What Are Nor’easters and Coastal Storms?

A northeast coastal storm, known as a nor’easter, has winds that blow from a northeasterly direction over coastal areas. These storms can have impacts that are similar to a hurricane. Nor’easters typically occur between October and May; during winter months, nor’easters often occur as winter storms.

Why Prepare?  

Nor’easters and coastal storms have the power to cause widespread devastation, and can affect both coastal and inland areas. Threats from nor’easters and coastal storms include storm surge, high winds, heavy snow, heavy rainfall, inland flooding, rip currents, and beach erosion. Nor’easters can often last several days, affecting multiple tide cycles.


While the National Weather Service does not have specific warnings for Nor’easters or coastal storms, depending on the storm, Coastal Flood Warnings, Flood or Flash Flood Warnings, High Wind Warnings, or Winter Storm Warnings may be issued.

Before a Nor'easter or Coastal Storm

  • Be informed by receiving alerts, warnings, and public safety information before, during, and after emergencies. Download the Massachusetts Alerts app.
  • Find out whether your property is in a flood-prone or high-risk area. Explore the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) flood maps.
  • Create and review your family emergency plan.
    • If you live or work in a flood zone, hurricane evacuation zone, or an area that is prone to flooding, you should be prepared to evacuate.
    • If you receive medical treatment or home health care services, work with your medical provider to maintain care if you are unable to leave your home or have to evacuate during a storm.
  • Assemble an emergency kit.
  • Follow instructions from public safety officials.
  • Prepare for possible power outages.
    • Ensure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working and have fresh batteries.
    • Consider purchasing a generator to provide power during an outage. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and learn how to use it safely before an outage.
    • If you have life-support devices or other medical equipment or supplies which depend on electricity, notify your utility and work with your medical provider to prepare for power outages.
  • Make a record of your personal property by taking photos or videos of your belongings. Store these records in a safe place.
  • Prepare your home. If you live in a coastal community, review the Homeowners Handbook to Prepare for Coastal Hazards pdf format of Homeowner's Handbook to Prepare for Coastal Hazards
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  • Flood losses are not typically covered under renter and homeowner’s insurance policies. Consider purchasing flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Plan (NFIP).

As a Nor'easter or Coastal Storm Approaches

  • Listen to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio or to a local news station for the latest information.
  • Follow instructions given by public safety officials.
  • Review your family emergency plan.
    • If you live or work in a flood zone, hurricane evacuation zone, or  an area that is prone to flooding be ready to evacuate.
    • If you are not in an area prone to flooding and plan on riding out the storm at home, gather adequate supplies in case you lose power and water for several days and are unable to leave.
  • Prepare for power outages by charging cell phones and electronics and setting your refrigerator and freezer to their coldest settings. If you use electricity to get well water, fill your bathtub with water to use for flushing toilets. Gather adequate supplies in case you lose power and water for several days and are unable to leave.
  • Keep your car’s gas tank full. Pumps at gas stations may not work during a power outage.
  • Prepare your home.
    • Secure or bring in outdoor objects (patio furniture, children's toys, trash cans, etc.) that could be swept away or damaged during strong winds or flooding.
    • Clear clogged rain gutters to allow water to flow away from your home.
    • If damaging winds are expected, cover all of your windows. If you don’t have storm shutters, board up windows with 5/8” exterior grade or marine plywood.
    • Go Tapeless! Taping windows wastes preparation time, it does not stop windows from breaking or make cleanup easier. In fact, taping windows may create larger shards of glass that can cause serious injuries.
    • Turn off propane tanks if you are not using them.
    • Prepare for flooding by elevating items in your basement, checking your sump pump, unplugging sensitive electronic equipment, clearing nearby catch basins, and parking vehicles in areas not prone to flooding.
    • If instructed, turn off your gas and electricity at the main switch or valve.
  • If you have a boat, remove it from the water. If you cannot, prepare your boat for the storm to reduce damage.
  • If the nor’easter or coastal storm is a winter storm, learn how to prepare with our Winter Storm Safety Tips.

During a Nor'easter or Coastal Storm

  • Avoid driving or going outdoors during a storm. Flooding and damaging winds can make traveling dangerous.
  • If you must be out in the storm:
    • Do not walk through flowing water. Six inches of swiftly moving water can knock you off of your feet.
    • Remember the phrase “Turn Around, Don’t Drown!” Don’t drive through flooded roads. Cars can be swept away in just 2 ft. of moving water. If your vehicle is trapped in rapidly moving water, stay in the vehicle. If the water is rising inside the vehicle, seek refuge on the roof.
    • Do not drive around road barriers.
  • Continue to monitor media for emergency information.
  • Follow instructions from public safety officials.
  • If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Take only essential items and bring your pets if possible.
  • If told to shelter in place:
    • Stay indoors and away from windows.
    • Listen to local television or radio for updates.
    • Conditions may change quickly, be prepared to evacuate to a shelter or neighbor’s home if necessary.

After a Nor'easter or Coastal Storm

  • Continue to monitor the media for emergency information.
  • Follow instructions from public safety officials.
  • Call 9-1-1 to report emergencies including downed power lines and gas leaks.
  • Call 2-1-1 to obtain shelter locations and other disaster information.
  • Stay away from downed utility wires.  Always assume a downed power line is live.
  • “Turn Around, Don’t Drown!” - Don’t drive through flooded roads.
  • Stay out of damaged buildings and away from affected areas and or roads until authorities deem them safe.
  • If you have evacuated, return home only when authorities say it is safe to do so.
  • Listen to news reports to learn if your water supply is safe to drink. Until local authorities proclaim your water supply safe, boil water for at least one minute before drinking or using for food preparation.
  • Check your home for damage:
    • Never touch electrical equipment while you are wet or standing in water. Consider hiring a qualified electrician to assess damage to electrical systems.
    • Have wells checked for contamination from bacteria and chemicals before using.
    • Have damaged septic tanks or leaching systems repaired as soon as possible to reduce potential health hazards.
    • If you believe there is a gas leak, go outdoors immediately, and do not turn electrical switches or appliances on or off. If you turned off your gas, a licensed professional is required to turn it back on.
    • If your home or property is damaged, take photos or videos to document damage, and contact your insurance company.
  • If your power is out, follow our power outage safety tips.
    • Report power outages to your utility company.
    • Use generators and grills outside because their fumes contain carbon monoxide. Make sure your carbon monoxide detectors are working as it is a silent, odorless, killer. See more Generator Safety Tips. pdf format of Generator Safety
    • If a traffic light is out, treat the intersection as a four-way stop.
  • If phone lines are down, use social media or texting to let others know you are OK.
  • Look before you step. After a storm, the ground and floors can be covered with debris, including broken bottles and nails.
  • Avoid entering moving or standing floodwaters. Floodwater and mud may be contaminated by oil, gasoline, or raw sewage.
  • Clean and disinfect anything that got wet, and take steps to prevent and detect mold. Consider using professional cleaning and repair services. See more tips to recover from flooding.
  • If the nor’easter or coastal storm is a winter storm, learn how to stay safe after the storm with our Winter Storm Safety Tips.
  • Throw away food that has come into contact with floodwaters (including canned items), was exposed to temperatures above 40 °F for more than two hours, or has an unusual odor, color, or texture. When in doubt, throw it out!
  • Be a good neighbor. Check on family, friends, and neighbors, especially the elderly, those who live alone, those with medical conditions, and those who may need additional assistance.