PHILADELPHIA (CBS)–The U.S. has not experienced the landfall of a major hurricane since Wilma, more than a decade ago in 2005. However, storms like Sandy, a post-tropical system of Category 1 strength at landfall, remind us that devastating impacts can occur regardless of a hurricane’s category. June 1 marks the start of hurricane season, and the time to prepare is before the season begins.
The first step of preparation is determining your home’s risk to hurricane hazards including strong winds, storm surge, inland flooding, and tornadoes.
Starting at 74 mph, Category 1 strength, winds will yield extensive damage to power lines resulting in power outages that could last several days. After Superstorm Sandy, some New Jersey residents endured nearly a month without power.
In a Category 2 hurricane, well-constructed frame homes can sustain major roof damage, unreinforced masonry walls can collapse, and windows in high-rise buildings can be broken by flying debris.
With a hurricane’s category, you know what to expect wind-wise, but that differs for storm surge. Hurricane Ike, a Category 2 at landfall on Texas in 2008, produced catastrophic damage with an incredible 20 foot storm surge whereas Hurricane Charley, a Category 4 in 2004, produced an 8 foot surge, causing only moderate damage in Florida.
Be sure to know if you live in a storm surge hurricane evacuation zone. 67,000 residents of Atlantic County and 94,000 residents of Cape May County do.
You don’t need to live at the coast to feel the impact of inland flooding, it can threaten communities hundreds of miles away. In the last 30 years, inland flooding, which results from heavy and prolonged rainfall, has been responsible for more than half the deaths associated with tropical cyclones in the United States.
Hurricane-spawned tornadoes also pose a threat to those along the coast and well inland. And storm strength again does not determine tornado total. Tropical Storm Lee, spawned 46 tornadoes, the most from a tropical system since 2010.