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July 17, 2013

New England Hurricane Awareness Week
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:02 PM *

The National Weather Service has declared the week of July 15th through 19th, Hurricane Awareness Week in New England.

Here in New Hampshire we expect a category 1 hurricane once ever 30 years, a category 2 once every 150 years, and a category 3 once every 400 years. Notwithstanding that we’ve had two category 3 storms in the past century (the Hurricane of ‘38 and Hurricane Carol in ‘54).

National Hurricane Awareness Week was May 26 to June 1 of this year. NOAA has many useful links, including the Tropical Cyclone Preparedness Guide (.pdf) in English and Spanish. Notice where they say, for Category 3, “Devastating damage will occur” and for Category 4-5 “Catastrophic damage will occur.” They mean that.

I recall, back in the early ‘sixties, seeing a Civil Defense pamphlet for dealing with Nuclear War. A couple of illustrations in that showed a guy lying in a hammock, sipping a tall cool drink through a straw, captioned “Time, but No Plan.” On the facing page was an illustration of a fellow who had placed a door against the outside foundation of his house so that it formed one side of a triangular prism; he’s shoveling dirt onto the top of this arrangement while a mushroom cloud looms on the horizon behind him. This one was captioned “A Plan, but No Time.”

The threat of nuclear war made a big impression on anyone who remembers the ‘sixties. Nuclear war, it turned out, didn’t come. But I promise you that hurricanes and other damaging weather will come. This year. You’ve got time. Make a plan.

FEMA has a good webpage too: Among the links there is the one to Ready.Gov Hurricanes. That one contains specific advice for concrete action to take before, during, and after hurricanes.

FEMA recommends that folk know their risk, take appropriate action, and be an example to others. I concur. So, do that.

We’ve discussed hurricanes at Making Light before, particularly around Katrina, Irene, and Sandy. Here are some of those links:

As always, follow the links and read the comment threads.

If you don’t have your Weather Radio yet, for the love of Benji, why not?

Be aware that the highest winds are usually to the right of a hurricane’s track while the heaviest rains are usually to the left of track.

Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale
Category DefinitionEffects
1 winds: 74-95 mph (64-82 kt)  No real damage to well-constructed buildings. Damage primarily to poorly constructed buildings and unanchored Mobile homes, shrubbery, and trees. Also, some coastal flooding and minor pier damage is possible.
Examples: Irene 1999 and Allison 1995.
2 winds: 96-110 mph (83-95 kt)  Some damage to building roofs, doors, and windows. Considerable damage to vegetation, Mobile homes, etc. Flooding damages piers and small craft in unprotected moorings may break their moorings.
Examples: Bonnie 1998, Georges (FL & LA) 1998 and Gloria 1985.
3 winds: 111-129 mph (96-112 kt)  Some structural damage to small residences and utility buildings, with a minor amount of curtain-wall failures. Mobile homes are destroyed. Flooding near the coast destroys smaller structures with larger structures damaged by floating debris. Terrain may be flooded well inland.
Examples: Katrina 2005, Fran 1996, Opal 1995, Alicia 1983 and Betsy 1965
4 winds: 130-156 mph (113-136 kt)  More extensive curtain-wall failures with some complete roof structure failure on small residences. Major erosion of beach areas. Terrain may be flooded well inland.
Examples: Hugo 1989 and Donna 1960
5 winds: 157+ mph (137+ kt)  Complete roof failure on many residences and Industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away. Flooding causes major damage to lower floors of all structures near the shoreline. Massive evacuation of residential areas may be required.
Examples: Andrew (Florida) 1992, Camille 1969 and Labor Day-Florida Keys 1935

Stay safe, everyone.

Comments on New England Hurricane Awareness Week :
#1 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 11:49 PM:

That reminds me to make the feline go-bags than Marilyee(sp?) suggested -- and that our friends are always with us in memory.

#2 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 10:31 AM:

Need to start prepping water. We had a "boil all the water" problem for the past three days (broken 12" pipe, loss of system pressure, increased bacterial counts). Assuming the pipes still work (likely) we may not have fuel to insure safe drinking.

#3 ::: Terry Karney has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 10:32 AM:

I have no idea why. Which means the spammers are getting way too clever.

[Three or more blank spaces in a row. Spammers like to pad random numbers of spaces between words (which are stripped out when a post is displayed) in order to defeat phrase-based filters. -- Coris Buukicorn, Duty Gnome]

#4 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 11:45 AM:

I store water, and if I was a bit richer I'd store food too. I'm learning stuff from all these articles, and here express gratitude that you have provided them.
I live in earthquake country, and there's no season for those. Much of what you (plural, many) have told us will apply, but I wonder if it might be good for you to do one on earthquakes as well?
I built a table just for getting under--naturally, when the 6.8-er happened I was at work, and just held on to my toolbox [one of those big ones on lockable wheels.]
I'm working on the go-bag.

#5 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 11:48 AM:

Thanks for this post. It reminds me to check our stock of items to survive a week plus without power -- something I experienced back in September 1996 after Hurricane Fran. (Fran was sub-Cat 1 by the time she hit Raleigh, but she still knocked over lots and lots of trees, which damaged lots of power infrastructure -- not to mention homes and businesses.) Food, water, charcoal (so we can use the grill), batteries, hand-crank or battery-powered radio, votive candles, matches.

Oh, also, canned cat food, in case we can't get out to the store to buy more dry.

#6 ::: Caroline is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 11:49 AM:

Probably for an expression of gratitude.

#7 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 11:54 AM:

Since I don't live in earthquake country I have considerably less training and experience with them. has an Earthquake page in the same Before/During/After format, with lists of links for more information and definitions of terms.

My general advice for all sorts of emergencies is to consider your circumstances, make a plan, practice it, and modify as necessary.

#8 ::: Fox ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 01:15 PM:

Looking at the old hurricane threads I see SamChevre's comment here about the wind when Isabelle arrived - which is exactly how I remember it, as well, in Charlottesville, and what I've always said was the spookiest thing about it, how all day I could hear the wind wuthering in the trees but it wasn't gusting at all; it just never stopped.

#9 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 01:38 PM:

I've always thought the category definitions ought to say "damage due to wind" instead of just "damage". A category 1 hurricane might not damage a roof directly, but it will definitely knock lots of trees onto roofs here.

#10 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 05:24 PM:

Expression of gratitude, Jim, and thither I will go. But an earthquake thread might be interesting.

#11 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 09:32 PM:

Various sites will recommend that folks get flood insurance. This is, generally, a good thing, particularly if flooding is something you might reasonably expect. But be aware of what all of the definitions are. Following Irene, some nice folks in Vermont discovered that while they had flood insurance, the insurance companies denied their claims for flood damage on the grounds that the three feet of water in their living rooms wasn't a "flood," it was "wind-driven water."

See the difference?

Yeah, me too.

Anyway, insurance is good but be aware of exactly what you're buying and exactly what it covers.

#12 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 06:59 PM:

In insurance alchemy, water that comes from the sky and water that comes from the ground are two entirely different elements. It puts to shame the mystical distinction that Tolkien's elves make among different kinds of air.

#13 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 11:47 PM:

Who Murdered the Vets?

Ernest Hemingway's account of the Labor Day/Florida Keys hurricane of 1935.

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