Although New England's greatest threat from tropical systems comes during the months of August through October, we are never immune to the tropics. New England can - and has - sustained significant damage from major hurricanes. Having said that, the last major hurricane to hit New England was in 1954 - so if you don't remember that damage from Hurricane Carol, our potential for disaster is beyond what you've ever seen.
- With a strike to Narragansett Bay, a major hurricane would bring a storm surge of an amazing 31 FEET into the shore of Buzzards Bay.
- During one of our major hurricanes - the Great New England Hurricane of 1938 - New England's peak wind gust was 183 mph at Blue Hill Observatory in Milton, MA
There are some simple precautionary tips for New Englanders to follow at the start of hurricane season. Please take some time to review these guidelines, offered by the National Weather Service.
Pre-Season Hurricane Preparedness
Hurricane season runs from June 1st through November 30th. For Southern New England, August through September is our most active period. Since 1900, 33 of the 49 tropical storms and hurricanes have struck in August and September... Of the 12 hurricanes which made landfall in Southern New England, all but one did so in August or September. The exception was the New England hurricane of 1916 which made landfall on July 21st. Now is the time to review what you need to do to protect yourself and your family, should a hurricane threaten the area later this summer.
The Evacuation Question: To Stay or Leave
Coastal residents may need to decide whether or not to evacuate. If local officials recommend that you evacuate, do so immediately. Try to use the routes local officials recommend. These routes will often be patrolled more frequently, meaning help will reach you sooner if you get into trouble.
Evacuation does not necessarily mean fleeing hundreds of miles. The shortest distance you can travel to leave an area which will be flooded, or isolated due to flooding, to reach a building which can withstand the expected winds is ideal. Think: "Run from the water, and hide from the wind."
- Know the quickest route to the nearest storm shelter.
- If possible you may wish to make prior arrangements with family or friends.
- If you live in a mobile or modular home, plan to leave.
- Realize that you will not be the only one heading inland and allow extra time for travel.
- Be ready to leave on short notice - use an emergency preparedness kit.
- Be sure to have pictures or at the very least, serial numbers and a description of items in your house for insurance purposes. Take your copy of the policy with you.
Boat Owners and Marina Operators
The boating community almost always suffers large losses when a hurricane comes ashore. The boat owner in particular must stay abreast of the latest forecasts and positions of tropical storms and hurricanes, and be ready to act long before the storm makes its final approach.
- Boat owners should have all the necessary gear on board for properly securing their vessel at the start of the boating season. Precious time will be lost if you are rushing around searching for gear when the storm is approaching.
- Realize that you may not be able to pull your boat out of the water. Your only alternative will be to properly tie your boat down. Practice these procedures at the start of the season.
- Have a plan worked out with the marina operator so there are no questions or any confusion when the time comes to tie up or pull the boat out of the water.
- Be sure to remove any non-essential items and have pictures and a written description of the vessel for insurance purposes.
The Inland Wind Threat
Inland residents may not need to evacuate if you are not in a flood-prone area. While not subject to the impact of the storm surge, heavy rainfall could lead to flooding of area waterways or urban areas. Inland residents should also properly prepare their property for high winds and disrupted utilities, especially electricity, water and gas.
- Boarding up windows is a necessity for homes exposed to high winds. Have nails and boards on hand for this purpose.
- Know where you will store outdoor furniture.
- Be ready to obtain bottled water. Local water supplies often become contaminated after hurricanes. Wells should be tested for contamination before using them after a hurricane or tropical storm. You should have enough water to supply each person in your family with one gallon of water per day for sanitation and drinking for at least 3 days.
- Have plenty of batteries on hand for flash lights, AM/FM radios, and your NOAA weather radio.
- Do not use candles. Many people have been injured or killed during and after hurricanes from fires started by candles.
- Have non-perishable food that does not need refrigeration on hand. Keep a manual can opener for use with canned foods. It is almost a certainty that electrical and phone power will be disrupted after a hurricane. Again have enough food to get through at least 3 days.
The "Often Forgotten" River Flood Threat
While most Southern New Englanders relate hurricanes to severe coastal flooding, and rightfully so, history shows us that 15 tropical storms and hurricanes since 1900 have caused significant inland small stream and river flooding.
- Know where the closest storm shelter is located, and the quickest route to it.
- Be ready to evacuate immediately if flooding occurs or is expected to occur.
- If the inland river flood threat is high, you may wish to evacuate before the hurricane hits.
- Like coastal residents and boat owners, have pictures and descriptions of items in your home for insurance purposes.
Of all the many weather hazards that affect Southern New England, the hurricane is by far the most destructive. Unlike most other weather hazards, a hurricane can impact every area of Southern New England with the deadly combination of: coastal inundation, severe wind damage along the coast as well as inland, and torrential rainfall resulting in widespread small stream and river flooding. Respect the power of the hurricane! Be ready to act should one pose a threat to our area!
Learn more about Hurricane Preparedness from the National Hurricane Center.
April to May of each year is the best time to take action to protect your family and property.