How to Prepare for a Hurricane or Tropical Storm

Hey Guys!

Hurricane season is officially upon us here in South Florida. And even if there aren't any current threats of a bad storm as you're reading this, you should still be prepared! Having your home stocked with essentials like water, food, flashlights, batteries, portable fans, and a first-aid kit will save you so much time when the panic sets in. So I've prepared a ton of tips and insight into what you actually need during a hurricane. Whether you're a seasoned hurricane survivor like me, a complete newbie, or somewhere in-between, this is for you!
How to Prepare for a Tropical Storm

*Disclaimer: This post may or may not contain affiliate links. Meaning, I could make a small commission if you make a purchase through links in this post, at no cost to you! You are simply supporting my job as a blogger and content creator. My views and opinions are never swayed. And I will only recommend places or products that I actually use, approve of, and love.

What is a Hurricane VS Tropical Storm

Hurricanes and Tropical storms both have heavy downpours of rain and winds, but there are two things that differentiate them.

A tropical storm has sustained winds of 39-73 mph and they do not have an "eye". (The eye of a hurricane is the center of the storm, where there is absolute calmness surrounded by chaotic wind and rain.)

Tropical storms are also not divided up into categories of strength like hurricanes are. 
Categories of Hurricanes and Tropical Storm

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale:

Category 1: 74 - 95 mph
Category 2: 96 - 110 mph
Category 3: 111 - 129 mph
Category 4: 130 - 156 mph
Category 5: 157 mph or higher

Hurricanes are massive storm systems that form over the ocean and head towards land. They can affect areas more than 100 miles inland, in any territory in the Atlantic or Pacific oceans. The storm can include powerful winds, heavy rainfall, coastal and inland flooding, storm surges, rip currents, landslides, and tornadoes.

When is Hurricane Season?

The Atlantic hurricane season is every year between June 1 and November 30.
Whereas the Pacific hurricane season runs May 15 to November 30.
(Though studies show that hurricanes are most active in September.)


How much time do I have to prepare?

Since these types of storms begin forming miles away, we usually have a couple days heads up. But these "couple of days" is usually panic mode for most people. Why? Because they go crazy buying out every store for water and supplies instead of stocking up before hurricane season even begins in June.

When a storm is headed your way, there is usually less than a week before it hits. And you do not want to have to prepare everything at this time. The time to start prepping is RIGHT NOW. And if you continue reading this blog post, Congrats! You're already on the right path.

You should always be paying attention to news updates about any storms. (Even if you don't think it will come to your city/state. I've lived through many hurricanes, and a lot of times they can turn when you least expect it.)

On the news, websites, radio, and weather apps, you will be able to see a few predictions of where they think the storm is headed. I recommend going to Google and searching for your community's warning system alerts, or the EAS and the NOAA. Being aware of the storm's progress will ensure you have time to get to a safe place.


There are many different aspects of preparing for a hurricane or tropical storm. Depending on where you live, the condition of your home, and the category strength of the incoming hurricane.

Home Prep:

-Take photos of the inside and outside of your home and keep this as part of your records. If there is any storm damage you need to claim to your insurance company, having proof of the condition of your home (before and after the storm) will ensure a smoother process of filing a claim.

-Clean! A day or two before the storm hits, I recommend cleaning the whole house. Vacuum/mop the floors, dust the furniture, wipe down counters and mirrors, clean the showers, toilets, and sinks. There is a good chance you'll lose electricity, which means it will be hot and humid inside your home. Trust me, the last thing you want is humid dust in your house. #yuck

-Protect areas where wind can enter, like windows and doors. If they are not high-impact resistant, you can secure them with storm shutters or 5/8 inch plywood. (Please do not put tape on your windows... it does not prevent the glass from breaking.)

-Use a trusted brand of surge protectors for your electronics. It will help limit the voltage spikes and prevent your devices from burning out. Below are some of my favorite ones that I keep all around the house:

Anker Power Strip - 12 outlets, 3 USB
Anker Power Strip - 3 outlets, 3 USB
You should also make sure any outdoor outlets have proper waterproof coverings!

-Bring in lawn furniture, outdoor items, plants in pots, garbage cans, wind chimes, etc that cannot be tied down. These storms have very powerful winds and can easily whip things up and go flying. (Hurricane Irma in 2017 ripped our tent to shreds!)

Damaging Hurricane Winds
Category 2 hurricane
Hurricane Irma 2017

-Make sure you have cash with you. In the event of an emergency, many places will not be accepting credit/debit. Having cash to purchase fuel for your car or generator is your best bet!

Tree Pruning and Trash Pickup
-Properly trimming trees and bushes before hurricane season can reduce the debris generated during a storm. Trimming them properly will increase the likelihood that it will survive. 

-Please don't start any pruning, cleanup activities, or place trash on the curb the week leading up to a storm. The debris you remove and leave on the road will just go flying anyways! Anything you trim must be bagged, placed in your trashcan, and kept inside during a storm. (Unless you have time to take it to a local trash or recycling centers. In which case you would have to check your city's website for more information.)

-Be sure not to blow any grass clippings onto sidewalks, streets, or storm drains. Doing so can clog drains and lead to street flooding. Cuttings should be bagged or blown back onto the lawn (acting as natural mulch.)

-Please do not go crazy buying massive packages of plastic single-serve water bottles. Use your own refillable containers instead! This is a much cheaper and more environmentally friendly way to have water. Start saving empty plastic or metal containers now, that way they can be sterilized and store water for emergencies.

-Wash your refillable water containers with soap and water and rinse. Next, combine 1 tbsp of Clorox Bleach and 1 gallon of water. Let the solution sit in each of your containers for 10 minutes, then pour out and rinse well.

-Once properly sterilized, fill your containers with water. Plan for at least 1 gallon per person, for 3-7 days. (This will be your emergency water supply in case your city shuts off the water during a storm.) 

-You can also fill some containers 2/3 full and place in your freezer. That way you will have ice during and after a storm. (Some say it will help keep things in your refrigerator cooler when the power inevitably goes off.)

Gasoline and Generators
-Only store fuel in an approved container that is 5 gallons or less. Filled cans of gasoline should be kept in a cool, dry, well-ventilated, and secure area away from children and appliances.

-Generators should only be operated outside in a well-ventilated area. Away from windows, doors, vents, or other openings. They are not allowed to be operated on the balcony of a multi-unit structure. (And make sure you read the instruction manuals properly! I always hear of people having mishaps and starting fires by not following directions.)

If you are visiting a town and cannot evacuate in time before a storm, listen to announcements from your hotel, cruise line, or airline. Be sure to follow any orders given to you by local officials. They may be able to guide you to an evacuation or nearby shelter.


-Evacuation procedures differ depending on your area. Watch the local news closely, pay attention to flood zone warnings, and always have a backup plan in place.

-Evacuation centers should only be considered as a shelter in the last resort. (It may be more comfortable for you to stay at a friend's or family members home.) Once an evacuation order is given, a list of open evacuation centers will be announced. They will usually give a list of emergency bus pickup sites that will provide transportation to and from the centers. For more information, I recommend researching the flood zones in your city and keeping an eye on your county's website.

-Typically, each evacuee is alotted 20 sqft of space (5 feet by 4 feet) at an evacuation shelter. It is highly recommended you only bring essential items:

  • Bedding
  • Infant and childcare items such as formula, diapers, toys, etc
  • Cash
  • ID and any important documents
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Comfort materials such as books, magazines, etc
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications you may need
  • Drinking water
  • Non-perishable snacks
  • Extra clothing
  • Special items for any elderly or disabled family members with you
  • I strongly recommend charging all of your portable electronic devices like phones, tablets, and battery packs before heading to an evacuation center. There are limited outlets, and probably limited electricity, to keep everyone's devices running. So try to salvage as much battery usage as you can. Some of my favorite portable battery packs are in this list.
-If you must evacuate your home:
  • Take important valuables
  • Turn off all utilities (water, electricity, and gas) at the main switch
  • Lock windows and doors
  • Advise family and friends where you are going
  • Do not leave any loose items outside
  • Close shutters
  • Park any cars you are leaving inside the garage (if applicable)

I've always been able to stay home during a bad storm, and here are some additional things I personally like having during a hurricane. 

  • Battery-powered fans
  • Battery-powered flashlights and lanterns
  • Batteries for these devices
  • Things to entertain yourself and family (that don't require electricity to function). Some things I've always reached for are handheld rechargeable gaming devices (GameBoy, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Switch, iPad, Tablets, etc). Books, magazines, crossword puzzles, board games, cards, toys, coloring books, etc.
  • Solar cell chargers. During a hurricane, you won't be able to use this, but after it passes the sun usually comes out. Sometimes electricity takes a couple days after a storm to come back on, and a solar-powered charger will come in handy. Place it outside to soak up the sunshine, and then plug your phone/device in to get some juice. I've listed a few of these in my Amazon list so you can choose your fave!
  • Watertight case or bags. This is a tip many people forget to mention... You'll want to keep important documents and items safe from damaging winds and rain. You might think, "But I'll be inside!" and this is true. But what happens if the roof begins to leak into your home? Or flash floods and storm surges? Being prepared for everything is the BEST thing to do. I love Pelican Cases because I can safely store my camera equipment and special items in the customizable foam. They seal very well and keep everything inside protected and dry!
  • Something to cook with. You don't want to have too many things in your fridge/freezer, as a lot of things will spoil in the heat. Instead, keep your pantry stocked with non-perishable items. Canned foods, cereals, power bars, etc. But relying on room-temperature foods can get boring very quickly. So I recommend a little camp stove so you can actually cook! Boil water to make pasta, cook any perishable items before they go bad (like eggs or veggies). But really, anything you want! (If you're fortunate enough to have a gas stove in your home already, then you don't need to worry about purchasing anything. As gas stoves work without electricity!)
  • Lighter or matches. To light your Sterno stoves or candles. (But please be careful when lighting candles in a hurricane! Many people leave candles on overnight and end up starting fires in their home. Having plenty of flashlights, lanterns, and batteries are your best bet.)
  • Generator. Although they can be pricey, generators come in very handy when you lose electricity. Be sure to follow directions and only turn on when it is absolutely necessary. And again, anything I've mentioned is listed here.
  • Radio. This is definitely a must-have! Most of the time, we lose cell phone signal during or after storms. And without electricity, there won't be any access to cable, TV, or wifi. Having a wind-up radio with you is ideal! You need to be aware of storm updates, flood warnings, and emergency situations.
  • Keep your emergency kit with you. I like having all my essentials in one watertight bag or box. Talk to your family or friends that are staying with you, and always keep your essentials in an easy-to-reach place. In the event of an emergency, having everything together and ready means less panic and more ease of the situation.
  • Raincoat and sturdy shoes. I highly advise not going outside during a hurricane. But if you must, protect yourself as best you can with a raincoat and thick, sturdy shoes. (Rainboots or boots. Please, not flip-flops.) Also, keep an eye out for flying debris.
  • Refillable jugs. I mentioned this earlier in the post, but please do not waste money and time buying plastic water bottles. Look in your cupboard or fridge for containers you can empty or clean, and fill them with water before the storm. This will be your backup water supply, if and when the city shuts off your water. (Here in South Florida, it is the last thing we lose. In my personal experience, I've never had mine shut off. But there is no guarantee.) You can keep your milk jugs, big Gatorade bottles, mason jars (with lids), Tupperware, juice containers, pitchers, coolers, refillable metal bottles, etc to keep extra water. And if you don't have containers already, instead of spending $20 on a huge pack of small bottles, spend $10 on a container you can fill yourself. This is the cheapest and most efficient way to save water!
  • Sand Bags. Depending on where the doors to your house are, you may want to put large bags of sand along the bottom. This will help keep water from coming in through the bottom of the doors if it starts to puddle or flood outside. Many local cities will provide free bags of sand in the wake of a disaster. (They usually require valid ID proof you live in the neighborhood.) Look into your county/city website or pay attention to news updates on locations for free bags. (Or you can always purchase from stores like Home Depot.)

-Many public transportation services, like trains and buses, may shut down at sustained 39 mph wind. If you rely on these services, check your local routes and stay informed on any updates.

-During an evacuation, many expressway tolls may be lifted to ease traffic flow. This does not mean you can drive 100 mph, as traffic laws are still in effect.

-Power outages are very common during storms. When traffic signals are malfunctioning, make sure to observe as 4-way stop conditions at all intersections. 

-As for travelers, you'd need to contact your seaport and airport for specific updates and information.

-If you own a boat, remember to secure it properly. Use double lines at a marina or consider dry-dock storage. Never try to ride out a hurricane on your boat. (The show Dexter is purely fiction, and should not be repeated IRL.) In most cities, marinas will close when sustained winds reach 39 mph. And once evacuations have started off the barrier islands, Intracoastal Waterway bridges open very infrequently to allow marine traffic to pass until lockdown. Local law enforcement agencies will issue advisory warnings regarding these bridge lockdowns. And they generally go into lockdown at least 8 hours before 39 mph winds are expected.

-In case of a hurricane, take your pets with you! There are PFEC (Pet-Friendly Evacuation Centers) available for residents living in high-risk areas. Remember that a family member must stay with the pet at the PFEC and the pet must be in a crate or pet carrier.

-Keep in mind that animals will be assessed to determine if they present a safety risk. Vaccinations and medical treatment are not provided at emergency evacuation centers.

-Typically, animals accepted at PFEC include dogs, cats, ferrets, gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, common household birds, and certain breeds of rabbits under 10 lbs.

-Place all ID tags on appropriate collars and ensure your pets are micro-chipped with your latest information. Be prepared to care for and maintain control over your pets at all times.

-What to bring to a Pet-Friendly Evacuation Center
  • Proof of residency within an evacuation zone
  • ID tags placed on appropriate collars
  • Currant medical and vaccination records for each pet. Annual rabies vaccinations (for cats and dogs) and any visible county dog licenses (if applicable for your county)
  • A three day supply of food and supplies for your pets, carrier/crate, collar, leash or muzzle, bedding material, and toys
  • 1 1/2 gallons of water per day and serving bowls
  • Medicine for each animal

-Storm surge is the greatest threat to life and property during a hurricane. It occurs when water from the ocean is pushed onto the shore by the force of tropical storms or hurricanes. (These planning zones deal strictly with storm surge and not your flood zone.) A storm surge planning zone is an area that could be affected by a storm surge of 1 1/2 feet or higher. Any evacuation decisions are heavily predicated on storm surge planning.

-Storm surge planning zones are drawn using Sea, Lake, and Overland Surge from Hurricanes (SLOSH) model grids that incorporate local physical features and geographical coastal areas. Upon identification of a threat, each zone (or portion of a zone) will be evacuated depending on the hurricane's track and projected storm surge.

-Below is an example of the Storm Surge zones listed for Miami-Dade County.

  • Zone A - greatest risk for storm surge for Category 1 Hurricane and higher
  • Zone B - at risk for storm surge for Category 2 and higher
  • Zone C - at risk for storm surge for Category 3 and higher
  • Zone D - at risk for storm surge for Category 4 and higher
  • Zone E - at risk for storm surge for Category 5 hurricanes
Emergency Disaster Kit Checklist


Staying Safe

-Monitor your county's website and listen to the radio for updates and instructions from public safety officials.

-Stay indoors at all times. Even during the eye of the storm. (The "eye" is the center of a hurricane. It may seem calm for a couple minutes, but the strong wind and rain will quickly return.)

-Always have your emergency kit with you. Even when going from room to room.

-If flooding threatens your home, turn off the electricity at the main breaker.

-Use flashlights and battery-powered lanterns. (Not candles or kerosene lamps.)

-Do not operate charcoal grills, propane camping stoves, or generators indoors. 

-Avoid using the phone and do not bathe or shower during the storm.

-If you lose power, turn off all major appliances.

-Keep your children and family informed about what's happening.

-Keep animals in their carriers or crates.

-If your home begins to come apart, get in the bathtub and pull a mattress over you. This will help protect yourself from debris.

-And basically, wait it out. Depending on the size and strength of the storm, it can last over a day or two. It may seem boring and hot at times, especially with children that need entertaining. I recommend playing board games, flashlight tag (indoors and away from windows), build a tent out of blankets, coloring books, or anything you can do to keep the kids busy. But try to stay calm and alert at all times. Inform them to listen and pay attention to the storm, as they might hear or see something if they are in another room.


Fallen tree after Hurricane

Post-Storm Safety

-Remain inside until local authorities say it is safe to go outside. (This is when the radio comes in handy.) And obey all curfew and emergency orders.

-If you must go outside, look out for fallen objects. And if you see any power lines down, report it to your city/state power company. Stay out of areas with extensive storm damage. And avoid walking in deep puddles or on big branches. (You do not know what lies beneath that could be potentially dangerous.)
Hurricane storm damage

-Do not open manhole covers to drain flooded roadways. This could cause overflows and overburden the sewer system.

-Inspect your home for damage and check for gas leaks. You want to make sure it is still safe to stay there. If you do see damage to your property, take plenty of photos, keep records of cleanup costs, and contact your insurance agent.

-Discard any refrigerated food you suspect is spoiled. 

-When clearing storm debris, use a broom instead of a hose to conserve water. Sweep and bag debris so it doesn't clog storm drains. Place debris piles on the right-of-way. Away from fences, mailboxes, storm drains, manholes, and low hanging wires. Do not put debris on vacant lots, farmland, or in front of commercial properties.

-Be patient and careful. Cleaning up after a storm can take time and a lot of work.

-You can always support relief efforts in other affected areas. Typically the primary way to help is through monetary donations. (Though I'm sure they'll accept volunteers as well.)

What to watch out for

  • Floodwaters. Do not drive or walk through standing water. It may be much deeper than you realize and there may be hidden hazards. 
  • Price gouging. If a state of emergency is declared, price gouging regulations come into effect. It is considered "unconscionable price" by comparing the price asked during the emergency versus what was charged in the previous 30 days.
  • Swimming pool barriers. After a hurricane, if your swimming pool barrier is damaged, you must repair or replace it as a priority. A swimming pool poses a life safety threat even if it is empty. Until the barrier is fixed, it is encouraged you buy a tempory contractor safety mesh. (Can be found at home improvement stores. You know, the kind that Tim "the Toolman" Taylor would love.) Be sure to add the proper chemicals to your pool to avoid excessive algae growth.
  • Mosquitos. (Aka the bane of my existence.) Rainy and wet conditions are ideal breeding grounds for those tiny little sadistic vampires. To reduce breeding, empty any standing water from things outside like toys, uncovered boats, trash can lids, etc. And to avoid getting bitten: repair screening on windows, doors, porches, and patios. Avoid being outdoors at dusk and dawn. Dress in light, long, and loose clothing that covers your skin. And finally, use insect repellents that contain Deet. (Although I'm not too sure how environmentally friendly that is.)
  • Boil water orders. In the unlikely event that a "boil water" order is initiated after a storm, your state advises you to boil any water used to drink, cook with, brush teeth, make ice, or wash dishes with before using. (Meaning brought to a full rolling boil for at least one minute.) You may also use bleach or water purification tablets to decontaminate any pathogens.
Alright, so those are my top suggestions when it comes to preparing for a hurricane or tropical storm. Is it scary? Sometimes. But being prepared is key! 

I've listed a bunch of my hurricane prep must-haves in this Amazon list. Having these items together in one place in your home ensures less panic when the storm is a couple days away. I highly recommend investing in a few of these items and keeping them year-round. Have a plan in place, go through it with your family, hope for the best, and prepare for the worst.

Now, I know this blog post was very long. But I wanted to fill it with all of the information you'd need for a tropical disaster. I created a chart you can download and print (for free) with some of the key things I recommend. (There is a blank one you can fill out yourself and one that I filled for you.)

Hurricane Checklist

Prepare for a Hurricane Checklist
Feel free to share this post with your friends and family, so they can be prepared and ready as well. I know an incoming hurricane or tropical storm is a very stressful time. Trust me, I've lived through it. But I really do wish you all the best of luck. I hope my suggestions have helped you and if you have any tips you think I've missed, comment them down below.

Hurricane disaster essentials


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