Each year from June through November, Texas faces the threat of
hurricanes. While coastal communities are most at risk, inland areas of the
state also are vulnerable. To survive a hurricane and its aftermath, Texans
should know the dangers they face and get prepared.
Learn about the dangers of hurricanes
Hurricanes are among nature’s fiercest storms. The four greatest dangers
hurricanes pose are extreme wind speeds, storm surge, torrential rains and
- Hurricane-force winds are 74 miles per hour and greater. Even the
weakest storms can uproot trees, down power lines and damage buildings.
Category 5 storms can cause catastrophic wind damage to residential and
commercial buildings. Learn more about hurricane categories.
- When hurricanes come ashore,
they push a dome of sea water over the land. This is called storm
surge. Storm surges may range from a few feet high to more than 18
feet above normal sea level. A storm surge can batter buildings off of
their foundations and present an extreme drowning danger. It is never safe
to “ride out” a hurricane in a surge zone. Do you live in a surge zone? To
find out, contact your city or county Office of Emergency
- Hurricanes bring with
them torrential rainfalls that often cause severe
flooding. Generally storms that move slowly produce heavier rainfall.
Inland areas also are at risk from flooding and flash flooding caused by
- Another serious danger from
hurricanes is tornadoes. Some hurricanes have
spawned dozens of tornadoes that have caused as much damage as the storm
itself. Hurricane Beulah, which struck Texas in 1967, holds the record for
most tornadoes spawned by a hurricane with 115 reported. The danger of
tornadoes can reach hundreds of miles inland.
How to get prepared for hurricanes
Residents of Texas’ Gulf Coast should get prepared early. If you already have a
plan, you may need to update it. If you don’t have a plan, this is what you
Plan your evacuation route ahead of time. Fill
up your car’s gas tank before leaving and pack plenty of snacks and water for
the long trip.
If you live in an evacuation zone and need
transportation assistance, dial 2-1-1 to register for a ride. It’s important to
register in advance and to renew your registration each year.
Make a plan for where you will stay. Do you have
family or friends who live far enough inland? Can you afford to stay at a
hotel? Or is a public shelter your best option? Tune into TV or radio stations
for information about public shelter locations.
Put together a disaster
supplies kit with essential items such as water, food,
medications and copies of important documents.
Be sure to plan for family members who are
elderly, young or have special health care needs. And don’t forget to plan for
- Secure property before
Early in the season, be sure your insurance
policy is up to date, and keep a copy of it in your document bag.
Remove tree limbs that could fall on your home.
If you live in a mobile home, secure it with
Board up windows and doors.
Move patio furniture, barbecue grills, potted
plants and other loose objects indoors.
Follow the advice of local officials on whether
to turn off gas and electricity before leaving.
Avoiding injuries when returning home
Dangers such as high water, downed electrical power lines and broken gas mains
are major safety threats after hurricanes. Wait for public officials to give
the all-clear before returning home. Once home, follow these precautions:
- Use extreme caution when
entering damaged homes or structures
- Beware of unstable trees and
limbs. Falling tree limbs are a major cause of injury and death following
- Downed power lines are a
serious electrocution hazard. Never touch downed power lines or any
objects that are in contact with them, including water. Do not enter
flooded homes if the electricity may still be on. Report electrical
hazards to authorities.
- If you smell gas, call the gas
company. Do not smoke, light candles or use matches near gas leaks.
- Wear sturdy shoes or boots,
long pants, long sleeves and gloves when cleaning up.
- Help avoid injuries when using
chain saws and power tools by learning how to operate them properly, and
always follow recommended safety procedures.
- Whenever possible, use
battery-powered flashlights and lanterns instead of candles.
Safeguarding your health
Conditions following hurricanes are uncomfortable and pose numerous health
risks. Keep in mind that power outages may last for several days or weeks. Take
the following precautions to avoid illness:
- Discard food from your
refrigerator if it has reached room temperature. Foods that are still
partially frozen or “refrigerator cold” are safe to eat. If in doubt,
throw it out.
- Don’t drink tap water until
authorities say it is safe. Instead, drink bottled water or boil water for
at least one minute before drinking. You also can disinfect water with
chlorine or iodine (follow package directions) or with ordinary household
bleach -- one-eighth teaspoon (about eight drops) per gallon of water.
Sterilize water containers and drinking cups with a solution of household
- Poisoning from carbon monoxide is
an avoidable hazard during power outages. Never use generators, camp
stoves or charcoal grills inside your home, garage or near open windows,
doors or vents. Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that can
build up and cause sudden illness and death. If you feel dizzy,
light-headed or nauseous, seek immediate medical attention.
- Weather conditions following
hurricanes are usually very hot and humid. You may not have air
conditioning for a long period of time. Avoid heat-related
illnesses by drinking plenty of fluids and taking care to
not overexert yourself when cleaning up and repairing damage.
- When cleaning up debris, look
out for broken glass and exposed nails, a leading cause of tetanus. If you are
punctured by a nail or receive a deep wound, get a tetanus shot.
- After a hurricane, it’s normal
to experience emotional distress. Allow yourself and family members time
to grieve. For more information about coping with disaster-related stress,
visit DSHS’s Response and Recovery web page.
Links to other sites:
Note: External links to other sites are intended to be informational and do not have the endorsement of the Texas Department of State Health Services. These sites may also not be accessible to people with disabilities.