When hurricanes rear up and head for Texas, they can bring anything from drenching rain and street flooding to tornados and devastating storm surges. In the last installment of Texas Storm Preparation, we reviewed hurricane categories.
Yet, if you live along the coast, then you face the dangers of high winds and storm surges that can damage or destroy your home and put your family in harm’s way. To prepare against these, you need to know everything about them.
Know About Storm Surge and Storm Tide
Let’s say the normal ocean tide is 2 feet. When it comes ashore, it stays in the ocean basin at “sea level.” Storm winds push against the ocean surface, piling up sea water. This forms a storm surge that adds to the height of the normal tide.
Let’s then say a hurricane’s winds add 15 feet on top of the normal 2 feet ocean tide. This produces a 17-foot storm tide. When the storm tide hits the shoreline, the normal ocean tide will stay behind, but that extra 15 feet of ocean water goes surging inland.
Storm tide height also depends on whether the tide is high or low. The worst case is when a hurricane has generated a storm tide during a normal high tide. High tides carry storm surges higher and help send them further inland.
How dangerous is it?
- Much of the United States’ Gulf Coast coastlines lie less than 10 feet above mean sea level. In spite of this, from 1990-2008, population density increased by 32% in Gulf coastal counties. (U.S. Census Bureau 2010)
- In Galveston County, TX, nearly 70 percent of businesses and 75 percent of jobs are in hurricane flood zones.
- Hurricane Ike (Category 2) swept into Galveston, Texas at 2:10 a.m. CDT, September 13, 2008 with a wall of water 13 feet high. The storm surge left almost no ground vegetation behind and only a scant few buildings standing.
Know About Evacuation
After Hurricane Rita in 2005, Texas revised its coastal hurricane evacuation process to make it orderly and safer for everyone.
- Find out if your home is in an evacuation zone by viewing an evacuation zone map like this one by the Houston Ad Council. You can also call 2-1-1 and speaking with an operator.
- Decide early on where you will go if you need to evacuate during a hurricane. You want to head inland away from the coast and the hurricane’s projected path.
- Your mayor or county judge will make the call for your jurisdiction to evacuate.
- Secure your home before leaving, including boarding up all windowsand locking your doors. Be sure to take your pets with you.
- Local officials will stagger the evacuation to keep traffic moving. Wait your turn to leave.
- Also, make sure you pack an EvacBag for each family member. This should contain licenses or IDs, medications and other essential items (eye glasses, hearing aids, etc.), spare clothes and shoes, soap, shampoo, and other toiletries.
Homeowner EvacBag should contain:
- Important papers, including deeds and wills
- Contact numbers of friends, family members, physicians, and your insurance agents
- An inventory of your personal belongings and any photographs or videotapes of your possessions.
Need more evacuation tips? Check out The Texas Division of Emergency Management.
Create an Emergency Plan
Since hurricanes are part of life in Texas, being prepared for one can make all the difference in your family’s safety. Check out TexasPrepares.org for checklist, planning guides, and more so you can be ready when a storm hits.
Stay tuned for our next installment of Texas Storm Preparation Tips: The Hill Country