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Aerial image of a hurricane

A hurricane is a powerful storm with potentially far-reaching effects that include dangerous flooding, high winds, and tornados. Severe property damage and loss of life are also possible, depending on the severity of the storm.

In the Westchester County area, the Atlantic hurricane season spans the months of June to November and peaks in the middle of August through late October.

Key terms
Below are some terms used by the National Weather Service (NWS) when discussing severe weather systems associated with tropical storms and hurricanes.

Hurricane/Tropical Storm Watch: Generally issued 48 hours prior to the predicted arrival of powerful winds. Conditions are possible in the applicable area. Prepare your home or business and go over actions to be taken in the event that an evacuation is subsequently ordered. Maintain awareness by monitoring local news media for further information.

Hurricane/Tropical Storm Warning: Generally issued 36 hours prior to the predicted arrival of powerful winds. Conditions are expected in the applicable area. Complete preparedness actions, if possible. Evacuate immediately if directed by local authorities. 

Extreme Wind Warning: Utilized to warn affected areas of winds associated with a hurricane where wind speeds may exceed 115 miles per hour, typically within one hour of issuance. Severe threats to life and property may result from these winds. Take shelter immediately in a safe, interior portion of a sturdy structure.

Storm Surge: The rise in water levels above and beyond what is typical for the area.

  • Storm Surge Watch: A storm surge watch is defined as the possibility of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the shoreline somewhere within the specified area, generally within 48 hours, in association with a tropical, subtropical, or post-tropical cyclone. The watch may be issued earlier when other conditions, such as the onset of tropical storm-force winds, are expected to limit the time available to take protective actions for surge (e.g., evacuations). The watch may also be issued for locations not expected to receive life-threatening inundation, but which could potentially be isolated by inundation in adjacent areas.

  • Storm Surge Warning: A storm surge warning is defined as the danger of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the shoreline somewhere within the specified area, generally within 36 hours, in association with a tropical, subtropical, or post-tropical cyclone. The warning may be issued earlier when other conditions, such as the onset of tropical storm-force winds, are expected to limit the time available to take protective actions for surge (e.g., evacuations). The warning may also be issued for locations not expected to receive life-threatening inundation, but which could potentially be isolated by inundation in adjacent areas.

General recommended actions and preparedness strategies
Here are key steps for personal and family preparedness recommended by the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other agencies:

General recommendations

  • Create an individual/family emergency plan. Practice this plan and ensure that all family members are able to execute it.
  • Build a “Go Bag” to store important information and supplies for easy access in an emergency.
  • Plan and practice communication methods amongst family members. Keep in mind that, after disasters, text messages may be more likely than voice calls to be successful. Incorporate other alternates methods, as well including social media, email, etc.
  • Practice sheltering in the event of a hurricane.
  • Make sure your car is in good repair; ensure that your gas tank is full.
  • If you are in an at-risk area, reinforce your home:
    • Water: Protect against flood damage; elevate major appliances (water heater, furnace, etc.); waterproof basement; install sump-pumps; stockpile key materials including plywood, plastic sheeting, sandbags, etc. Keep drains and gutters clear.
    • Wind: Secure outdoor furniture and objects; install appropriate window and structural protection.

Prior to landfall

  • Review your personal/family evacuation plan.
  • Ensure that your cell phone is charged and that your vehicle (and generator, if applicable) is fully fueled.
  • Ensure that you have a battery-powered radio and flashlight and adequate spare batteries for both.
  • Monitor local media for weather reports and updates and take shelter immediately in a safe, interior portion of a sturdy structure if advised to do so.
  • Be aware of your evacuation routes and evacuate immediately if directed by local authorities

Post-landfall

  • Continue to monitor local media for important updates and/or further instructions.
  • Only return home when authorities give the all-clear.
  • Stay away from downed power lines.
  • Avoid flood waters. You and/or your vehicle might be swept away by fast-moving water. Downed power lines might electrify the water.
  • Document damaged property (photograph, etc.) for insurance purposes if it is safe to do so.

Additional information