Storm preparedness

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    Understanding the Terminology

    A tropical cyclone is a rotating, organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that originates over tropical or subtropical waters and has a closed, low-level circulation. Tropical cyclones rotate counter-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere. They are classified as follows:

    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 (see below).

    Be Prepared, Not Scared

    While hurricanes pose the greatest threat to life and property, tropical storms and depressions also can be devastating. Floods from heavy rains and severe weather, such as tornadoes, can cause extensive damage and loss of life, even in areas well away from the coastline. Living in an area prone to tropical cyclones of any kind, we need to be prepared. If you are prepared with food (items that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking and little or no water) and water (one gallon of water per person per day for at least 5 days), an emergency can be an inconvenience instead of a disaster. Everyone has a personal responsibility to be prepared. Creating an emergency plan ahead of time for you and your family will help you stay organized if a major storm strikes.

    Your emergency plan should include a communication system (see below), disaster supply kit (see below), and an alternate meeting place if your home is unsafe. Depending on the severity of the storm, you may need to evacuate where you live. When instructions are given to evacuate by the proper authorities, you will be directed to a temporary, emergency refuge that will provide a safe haven for the duration of the storm. However, it is recommended that you first try to seek refuge with a friend or family member located away from the affected area. You will likely be more comfortable on a friend's couch than on a cot in a shelter.

    Communication System

    For residential customers, it is strongly recommended that you install a back-up battery for your Optimum modem, so, in the event of a utility power outage, your Optimum Voice service will continue to function. For business customers, keep your modem plugged into the outlet where it was installed by the technician at all times. We advise not to turn the modem on and off to ensure the battery remains fully charged at all times. Turning the modem on and off will degrade the capacity of the battery, reducing the time that the modem can operate in the event of a utility power outage.

    Have at least one traditional corded, landline telephone in your home that does not require electricity to operate. During a power outage, provided there is a battery backup on your modem, simply plug the phone into a jack, and you'll have phone service. Cordless phones require a separate power source to operate. In addition to your home phone service, have a working mobile phone that is programmed with emergency contact numbers, such those of the police department, fire department, local hospital and close family members. If you have Optimum Voice service, you can also forward your calls to the mobile phone before a severe storm knocks out power. Note that during an emergency, more people are trying to use their mobile phones at the same time, so you may receive either a fast busy signal or slow dial tone when attempting to make a call. In this case, try sending a text message to the person you need to reach. During emergencies, text messages often go through quicker than voice calls because less network resources are needed.

    Emergency Supply Kits

    Everyone should have an emergency supply kit in the event of a hurricane or major storm. Put the following items into a smaller, portable container, such as a backpack or duffel bag, in case you need to evacuate your home. Keep it by your front door or another exit in case of an emergency evacuation. Kits should sustain you and each member of your household for up to five days.

    Family Supply Kit
    First aid kit
    Essential prescription and nonprescription items and medical information
    Battery-powered flashlight and radio (or crank radio), extra batteries and a 12-hour glow stick
    A change of clothes, plus rainwear, sturdy shoes and protective gloves for everyone
    Personal items, like eyeglasses, cash in small bills
    Important documents in a waterproof container: Drivers licenses, wills, birth/marriage certificates, insurance policies, deed or lease, recent tax returns, credit card and bank account numbers, Social Security cards, passports, home inventory list
    Special items for infants, elderly, or loved ones with special needs
    For your pets, have your veterinarian's name and contact information, medical records, specific care instructions, medications, current photos, food, food bowls, bottled water, waste clean-up materials, toys, treats, sturdy leash or collar.
    During Severe Weather
    • Continue to monitor the media for important information.
    • If you experience a power outage, alert your power company.
    • If you anticipate an extended outage, consider moving yourself and your family, especially those with special needs, to an alternate location.
    • Consider checking on others who may benefit from your assistance.
    • Consider all downed power lines (and anything touching them) energized and DANGEROUS! Do not get near them and report the problem to your power company
    • Don't open freezers and refrigerators any more than absolutely necessary. Opening these appliances will allow food to thaw more quickly.
    • During severe weather or power outages, turn off as many appliances and electronics as possible. This will reduce the potential for damage or fire. After the power is restored, wait 5 to 10 minutes before turning them back on.
    After Severe Weather
    • Replenish your supplies of batteries, bottled water and non-perishable food items in preparation for future storms.
    Safety Around Power Lines
    • Stay away from downed or sagging power lines, and do not touch anything that is on or near a power line (i.e. trees or tree limbs, cars, ladders).
    • Keep children and family pets away from areas where lines may have fallen (backyards, fields, school yards, etc.).
    • If a power line falls across a car that you're in, stay in the car.
    • Report all power line hazards to your power company or your local emergency services department or agency.

    Hurricane season begins June 1st and extends through November. While the probability of our region being affected begins to heighten in August, it is never too early to prepare yourself, your loved ones and your home. Now is the time to become informed and prepared for hurricanes and all types of storm hazards.

    Destruction from Hurricanes

    The level and intensity of hurricanes are categorized by the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. This scale is a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane's sustained wind speed, and it serves to estimate potential property damage.

    Scale Number/CategorySustained Wind SpeedsTypes of Potential Damage
    174-95 mphVery dangerous winds will produce some damage: Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of tress 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. Includes local evacuations.
    296-110 mphExtremely 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.
    3111-129 mphDevastating damage will occur. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.
    4130-156 mphCatastrophic damage will occur. 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.
    5157+ mphCatastrophic damage will occur with increased severity. 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 weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

    For more information on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, go to

    Storm Surge/Tide

    Storm surge and large waves produced by hurricanes pose the greatest threat to life and property along the coast.

    STORM SURGE is an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm's winds. Storm surge can reach heights well over 20 feet and can span hundreds of miles of coastline. More intense and larger hurricanes produce higher surge. In addition, shallower offshore waters contribute to higher storm surge inundation. Storm surge is by far the greatest threat to life and property along the immediate coast.

    STORM TIDE is the water level rise during a storm due to the combination of storm surge and the astronomical tide. For example, if a hurricane moves ashore at a high tide of 2 feet, a 15 foot surge would be added to the high tide, creating a storm tide of 17 feet. The combination of high winds and storm tide topped with battering waves can be deadly and cause tremendous property damage along an area of coastline hundreds of miles wide.

    The destructive power of storm surge and large battering waves can result in loss of life, buildings destroyed, beach and dune erosion and road and bridge damage along the coast. Storm surge can travel several miles inland.


    Hurricanes and tropical storms can also produce tornadoes. These tornadoes most often occur in thunderstorms embedded in rain bands well away from the center of the hurricane; however, they can also occur near the eyewall. Usually, tornadoes produced by tropical cyclones are relatively weak and short-lived, but they still pose a significant threat.


    Hurricane-force winds, 74 mph or more, can destroy buildings and mobile homes. Debris, such as signs, roofing material, siding and small items left outside become flying missiles during hurricanes. Winds can stay above hurricane strength well inland.


    Tropical cyclones often produce widespread, torrential rains in excess of 6 inches, which may result in deadly and destructive floods. In fact, flooding is the major threat from tropical cyclones for people living inland. Flash flooding, defined as a rapid rise in water levels, can occur quickly due to intense rainfall. Longer term flooding on rivers and streams can persist for several days after the storm.

    Rainfall amounts are not directly related to the strength of tropical cyclones but rather to the speed and size of the storm, as well as the geography of the area. Slower moving and larger storms produce more rainfall. In addition, mountainous terrain enhances rainfall from a tropical cyclone.

    Rip Currents

    The strong winds of a tropical cyclone can cause dangerous waves that pose a significant hazard to mariners and coastal residents and visitors. When the waves break along the coast, they can produce deadly rip currents' even at large distances from the storm. Rip currents are channeled currents of water flowing away from shore, usually extending past the line of breaking waves, that can pull even the strongest swimmers away from shore.

    Ways to Stay Informed

    Helpful Resources:
    National Weather
    National Hurricane
    American Red
    U.S. Dept. of Health and Human

    What To Listen For:

    Hurricane Watch: An announcement that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are possible within the specified area. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds. During a Watch, prepare your home and review your plan for evacuation in case warnings are issued. Listen closely to instructions from local officials.

    Tropical Storm Watch: An announcement that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are possible within the specified area within 48 hours. During a Watch, prepare your home and review your plan for evacuation in case warnings are issued. Listen closely to instructions from local officials.

    Hurricane Warning: An announcement that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are expected somewhere within the specified area. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical- storm-force winds.

    Tropical Storm Warning: An announcement that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are expected somewhere within the specified area within 36 hours.

    Extreme Wind Warning: Extreme sustained winds of a major hurricane (115 mph or greater), usually associated with the eyewall, are expected to begin within an hour. Take immediate shelter in the interior portion of a well-built structure. Additional Watches and Warnings are issued to provide detailed information on specific threats such as floods and tornadoes. Local National Weather Service offices issue Flash Flood/Flood Watches and Warnings as well as Tornado Warnings.

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