Save on Pinterest

10 Hurricane Preparedness Myths

You've probably heard these hurricane myths, but these are NOT true.

tropical hurricane approaching the USA.Elements of this image are furnished by NASA.MIKEMAREEN/GETTY IMAGES

Millions of Americans across the South and East Coast are vulnerable to the threat of hurricanes each year. And while most are aware of the dangers these present, there are lots of misconceptions of how to prepare for an impeding storm.

Hurricane Irma Extreme Image of Storm Striking Miami, FloridaWarren Faidley/Getty Images

Hurricanes Can’t Hit Before or After “Hurricane Season”

Hurricane season technically begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30. However, a hurricane can occur at any time, and you should always have a storm kit ready.

Most tropical cyclone activity occurs in mid-September, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Flooded neighborhood streets in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA.JillianCain/Getty Images

I Don’t Live on the Water, So I Don’t Need to Worry

Waterfront properties are at heightened risk of storm surge, but devastating flooding can occur inland as well. Check with local officials or your insurance provider to see if you live in a flood-prone area and what precautionary steps to take.

Tornado and Lightning Boltclintspencer/Getty Images

Hurricanes Only Impact Coastal States

States like Florida and Louisiana probably come to mind first when thinking about hurricane impacted areas. But non-coastal states can feel the brunt of powerful hurricanes, too. Tornadoes, lightning strikes, high winds and flooding can remain an issue as a storm travels hundreds or even thousands of miles inland after landfall.

Natural Disaster AftermathElizabeth W. Kearley/Getty Images

I Shouldn’t Worry About Category 1 or 2 Hurricanes

Wind speed alone determines a storm’s classification, not size or any other measure. A Category 3 or higher is considered a major hurricane, but even a Category 1 can inflict significant damage.

The National Hurricane Center categorizes hurricanes by the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale:

  • Tropical depression: Maximum sustained winds of 38 mph.
  • Tropical storm: 39 to 73 mph.
  • Category 1 hurricane: 74 to 95 mph.
  • Category 2: 96 to 110 mph.
  • Category 3: 111 to 129 mph.
  • Category 4: 130 to 156 mph.
  • Category 5: 157 mph or higher.

Some of the most devastating hurricanes in U.S. history were in the major category, like Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Maria in 2017. But Hurricane Sally was only a Category 1 storm when it hit the Northeastern U.S. in 2012, causing $81.9 billion in damage, according to NOAA.

Bottom line: All tropical systems, depressions and storms are worth monitoring and bracing for.

Palm Tree Blowing In Hurricane WindsRandy Faris/Getty Images

Only Wind Speed Matters

Not quite. Variables like how fast the storm is moving and projected storm surge are just as important to track. A fast moving (not fast spinning) system is sometimes better because it will move through the area quicker, instead of sitting and dumping rain for hours.

North Miami Beach Luxury High Rise Buildings with Storm CloudsBoogich/Getty Images

The Top Floors of Apartment or Condos Are Safest

This is a common misconception. Most people assume you’ll avoid the worst of it by sheltering at the highest levels, but that’s not true with high rises. Wind speeds increase at higher altitudes, putting higher stories at a greater risk of broken windows and flying debris.

You should always adhere to the evacuation notices of local officials. This is especially important if you live in a tall building.

Evacuation Route Sign on Captiva IslandFranz Marc Frei/Getty Images

I Can Wait Until the Last Minute to Leave

Waiting too long to leave can sometimes be even more dangerous than staying and riding out a storm. Traffic can stretch for miles, and being trapped in the open with no shelter could have deadly consequences.

Allow yourself plenty of time to safely travel out of harm’s way, and take any important documents and valuables with you.

Mans's hand holding fuel nozzle in carDimitri Otis/Getty Images

I Don’t Need to Fuel Up My Car

Gas stations will run out of fuel fast as locals panic-buy enough for their cars and backup generators. You should keep at least half a tank of gas in your car, ideally a full tank in case you need to evacuate before or after a storm hits.

Young man holding wallet and counting money, Jersey City, New Jersey, USATetra Images/Getty Images

I Don’t Need to Take Out Cash

When the power goes out, so does your ability to pay with a credit card. If you need bottled water, food or lodging, you might be looking at a cash-only option. Worst case, you can always deposit that cash back into your account if you don’t use it.

Plywood covers the windows of a beach cottage in Florida in preparation for an oncoming hurricaneSandiMako/Getty Images

Taping Windows Stops Them From Breaking

Taping windows is NOT an effective way to keep your windows safe from a storm. Instead, close window shutters or add a plywood barrier.

Alex Shoemaker
Alex is an avid DIYer but had little experience before purchasing his first home in 2019. A Family Handyman subscription was one of his first purchases after becoming a homeowner, and he's been hooked ever since. When he’s not working, he can be found fixing up his 1940s Florida home or relaxing on the beach with his family.