HURRICANE INFORMATION HOTLINE
Beaufort County 800-963-5023, opt. 7
Hurricane season for the Atlantic Coast begins June 1 and continues through Nov. 30. Beaufort has been fortunate and missed the brunt of several severe storms in the past few years. However, the danger of a major hurricane coming ashore here remains.
For newcomers to the area since Hurricane Hugo, it is hard to comprehend the force of the storm and the damage it inflicted upon the lowcountry. For others who braved the deluge of rain, high winds and vivid lightning, Sept. 21, 1989, is a date difficult to forget.
While Beaufort County sustained only minor wind damage and heavy rainfall, Charleston, along with its surrounding communities of Summerville and McClennanville, were nearly leveled by one of the most devastating hurricanes to ever hit the Southeastern United States.
Even as Hugo methodically approached the Atlantic Coast leaving behind a wake of destruction throughout the Bahamas and Puerto Rico, many believed the storm would weaken. Instead, Hugo gathered strength and headed for the South Carolina and Georgia coastline.
Only when landfall was imminent did residents begin to brace for the storm. As a result, many were ill-prepared for what became a catastrophe. Thousands of people evacuated coastal areas in the waning moments before the storm’s landfall. Hugo even forced the cancellation of Company H, 2nd Battalion’s recruit graduation ceremony.
Beaufort was also spared the damage of Hurricane Bob in 1991 as it took a northward swing and made landfall in the Camp Lejeune area.
Two strong hurricanes hit the Gulf Coast near Pensacola, Florida, in 1995. Their effects are still being felt as property owners struggle to rebuild their homes and their lives.
In 1996, hurricanes Bertha and Fran approached the lowcountry, but both diverted north to the Camp Lejeune region. In 2000, Hurricane Floyd became less of a threat to the area as it weakened and became a tropical storm.
Perhaps the most powerful storm to hit the Southeast in the past century was Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The storm destroyed Homestead Air Force Base, Florida, and leveled much of the southern portion of the state and then moved into the Gulf of Mexico to do the same to Louisiana.
If there is a bright spot that shines through the destruction, it would have to be the heightened sense of awareness Atlantic Coast residents now have. These storms have enlightened many about a hurricane’s deadly force and how best to prepare themselves and their property against it.
Advanced technology and satellite imagery have greatly enhanced meteorologists’ ability to detect hurricanes and the probable paths they will take.
Early detection ensures the safety of thousands of residents along the Atlantic Coast, allowing them ample time to prepare for an advancing storm.
When a hurricane watch is issued for the lowcountry, a threat of a hurricane making landfall is possible. Hurricane conditions include winds in excess of 74 mph and dangerously high tides and waves.
The following actions should immediately be taken under a hurricane watch or warning to protect your life and property:
- Regularly monitor weather reports on the radio or television. Pay attention to official announcements — not to rumors.
- Find out what you need to do for proof of claim or loss and how to process a claim following the storm.
- Store enough food and water in a safe place to last each person three to five days. Store food that doesn’t require refrigeration and turn down the refrigerator to its lowest setting so food will keep longer if power is lost. Keep extra water in a clean bathtub or other containers.
- Use a barbecue grill or camping stove to cook, and store paper cups, plates and plastic silverware.
- Keep two to three changes of clothes per person.
- Gather tools and materials to help protect your home such as shutters or boards, nails, tape, hammers, shovel, etc.
- Secure the outside of your home by putting away toys, lawn furniture, etc., and anchoring all objects that are too big to be brought inside. Protect glass by boarding, securing shutters or taping windows, and brace garage doors.
- Do not drain swimming pools.
- Fill your automobile’s gas tank in case evacuation becomes necessary.
- Fill needed prescriptions and ensure a fully stocked first aid kit is available.
- Make arrangements for pets in case of evacuation. Pets are not allowed in any public shelters.
- Secure your boat in a safe harbor. Boats on trailers should be moved into a garage or properly secured outside.
- Check your supplies, making sure you have a working flashlight and radio with an adequate stock of batteries.
- Move all valuables upstairs if flooding may occur and store valuable documents in waterproof containers.
- If evacuation becomes necessary, leave as soon as possible. Know where you are going using only recommended travel routes and do not take shortcuts, coastal roads or drive through floodwaters.
- Use the telephone only for emergencies.
Remain calm. If evacuation becomes necessary, ensure the following actions are taken prior to leaving home:
- Turn off all utilities including gas, electricity and water. Lock all windows and doors.
- Post a message regarding where you’re going and who is with you.
- Take important supplies such as a first aid kit, cash, food and water, medicines, important documents, sleeping bags or blankets, baby food and supplies, a flashlight and radio.
If you remain at home during the storm, follow these safety precautions:
- Remain indoors and clear of windows, preferably in a central room.
- Turn off the electricity as soon as flooding begins and use flashlights instead of candles or lanterns.
- Open the refrigerator as little as possible so that food will keep longer.
- Stay calm, follow the instructions of local authorities and do not go outside until the “all clear” signal is given.
After the storm has passed, remember to continue using caution and follow these guidelines:
- Listen to instructions from local authorities.
- If you have been evacuated, wait until the authorities tell you it’s safe to return.
- Check your food and water supply for spoilage and do not drink tap water until it is deemed safe.
- Inspect for gas leaks using a flashlight and sense of smell only. If you detect a leak, use a neighbor’s phone to call the gas company.
- Check for electrical damage, making sure all outlets and appliances are dry before use.
- Look for structural damage to your home and watch for falling debris.
- If you must drive, avoid downed wires, flooded roads and disaster areas.
- By using common sense and prior planning, taking care of your family and property will be much easier during what can be a stressful time.
So coastal residents can take appropriate action before, during and after a hurricane, it is vital to know and understand hurricane terminology.
The following are some terms often associated with a hurricane and their implications.
Category 1 Hurricane: Storm with winds 74 to 95 mph and storm surges 4 to 5 feet above mean sea level.
Category 2 Hurricane: Storm with winds 96 to 110 mph and storm surges 6 to 8 feet above mean sea level.
Category 3 Hurricane: Storm with winds 111 to 130 mph and storm surges 9 to 12 feet above mean sea level.
Category 4 Hurricane: Storm with winds 131 to 155 mph and storm surges 13 to 18 feet above mean sea level.
Category 5 Hurricane: Storm with winds in excess of 155 mph and storm surges in excess of 19 feet above mean sea level.
Condition 5: This is a normal condition of readiness in which all units exercise precautionary measures during the annual hurricane season. This condition will be in effect from June 1 until Nov. 30 of each year.
Condition 4: The path of a hurricane has been reasonably well established, and its trend indicates a possible threat of destructive force winds within 72 hours.
Condition 3: The hurricane continues to advance and destructive force winds are possible within 48 hours.
Condition 2: Destructive force winds are anticipated within 24 hours.
Condition 1: Destructive force winds are imminent or expected within 12 hours. This condition also applies when destructive winds are in progress.
Destructive Weather Condition One (DWC) Caution: Destructive winds are anticipated within six hours.
Destructive Weather Condition One Emergency: Destructive winds are currently affecting the MCAS Beaufort area.
Destructive Weather Condition One Recovery: The destructive weather system has passed the area, but storm hazards remain. All orders, restrictions and guidance established in previous DWCs remain in effect. MCAS emergency management is effecting the speedy return to normal operations by eliminating safety concerns, re-establishing services and utilities, clearing debris and performing essential repairs.
Flash Flood Warning: A flash flood is imminent: Take immediate action.
Flash Flood Watch: A flash flood in the area is possible: Stay alert.
Gale Warning: Issued when winds of 39 to 54 mph (34 to 47 knots) are expected.
Hurricane: Pronounced rotary circulation with a constant wind speed of 75 mph (64 knots) or more.
Hurricane Warning: Issued when hurricane conditions are expected in a specified coastal area in 24 hours or less. Hurricane conditions include winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or more and/or dangerously high tides and waves. Actions for protection of life and property should begin immediately when the warning is issued.
Hurricane Watch: Issued for coastal areas when there is a threat of a hurricane making landfall in the lowcountry.
Storm Warnings: Issued when winds 55 to 74 mph (48 to 64 knots) are expected. If a hurricane is expected to strike the coastal area, gale or storm warnings will not usually precede hurricane warnings.
Tornadoes: Sometimes spawned by hurricanes, these violently rotating columns of air may produce severe damage and casualties. The typical path of a tornado is 50 feet wide and a few miles long, but some have cut a swath much larger. If a tornado is reported in your area, a warning will be issued.
Tropical Cyclone: The general term for all rotating storms originating over tropical waters.
Tropical Depression: Rotary circulation at the ocean’s surface with a highest constant wind speed of 38 mph (33 knots).
Tropical Disturbance: A moving area of thunderstorms in the tropics that maintains its identity for 24 hours or more.
Tropical Storm: Distinct rotary circulation, constant wind speed ranges from 39 to 74 mph (34 to 63 knots).
Typhoon: The name given to hurricanes that develop west of the international dateline.
Waterspout: A tornado over water.