Tropical storm-force winds are strong enough to be dangerous to those caught in them. For this reason, emergency managers plan on having their evacuations complete and their personnel sheltered before the onset of tropical storm-force winds, not hurricane-force winds.
Hurricane-force winds can easily destroy poorly constructed buildings and mobile homes. Debris such as signs, roofing material, and small items left outside become flying missiles in hurricanes. Extensive damage to trees, towers, water and underground utility lines (from uprooted trees), and fallen poles cause considerable disruption.
High-rise buildings are also vulnerable to hurricane-force winds, particularly at the higher levels since wind speed tends to increase with height. You should stay below the tenth floor, but above floors at risk for flooding. It is not uncommon for high-rise buildings to suffer a great deal of damage due to windows being blown out.
The strongest winds usually occur in the right side of the eyewall of the hurricane. Wind speed usually decreases significantly within 12 hours after landfall. Nonetheless, winds can stay above hurricane strength well inland. For example, in 1989 Hurricane Hugo battered Charlotte, 175 miles inland from the coast with gusts of nearly 100 mph.
Before the Hurricane Hits
- Protect windows by installing commercial shutters or preparing 5/8 inch plywood panels.
- Garage doors are frequently the first feature in a home to fail. Reinforce all garage doors so that they are able to withstand high winds.
- Designate an interior room with no windows or external doors as a “Safe Room”.
- Ensure landscaping and trees do not become a wind hazard. Trim dead wood and weak overhanging branches from all trees. Consider landscaping materials other than gravel/rock.
As the Hurricane Approaches
- No mobile / manufactured home is safe in hurricane force winds. Those residents should evacuate to a safer structure once local officials issue a hurricane evacuation order for their community.
- When a hurricane warning is issued, bring inside all lawn furniture and other outside objects that could become a projectile in high winds.
- Listen carefully for safety instructions from local officials, and go to your designated “Safe Room” when directed to do so.
- Do not leave your “Safe Room” until directed to do so by local officials, even if winds are calm. Remember that there is little to no wind in the eye of a hurricane.