Harris County Flood Control District

9900 Northwest Freeway

Houston, TX 77092




Hurricane Information


Hurricanes can be dangerous killers. Learning the hurricane warning messages and planning ahead can reduce the chances of injury or major property damage.



Disturbance > Depression > Tropical Storm > Hurricane

Tropical Disturbance: 
A cluster of thunderstorms that are poorly organized.

Tropical Depression
A cluster of thunderstorms that become organized around a central circulation with surface winds of 38 mph or less.

Tropical Storm
A cluster of storms with substantial circular rotation and sustained surface winds of 39-73 mph. Tthe storm is named at this point.



A large tropical strom with winds of 74 mph or greater rotating in a  counterclockwise direction. In addition to delivering intense winds, hurricanes are accompanied by heavy rains, storm surge, flooding along the coast and inland, and tornadoes.





Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale

Category 1:  Sustained winds 74-95 mph

Category 2:  Sustained winds 96-110 mph

Category 3:  Sustained winds 111-130 mph

Category 4:  Sustained winds 131-155 mph

Category 5:  Sustained winds 156 mph or greater




A “hurricane watch” is issued when there is a threat of hurricane conditions within 24-36 hours. A “hurricane warning” is issued when hurricane conditions (winds of 74 mph or greater, or dangerously high water and rough seas) are expected in 24 hours or less.




  • Plan An Evacuation Route
    Prepare to drive at least 50 miles inland, or preferably to another city. In the case of a mass evacuation,  prepare to drive to a city large enough to handle the influx of citizens leaving Harris County and the Gulf Coast area.
    View/Print Evacuation Map
  • Stock Up On All Necessary Disaster Supplies
    View/Print Family Emergency Kit List 
  • Make Arrangements For Pets
    Pets may not be allowed in emergency shelters for health and space reasons. Contact your local humane society for information on local animal shelters.
  • Prepare Your Family
    Make sure that all family members know how to respond during and after a hurricane. Teach family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity and water supplies. Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1, police and fire departments and how to tune the radio to your local radio station for emergency information.
  • Protect Your Windows
    Permanent shutters are your best protection. A lower-cost approach involves the installation of plywood panels. Use 1/2-inch plywood (marine-grade plywood is best) cut to fit each window. Remember to mark which board fits which window, so you can reuse then at a later date. Pre-drill holes every 18 inches for screws.Trim back dead or weak branches from trees.
  • Purchase a Flood Insurance Policy
    Learn about the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) at www.fema.gov/business/nfip/ or www.floodsmart.gov , or by contacting your local insurance agent. There is normally a 30-day waiting period before a new policy becomes effective. Homeowner's policies do not cover damage from the flooding that accompanies a hurricane.
  • Develop An Emergency Communication Plan
    Have a plan in place that explains what to do if family members are separated from one another during a disaster (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school). Ask an out-of-town relative or friend to serve as the "family contact." Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address and phone number of the contact person.



Hurricane Watch

  • Tune in to your local radio station for hurricane progress reports.
  • Check emergency supplies.
    View/Print Family Emergency Kit List
  • Bring in outdoor objects such as lawn furniture, toys and garden tools. Anchor objects that cannot be moved inside.
  • Secure buildings by closing and boarding up windows.
  • Remove outside antennas.
  • Turn refrigerator and freezer to coldest settings. Open only when absolutely necessary and close quickly.
  • Store drinking water in clean bathtubs, jugs, bottles, pots, pans and bowls.
  • Keep your vehicle’s gas tank full.
  • Review evacuation plan.
    View/Print Evacuation Map
  • If you own a boat, moor it securely or move it to a designated safe place. Use rope or a chain to secure boat to trailer. Use tie-downs to anchor trailer to the ground or house.


Hurricane Warning

  • Use a radio (battery-powered, if necessary) tuned to your local radio station to monitor the situation. Follow instructions provided by local officials.
  • If in a mobile home, check tiedowns.
  • Store valuables and personal papers in a waterproof container on the highest level of your home.
  • Avoid elevators.
  • If at home, stay inside and away from windows, skylights and glass doors
  • Have all emergency supplies available
    View/Print Family Emergency Kit List
  • If power is lost, turn off and unplug major appliances to avoid a power surge when electricity is restored.
  • If possible, elevate furniture or move it to a higher floor to protect from flooding.
  • If officials indicate evacuation is necessary, secure your home (unplug appliances, turn off electricity and water main valve) and lock all doors. Leave as soon as possible.
    View/Print Evacuation Map
  • Tell someone outside of the storm area where you are going.
  • Take blankets and sleeping bags with you.



  • Stay tuned to your local radio station for information and where to go for assistance. The Red Cross can also help with emergency needs.
  • Do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Call for help.
  • If you evacuated, return home only after authorities advise that it is safe to do so.
  • Avoid loose or dangling power lines and report them immediately toyour electrical provider, or local police or fire department.
  • Enter your home with caution.
  • Beware of snakes, insects and animals driven to higher ground by floodwater.
  • Open windows and doors to ventilate and dry your home.
  • Check refrigerated foods for spoilage.
  • Take photos of the damage, both to the house structure and its contents and for insurance claims. Contact your insurance agent to discuss claims.
  • Drive only if absolutely necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed-out bridges.
  • Use telephone only for emergency calls.If you hire cleanup or repair contractors, check references, get written estimates and keep all receipts. Be wary of people who drive through neighborhoods offering home repair services.




  • If the water has risen above the electrical outlets in your home, contact a licensed electrician before turning on the main circuit breaker or trying to restore power.
  • Allow all electrical appliances and electronic equipment that were submerged in water to dry thoroughly. Have them checked by a qualified repairperson before turning them on. Attempting to repair a flood-damaged appliance could result in electrical shock or death.
  • If the outside unit of an air conditioning system has been submerged in water, mud and water may have accumulated in the controls. Attempting to restart it could result in further damage and costly repairs. Have the unit checked by a qualified air conditioning technician.




  • If you smell gas when you return to your home, leave the house immediately and call your utility company from another location.
  • If your home was flooded, call a licensed plumber or a gas appliance technician to inspect your appliances and gas piping before calling your utility company to reconnect service. This includes outdoor gas appliances, such as pool heaters, gas grills, and gas lights.
  • If your natural gas is turned off at the meter, call your utility company to reconnect service (even if your home did not flood).



Sewer & Water Lines:

  • If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid using water from the tap.




Mitigation includes any activities that may prevent an emergency, reduce the chance of an emergency happening or lessen the damaging effects of unavoidable emergencies. Investing in preventative steps now, such as strengthening unreinforced masonry to withstand wind and flooding and installing shutters on every window, will help reduce the impact of hurricanes on your home in the future. For more information on mitigation, contact your local emergency management office.

Detailed, printable information on hurricane safety and preparedness