Although the Hurricane Season in New England is defined as June 1st to November 30th, 75% of the over 40 tropical systems that have impacted our region in the past century have struck during the months of August and September.  The last severe hurricane to hit Massachusetts was Hurricane Bob in August 1991.  Bob, a Category 2 Hurricane, with winds between 91 and 110mph, caused almost $1 billion in damage. In 1999, Hurricane Floyd, although weakened to the strength of a tropical storm prior to its arrival in New England, demonstrated that these storms are not merely ‘coastal events’. Most of that storm’s impact was rain and flood related, causing severe damage as far west as the Berkshires. As with Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, some of our most devastating flooding associated with these storms has occurred in Central and Western Massachusetts. Up to 17” of rain fell in association with the Hurricane of 1938 and 25” of rain fell over a 5-day period in August 1955 from Connie & Diane, with the City of Westfield received 13.15” in a single day! See our New England Hurricanes of Note webpage for more information on Hurricanes and tropical storms that have impacted Massachusetts.

Massachusetts lies in the unenviable position of receiving all three “Hurricane Threats”, depending upon the track and landfall location: 1) Coastal inundation due to storm surge 2) Widespread inland river flooding and 3) Widespread wind damage far inland, These threats and the history of storms demonstrates that the entire Commonwealth should take precautions for hurricanes.

Hurricane topics: Before a Hurricane, During a Hurricane, After a Hurricane, Hurricane Evacuation Zones , Emergency Kit , Preparing Your Home for a Hurricane , Evacuation , Pets and Animals in Emergencies , Power Outages During Warm Weather , Preparing Your Boat for a Hurricane

Before a Hurricane 

  • Understand the terms used by meteorologists:
    • Tropical Depression – An organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 38mph or less.  Sustained winds are defined as one-minute average wind measured at about 33’ above the surface.
    • Tropical Storm – An organized system of strong thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 39-73mph.
    • Hurricane – An intense tropical weather system of strong thunderstorms with a well-defined surface circulation and a maximum sustained winds of 75mph or higher.
    • Storm Surge – An abnormal rise of water generated by a storm, over and above the predicted astronomical tide. Storm surge is often the greatest threat to life and property from a hurricane and it poses a significant threat for drowning. Coastal areas are vulnerable to storm surge, including areas away from the immediate shoreline. The destructive power of storm surge and large battering waves can result in loss of life, buildings destroyed, beach and dune erosion and road and bridge damage along the coast. Tropical storms, all categories of hurricanes, and post-tropical cyclones can all cause life-threatening storm surge. Because of dangerous nature of storm surge, everyone is encouraged to see the Hurricane Evacuation Zones webpage to check their evacuation zone. Learn more about storm surge at: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/surge/ or NOAA's Storm Surge Can Be Deadly brochure.
    • Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane's sustained wind speed. This scale estimates potential property damage from the wind but does NOT address the potential for other hurricane-related impacts, such as storm surge and rainfall-induced flooding.
      • Tropical Storm - Winds 39-73 mph. These winds can produce some damage to buildings and trees which can cause significant power outages.
      • Category 1 Hurricane - Winds 74-95 mph. Very dangerous winds will produce some damage: Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.
      • Category 2 Hurricane - Winds 96-110 mph. Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage: Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.
      • Category 3 Hurricane - Winds 111-129 mph.  Devastating damage will occur: Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.
      • Category 4 Hurricane - Winds 130-156 mph. Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
      • Category 5 Hurricane - Winds 157 mph and up. Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
  • Monitor local Media weather reports.  Purchase a NOAA Weather Radio with battery backup and a tone-alert feature, and a battery-powered commercial radio and extra batteries.
  • Learn the particular hurricane risks for your area
    • If you live or work in one of Massachusetts’s coastal communities or near a river or other waterway that is connected to the ocean, you should are encouraged to "Know Your Zone" by knowing whether your home or business is in a pre-designated Hurricane Evacuation Zone. See the Hurricane Evacuation Zones webpage to check your evacuation zone. If you live or work in an evacuation zone you should listen to local and state officials and weather forecasts before and during a hurricane for evacuation information. If evacuations are necessary, local and state officials may use the evacuation zones (Zone A or Zone B) to identify areas to be evacuated.  If local or state officials call for an evacuation of a zone that you live in or work in, you should follow their directions and evacuate to a safe area. If you live or work in an evacuation zone, you should plan for and be prepared to evacuate during a hurricane as part of your emergency plan. To be safe, you should be prepared for hurricane impacts one category higher than the storm being forecast.
    • Citizens in all communities, including inland communities are at risk for the hazards of hurricanes such as flooding and destructive winds. As we saw in 2011 with Tropical Storm Irene, due to the fact that Massachusetts is a relatively small state, depending upon the storm’s track, the entire Commonwealth could be severely impacted by a tropical storm or hurricane. Tropical Storm Irene caused devastating flooding in Central and Western Massachusetts and other storms like the Hurricane of 1938 and Connie and Diane in 1955 also caused significant flooding in inland parts of the state. Citizens in ALL parts of the state should be prepared for flooding and damaging winds that can cause power outages.
    • Visit www.floodsmart.gov or call 1-888-379-9531 to learn more about flood risks, flood maps, flood zones, and flood insurance. Consider buying flood insurance, even if your property is not in a flood zone. Flood damage is not usually covered by homeowners insurance.
    • Talk to your local emergency management director about the risks in your community and neighborhood.
  • Ask your local emergency management director about local public shelters and planned community evacuation routes. (See Evacuation)
  • Get your family prepared for a hurricane by looking at the tips on our Family Hurricane Preparedness webpage. This includes building an Emergency Kit, creating a family emergency communications plan and staying informed of hazards.
  • Get your home ready for hurricanes. Trim trees, clear clogged gutters, secure outdoor items and furniture, learn how to shut off gas and water lines and consider plywood covers for windows and doors. See more tips on the Preparing Your Home for a Hurricane webpage.
  • Homeowners in coastal communities can prepare their homes for hurricanes and other coastal hazards be reading the MA Homeowner's Handbook to Prepare for Coastal Hazards pdf format of    MA Homeowner's Handbook to Prepare for Coastal Hazards  file size 13MB
  • Make a record of your personal property for insurance purposes. Take photos or a video of the interior and exterior of your home. Include personal belongings in your inventory. Keep an itemized list of your furniture, clothing and valuables to assist adjusters in case of a claim and support the list with photos or video.
  • If you do not have them, obtain property, health and life insurance. Review your existing policies for the amount and extent of coverage to ensure that what you have in place is what is required for you and your family for all possible hazards. Store important documents such as insurance policies, deeds, property records and other important papers in a safe place, such as a safety deposit box away from your home. Many people also keep a copy in a watertight box in their home and in their  Many people back up important documents online.
  • Be prepared for storm related power outages. Tropical storms and hurricanes have left hundreds of thousands of people without power for days or weeks. See MEMA's Power Outages During Warm Weather webpage for tips and information
  • Fuel your automobile.  Service stations may be closed during and after the storm.  If you do not have a car, make arrangements for transportation with friends, relatives, or with your local Emergency Management Office.
  • Be prepared in case you are asked to evacuate during a hurricane. See our Evacuation webpage for more information.
  • Be prepared in case you need to Shelter-in-place during a hurricane. See our Shelter in Place webpage for more information.
  • During a hurricane the Cape Cod Emergency Traffic Plan (CCETP) may be implemented. The CCETP has been developed to facilitate the egress of a high volume of traffic from Cape Cod in the event of a hurricane or other potential high hazards, particularly during peak tourist season. It is important to emphasize that this is NOT an evacuation plan. Although there are a number of areas of the Cape that would evacuate from low-lying, flood prone areas to higher ground, many of these individuals would access local shelters and not necessarily leave the Cape.
  • Prepare for a hurricane using your cellphone, computer and other technology by visiting our Use Technology to Get Ready for Emergencies webpage.
  • Plan for your pets before a hurricane occurs. Consider where you may bring them if you need to evacuate and have some pet supplies as part of your emergency kit. Lear more about how to prepare your pets for emergencies on our Pets and Animals in Emergencies webpage.
  • Business owners should also get prepared for hurricanes. See the Business Resources webpage for more information.
  • If you have a boat, get it ready for a hurricane by planning to remove it from the water or if you cannot, to secure it to reduce damage. See MEMA's Preparing Your Boat for a Hurricane webpage.

During a Hurricane  

  • Monitor media reports.
  • If requested to do so, evacuate immediately. (See Evacuation webpage for more tips and information.). Take your Emergency Kit with you.
  • If you evacuate, tell others where you are going.
  • If you are not required or unable to evacuate, stay indoors and away from windows and glass doors.  Keep curtains and blinds closed. 
  • Do not be fooled by a lull in the storm, you could be in the eye of the storm and winds will resume.
  • In anticipation of loss of power, turn your refrigerator to its coldest setting and keep the door closed. (Power Outages During Warm Weather )
  • Turn off propane tanks.
  • In strong winds, take refuge in a small interior room, closet or hallway.
  • Close all interior doors. Secure and brace exterior doors.
  • In a two-story residence, go to an interior first-floor room, such as a bathroom or closet.
  • In a multi-story building, go to the first or second floors, staying away from windows.
  • Lie on the floor under a table or other object.
  • Avoid using the telephone except for serious emergencies.

After a Hurricane 

  • If you have been evacuated, do not return to your home until you have been directed to do so by state or local officials.
  • Keep tuned to local media for information about such things as caring for your household, where to find medical help, and applying for financial assistance.
  • If you have become separated from your family, use your family communications plan or contact the American Red Cross at 1-800-RED-CROSS/1-800-733-2767 or visit the American Red Cross Safe and Well site: www.safeandwell.org
  • Do not become a spectator.  Unnecessary travel into the most impacted areas could hinder the efforts of Public Safety officials.
  • Drive only when and where necessary.  Streets may be filled with debris or flooded.  Closed roads are for your protection, in that they may be flooded, weakened and could collapse.
  • Stay out of any building if you smell gas, floodwaters remain around the building or your home was damaged by fire and the authorities have not declared it safe.
  • Upon returning, do not turn on any electronic equipment until the electricity has been safely restored.
  • Be sure to check all electronic equipment for water damage.  If you are uncertain, throw them away.  It is better to be safe than risk electrocution.
  • Watch for loose or dangling powerlines. Downed or hanging electrical wires can be hidden by trees or debris, and could be live.  Never attempt to touch or moved downed lines.  Keep children and pets away from them.
  • If there is structural damage to your home or downed trees in the yard, use care.
  • Open doors and windows to ventilate you home. 
  • Do not call your 9-1-1 unless you have an emergency. Call 2-1-1 for information or questions.
  • Use bottled water until local officials have determined the safety of the water supply. 
  • Guard against spoiled food.  If the power was disrupted, food in the refrigerator may have spoiled. Freezers can keep food for several days if unopened. Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40° F (4° C) for 2 hours or more or that has an unusual odor, color or texture. When in doubt, throw it out!
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines when using a generator.  Always use outdoors, away from windows and doors. Carbon Monoxide fumes are odorless and can quickly accumulate indoors. Never try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator directly into household wiring, a practice known as “backfeeding.” This is extremely dangerous and presents an electrocution risk to utility workers and neighbors served by the same utility transformer. It also bypasses some of the built-in household circuit protection devices.
  • If there is property damage, contact your insurance agent as soon as possible.
  • Inspect your home for damage. Take pictures or video of damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance purposes. If you have any doubts about safety, have your residence inspected by a qualified building inspector or structural engineer before entering.
  • Do not turn your yard into a dump.  Have debris hauled away before it causes additional health hazards.
  • Yards that have been contaminated by flooded sewage systems should be disinfected by a liberal application of lime.  Children and animals should be kept away from limed areas until the lime is no longer visible.
  • If your home, apartment or business has suffered damage, call your insurance company or agent who handles your flood insurance right away to file a claim. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administers the National Flood Insurance Plan (NFIP) through the Federal Insurance Administration (FIA).  The NFIP makes flood insurance available in communities that adopt and enforce ordinances to reduce flood damage.
  • Be a good neighbor.  Make sure those around you are safe and have the help that they need.
  • Be prepared for a rough time.  Recovering from a hurricane is a big job.  It is taxing on the body and spirit.  The after-effects of this type of disaster on you and your family may last a long time.  Consult a health professional on how to recognize and care for anxiety, stress and fatigue. For free disaster crisis counseling, call 1-800-985-5990.

 

For emergency managers and public safety officials, see our Hurricane Resources for Emergency Managers webpage