HHS Tropical Weather-Related Information

News and Information

Note: This site includes some general information about hurricane preparedness. Should a hurricane strike the Texas Gulf Coast, the site will be updated with information that both HHS consumers and providers will need to know.

Topic Last Updated
Hurricane Harvey Information 10/3/2017 at 12:51 PM

Register for evacuation assistance

Hospitals and nursing homes have their own emergency evacuation plans of course, but people with disabilities who live in the community or those who are medically fragile can be unable to respond to a mandatory evacuation order because they don’t drive or have family and friends to help.

After the 2005 hurricane season, Texas officials established a special-assistance registry for people who are likely need help in a general evacuation. The University of Texas' Center for Space Research maintains this registry; 2-1-1 is the intake point for this registry.

When someone calls 211 to register, they will be asked to give Information and Referral specialists a minimum amount of information -- name, address and telephone number. Other information, such as an emergency contact number and specific medical information can also be included.

It's important to remember that 2-1-1 is not an emergency number to call during a storm -- you must pre-register for evacuation transportation.

If you live in a storm surge zone and have special health care or transportation needs, now is the time to take a few extra steps to be sure you’re prepared in case of a hurricane evacuation.

Department of Homeland Security preparedness resources

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Ready Campaign has released three new demonstration videos designed to highlight the specific steps older Americans, individuals with disabilities and special needs, and pet owners should take to prepare for emergencies.

The Department of Homeland Security developed these new emergency preparedness videos, which are available online at www.ready.gov, to remind individuals to get an emergency supply kit, make a family emergency plan and be informed about the different types of emergencies while considering the unique needs of these individuals, their families and caregivers.

The videos recommend seniors include any necessary prescription medications in their emergency supply kits. They encourage Americans with disabilities or special needs to create a personal support network that they can rely on during an emergency. Pet owners are advised to learn which emergency shelters in their area and/or along their evacuation route will allow pets.

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What is a hurricane?

Hurricanes are nature's most powerful storms and can wreak havoc hundreds of miles from the coastal area where they make landfall. The four major hazards from hurricanes include:

  • storm surge,
  • high winds,
  • tornadoes and
  • heavy rains.

Hurricane season officially begins June 1 and continues through November 30. Hurricanes are highly unpredictable, increasing greatly in strength with very little warning. Hurricane hazards include:

  • High winds from 74 to 200 mph or more. Even the weakest hurricane can damage buildings, flood roads, and uproot trees. The strongest storms can destroy buildings and property. Hurricane force winds have downed trees and power lines as far away as 175 miles from coastal areas.
  • Storm surge is an increase in sea level caused by extreme low pressure and very high winds. Storm surge is a dome of high water — sometimes 50 to 100 miles wide — that sweeps over the coastline as a hurricane makes landfall. The stronger the wind, the higher the storm surge. Storm surge occurring in combination with high tides makes the threat even worse. On average, nine out of every 10 people killed by a hurricane are drowned in storm surge.
  • Tornadoes are often spawned by hurricanes. These can occur well away from the center of the hurricane. They also can occur near the eye of the storm.
  • Flooding caused by the torrential rains can occur in both coastal and inland areas. The slower the storm moves, the greater the flooding may be. Tropical Storm Claudette (1979) dumped 45 inches of rain near Alvin. In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison dumped 36 inches of rain on Harris County. The heaviest rainfall can occur as far as 200 miles away from the storm's center.

Residents along Texas gulf coast live in one of four storm surge zones, delineated by ZIP codes. Should a dangerous storm approach the Texas coast, one of more of the zones could be placed under a mandatory evacuation order.

Storm categories

  • Category 1: 74 to 95 mph — Minimal damage to building structures. Damage primarily occurs to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery, and trees. Some coastal road flooding and minor pier damage.
  • Category 2: 96 to 110 mph — Moderate damage. Some roofing material, door, and window damage to buildings. Considerable damage to vegetation, mobile homes, and piers. Small boats in unprotected anchorages break moorings.
  • Category 3: 111 to 130 mph — Extensive damage to small residences, utility buildings, and other smaller structures, with a minor amount of curtain wall failures. Mobile homes are destroyed. Larger structures damaged by floating debris.
  • Category 4: 131 to 155 mph — Extreme damage, including more extensive wall failures with some complete roof structure failure on small residences. Major erosion of beach area. Major damage to lower floors of structures near the shore.
  • Category 5: Over 155 mph — Catastrophic damage, including complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away. Major damage to lower floors of all structures located less than 15 feet above sea level.

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Evacuating is the smartest move

When a hurricane threatens your area, evacuating is the smartest move. These storms are highly unpredictable and can strengthen rapidly in a matter of hours. Prepare and make your evacuation plans well in advance. Review this checklist before you leave.

  • To protect your home, whether you are staying or going, put up shutters or plywood on all windows and openings. Winds are stronger at higher elevations, and high-rise apartments or condos.
  • Move patio furniture, hanging plants and gas grills inside. If your home is vulnerable to rising water, move valuables and furniture to a higher level.
  • Notify relatives and friends about evacuation plans and confirm reservations if planning to stay at a hotel.
  • Be familiar with other places to stay between your home and destination should roads become clogged. Do not ride out a hurricane in a car. Know where emergency shelters are along the route.
  • Turn off electricity at the main circuit breaker or fuse box to protect appliances from power surges and reduce the risk of live dangling wires after the storm.
  • If the house is supplied with natural or propane gas, turn the gas off at the meter or tank.
  • Make a final walk-through inspection of the home before closing the door.
  • Your emergency preparedness kit should include radio and flashlight with extra batteries, extra eye glasses, medications and special products for babies and elderly family members, bottled water, non-perishable food, dry clothes, bedding, and important documents in waterproof containers.
  • Do not try to tow a trailer or boat in high winds. It is too hazardous.


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