptible to hurricanes and tropical storms by being on the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers. Also, Washington, DC is susceptible to river and coastal flooding. These storms create storm surge, which is a wall of wind-driven water into the Potomac River. Also, these types of storms are packed with moisture and can drop a lot of rain in the area in a short period of time. Hurricane Isabel (2003) and Hurricane Ivan (2004), over 1 foot of rain was dropped in a short period of time on the city where the sea level tidal basin rose over 11 feet causing local rivers and streams spilling out of their banks. Homes were flooded and badly damaged, bridges were washed out and countless roads were rendered impassable for weeks.
Again, hurricanes and tropical storms pose a multitude of unique threats, but perhaps no force is more dangerous than flooding from storm surge or rainfall. The wind field around a storm can be strong enough to shunt water from the ocean into bays and inlets, such as the Chesapeake Bay. As we have seen in the past, the combination of the storm surge along the tidal forces and rainfall flooding can create disastrous consequences for the residents of DC.
Before a Tropical Storm/Hurricane Hits:
- Stay informed through all form of media. i.e. television, radio, social media
- Charge all your electronics- the power may go out
- Build or restock emergency kit supplies, include COVID-19 items such as cloth masks and sanitizer soap and wipes. The emergency kit shall have non-perishable food
- Family emergency plan that allows for whereabouts of all family members during a tropical storm. Important to know what to do during an emergency
- Review your homeowner’s and renter’s insurance plan. See if you need to add flood insurance to it. Take a video of the property before the storm
- If necessary, board windows and secure outside furniture
During the Storm:
- Stay informed via radio, television and official social media
- Stay indoors and avoid windows
After the Storm is Over:
- Stay alert for hazardous conditions when exiting your home
- Check on neighbors, friends, and families
- Check your home for damage and potential power damage and gas leaks
- Report any power damage to Pepco authorities, gas leaks to Washington Gas authorities, and flooding to DC Water
- Photograph and record all property damage for insurance claims
For more information on emergency kit and preparation for natural disasters, please visit https://ready.dc.gov/beprepared. For more information on hurricanes and tropical storms, please visit https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/climo/.