The Ultimate Houston Hurricane Preparedness Guide

An essential guide for how to keep your home, your loved ones, and yourself safe during hurricane season.

The Ultimate Houston Hurricane Preparedness Guide

Hurricane season in Houston and across the Atlantic basin spans from June 1 to November 30, with the highest activity typically from late August through September.

Understanding how to survive a hurricane is crucial during this period. A well-prepared hurricane preparedness plan can significantly mitigate risks to life and property. Here, we provide essential guidance on creating an emergency plan, gathering emergency supplies, securing your home, and staying informed with timely alerts.

By following the steps we’ve outlined below, you can enhance your readiness and resilience in the face of potential hurricanes and tropical storms.

Hurricane season is coming! Living in Houston means prioritizing the safety of your home and loved ones during this time. Use this guide to get a comprehensive overview and a list of tips and advice for hurricane preparation, ensuring you have the information needed to stay safe and ready.


Table of Contents

  1. What to Do Before, During, and After a Hurricane
  2. Before: How to Prepare for a Hurricane
  3. During: What to Do During a Hurricane
  4. After: How to Deal with the Aftermath of a Hurricane
  5. Emergency Supplies
  6. Hurricane Hacks
  7. Emergency Numbers and Websites
  8. Flood Insurance
  9. Weather Terms to Know
  10. Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

What to Do Before, During, and After a Hurricane

What to Do Before, During, and After a Hurricane

Before

  1. Create an emergency evacuation plan
  2. Make sure to sign up for local government emergency alerts
  3. Gather emergency supplies
  4. Gather and protect important personal documents
  5. Learn emergency skills
  6. Buy flood insurance
  7. Protect your home from wind
  8. Protect your home from flooding

During

  1. Evacuate if told to do so by authorities
  2. If staying at home, protect yourself from wind and flooding
  3. Don’t walk or drive through floodwaters
  4. Pay attention to emergency alerts
  5. Be careful with using equipment or tools that can cause a fire
  6. If power is lost, turn off major appliances to prevent power surges when electricity is restored

After

  1. If you evacuated, return home only when authorities have determined it’s safe to do so
  2. Make sure the tap water is not contaminated before using it for drinking or preparing food
  3. Throw away food that may have spoiled or come in contact with floodwaters
  4. If your home sustained damage, carefully inspect it before cleaning it
  5. Clean up safely
  6. If your power is out, open refrigerators and freezers only when absolutely necessary
  7. Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
  8. Do not drive unless absolutely necessary
  9. Stay away from floodwaters
  10. Stay cautious in areas where floodwaters have receded
  11. Take photos of any damage to your property or vehicle for insurance purposes

Before: How to Prepare for a Hurricane

Before: How to Prepare for a Hurricane

Use our hurricane preparation checklist below to ensure you're equipped and ready for any impending storm. From creating an emergency plan to securing your home, these hurricane preparedness tips will help safeguard your family and property during hurricane season.

1. Create an emergency evacuation plan

2. Find a way to stay connected and get alerts

3. Gather emergency supplies

4. Gather and protect important financial, medical, educational, and legal documents and records

5. Learn emergency skills

6. Check your insurance coverage and buy flood insurance if needed

7. Protect your home from wind

8. Protect your home from flooding


During: What to Do During a Hurricane

During: What to Do During a Hurricane

Knowing how to prepare for a hurricane is just the first step; the next is knowing what to do during a hurricane so you can safeguard lives and property.

Here are some crucial steps to follow when a hurricane strikes.

1. If you need to evacuate, do so

2. If you’re advised to stay at home, protect yourself from strong winds and flooding

3. Don’t walk or drive through floodwaters

4. Pay attention to emergency information and alerts

5. Be careful with using equipment or tools that can cause a fire

6. If power is lost, turn off major appliances to prevent power surges when electricity is restored


After: How to Deal with the Aftermath of a Hurricane

After: How to Deal with the Aftermath of a Hurricane

Dealing with the aftermath of a hurricane requires careful planning and safety measures. Below are some essential steps for addressing hurricane damage, including inspecting your home, ensuring personal safety, and beginning the cleanup process. Follow these guidelines to recover effectively and mitigate further risks after a hurricane.

1. If you evacuated, return home only when local officials say it’s safe to do so

2. Do not drink or prepare food with tap water until you’ve determined that it’s not contaminated

3. Throw away food that may have spoiled or come in contact with floodwaters

4. If your home sustained damage from winds or flooding, carefully inspect it before cleaning it

5. Clean up safely

6. If your power is out, open refrigerators and freezers only when absolutely necessary

7. Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

8. Do not drive unless absolutely necessary

9. Stay away from floodwaters

10. Stay cautious in areas where floodwaters have receded, and watch out for snakes, fire ants, alligators, and other dangerous animals

11. Take photos of any damage to your property or vehicle for insurance purposes


Emergency Supplies

Emergency Supplies

Having a well-stocked hurricane preparedness kit can make a significant difference during and after a storm. Here, we outline a comprehensive hurricane supply list to ensure you have all the necessary items.

From food and water to essential tools and medicine, having these hurricane supplies ready will help you face the challenges that come with severe weather.


Hurricane Hacks

Hurricane Hacks

Here are the eleven best hurricane hacks that might not be widely known but can be very helpful during a hurricane:

  1. Use your dishwasher for storage: Store important documents, non-perishable food, and water bottles in your dishwasher. It's water-resistant and can help protect items from flooding or water damage.

  2. Fill your washing machine with ice: If you lose power, your washing machine can serve as a makeshift cooler. Fill it with ice and use it to keep perishable food cold for longer.

  3. Freeze Ziploc bags with water: Fill Ziploc bags with water and freeze them. They can serve as makeshift ice packs to keep your refrigerator and cooler items cold if the power goes out.

  4. Use solar garden lights indoors: Bring solar-powered garden lights indoors to provide light during power outages. They charge during the day and can be used as emergency lighting at night.

  5. Create a DIY emergency toilet: If water service is disrupted, line your toilet bowl with a heavy-duty garbage bag and secure it with the seat. Use kitty litter or sawdust to absorb waste and reduce odor.

  6. Charge devices with your car: Use your car to charge electronic devices like phones and tablets. Invest in a car charger adapter or a portable power inverter to convert your car's DC power to AC power.

  7. Make a solar still for drinking water: In case clean water is scarce, you can create a solar still using a large container, plastic sheeting, and a collection cup. This can help distill water from any available source.

  8. Keep emergency cash: ATMs and card transactions may not work during power outages. Keep a stash of small bills in a waterproof container for emergencies.

  9. Turn your fridge and freezer to their coldest settings: Before the storm, set your refrigerator and freezer to their coldest settings. This helps keep food colder longer if power is lost.

  10. Use a headlamp or headphones for hands-free lighting: During nighttime tasks or repairs, use a headlamp for hands-free lighting. Alternatively, wrap your smartphone in a clear plastic bag and use it with headphones plugged in—activate the flashlight for a convenient light source.

  11. Download shows or movies: There won’t be much to do by way of entertainment once the internet and power go out. Download shows or movies from streaming services so you’ll have stuff to watch while waiting for the power to come back. Do the same on your kids’ devices.


Emergency Numbers and Websites

Emergency Numbers and Websites

Harris County Storm Evacuation Zones and Routes: https://www.abc13.com/evacuations

Harris County Office of Emergency Management: 713-881-3100

Fort Bend County Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management: 281-342-3411 or 281-342-6185

Montgomery County Office of Homeland Security Emergency Management: 936-523-3900

Galveston County Office of Emergency Management: https://gcoem.org, 281-309-5002

National Weather Service Office Houston-Galveston, TX: weather.gov/hgx

FEMA: https://www.fema.gov/, https://ready.gov, 1-800-621-3362

American Red Cross: https://www.redcross.org/, 713-526-8300

National Hurricane Center: https://www.nhc.noaa.gov

National Flood Insurance Program: floodsmart.gov, 877-336-2627


Flood Insurance

Flood Insurance

Most property insurance policies do not cover flood damage, so you’ll need to buy a separate flood insurance. This is available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in participating communities.

It takes 30 days for policies to take into effect, so it’s advisable to purchase one as soon as possible. The average annual cost of a flood insurance policy is $700, while the average cost of a flood insurance claim is $43,000.

To purchase flood insurance, call your insurance company or insurance agent. To find a provider, go to floodsmart.gov/flood-insurance-provider or call the NFIP at 877-336-2627.

The NFIP offers two types of coverage: building coverage and contents coverage. Here’s a list of what’s covered and what’s not covered.

Building Coverage:

Contents Coverage:

Not Covered:


Weather Terms to Know

Weather Terms to Know

Tropical Disturbance: An organized area of thunderstorms with minimal surface wind circulation. It typically forms over warm ocean waters and can develop into more severe tropical systems like depressions, storms, or hurricanes if conditions such as warm water, low wind shear, and moist air are favorable.

Tropical Depression: A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 38 mph (62 km/h) or less. It forms from a tropical disturbance and features organized thunderstorms and a defined low-pressure center. It can further intensify into a tropical storm or hurricane under favorable conditions.

Tropical Storm: A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds ranging from 39 to 73 mph (63 to 118 km/h). It forms from a tropical depression and features more organized thunderstorms and a well-defined circulation. Tropical storms can further develop into hurricanes under favorable conditions.

Hurricane: A powerful tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (119 km/h) or higher. It features a well-defined eye, intense thunderstorms, and spiral rainbands.

Tropical Storm or Hurricane Advisory: Provides information about the storm's location, intensity, movement, and potential impacts. Issued by the National Weather Service (NWS), it offers guidance on necessary precautions and actions for affected areas.

Tropical Storm or Hurricane Watch: Issued by the NWS when tropical storm or hurricane conditions are possible within 48 hours. It’s an alert to residents to begin preparations and stay informed about the storm's progress.

Tropical Storm or Hurricane Warning: Issued by the NWS when tropical storm or hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours. It indicates an imminent threat and advises residents to complete preparations and take immediate action to protect life and property.

Evacuation Order: An official directive issued by authorities requiring people to leave their homes or an area due to an imminent threat, such as a hurricane, flood, or other disaster. It mandates residents to move to safety and may specify evacuation routes and shelters.

Floodplain: A flat or low-lying area adjacent to a river, stream, or other water body that is prone to flooding.

Flash Flood: A sudden, rapid flooding of low-lying areas, typically caused by intense rainfall from thunderstorms, hurricanes, or tropical storms. Flash floods can occur within minutes or hours of heavy rain and can be extremely dangerous, sweeping away people, cars, and structures with little warning.

Storm Surge: An abnormal rise of water generated by a storm, typically a hurricane, as it moves over coastal areas. Strong winds push water inland, creating a dome of water that can flood coastal regions. Storm surges are often the most dangerous and damaging aspect of hurricanes for coastal communities.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale: Categorizes hurricanes based on their sustained wind speeds, ranging from Category 1 (74-95 mph) to Category 5 (157 mph or higher). It helps forecasters communicate potential impacts and allows communities to prepare for varying levels of wind damage and storm surge associated with each category.


Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale categorizes hurricanes into five levels based on their sustained wind speeds:

Category 1: Winds of 74-95 mph. Causes minimal damage to buildings, but poses significant risk to unanchored mobile homes, trees, and power lines.

Category 2: Winds of 96-110 mph. Results in extensive damage, with considerable risk to mobile homes, trees, power lines, and potential roof and siding damage.

Category 3: Winds of 111-129 mph. Causes devastating damage. High risk of structural damage to small residences, with many trees uprooted and power outages lasting several days to weeks.

Category 4: Winds of 130-156 mph. Catastrophic damage expected. Most trees snapped or uprooted, and power outages lasting weeks to months. High risk of structural failure in many buildings.

Category 5: Winds greater than 157 mph. Catastrophic damage expected. A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Areas will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.


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