Hurricanes in Florida – How To Prepare, Stay Safe, and Get Through Them

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Last Updated June 12, 2023

Are you considering moving to Florida but worried about staying safe during hurricanes? Or maybe you are new to Florida and aren’t quite sure what to expect and how to prepare for hurricane season? In Florida, hurricane season is a fact of life. And, while it can be daunting for residents of the Sunshine State, staying calm and informed is essential to ensure your safety. 

As Florida residents, we’re well accustomed to the practicalities of the season, so we’ve put together this blog post to provide reassurance and guidance for those of you worried about storms. In it, we’ll cover valuable safety tips and a comprehensive checklist to help you prepare so that you can feel confident in your move no matter the weather! 

Whether you’re new to Florida or seeking a refresher, this post will equip you with the knowledge and resources to navigate hurricane season confidently.

Hurricanes in Florida

Hurricanes in Florida are common, but thankfully advancements in weather forecasting provide us with valuable information to prepare and stay safe. Understanding hurricanes and how they differ from tropical storms and their terminology will help you process and respond to the forecast appropriately. 

However, if you are new to Florida or tropical climates, you may find yourself at the bottom of a steep learning curve. So let’s dive into some need-to-know terms…

What is a Hurricane?

The first stage of a potential hurricane is known as a tropical disturbance. This is when a disorganized area of thunderstorms in the tropics lacks a well-defined circulation pattern. It is an early stage in the development of a tropical hurricane, which can potentially intensify into a tropical depression or higher. 

A tropical depression is categorized as a storm with wind speeds reaching up to 38 miles (61 km) per hour. When sustained wind speeds surpass 39 miles (63 km) per hour, it progresses into a tropical storm and is assigned a name by the World Meteorological Organization. It’s only when the sustained wind speeds reach 74 mph that it receives the classification of a hurricane.

Hurricanes are powerful storms that function as immense heat engines, expelling energy at an astonishing rate. At the basic level, they are powerful, rotating storms characterized by strong winds and heavy rainfall. According to National Geographic, the formation of hurricanes begins with tropical disturbances in warm ocean waters, typically with temperatures of 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26.5 degrees Celsius) or higher. 

Tropical storms have similar features but are generally less severe, and they typically form over warm ocean waters near the equator. 

It’s also helpful to note that different places use different names. While they are known as hurricanes in Florida, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Eastern Pacific Ocean, they’re called typhoons in the Western Pacific Ocean and cyclones in the Indian Ocean.

satellite image of hurricanes in florida forming

How Do Hurricanes Form?

While it may not be necessary to know the science behind them, it certainly is interesting! Here is a simplified explanation of how hurricanes form:

Hurricanes are formed over warm ocean waters, which provide the energy needed for their formation and intensification.

A pre-existing disturbance, such as a tropical wave or an area of low pressure, is the starting point for hurricane formation. This disturbance can originate from various factors, including atmospheric conditions and wind patterns.

As warm ocean waters evaporate, the rising moisture condenses to form towering cumulonimbus clouds, releasing heat into the atmosphere. The rotation of the Earth causes the air to rotate around the low-pressure system. This is known as the Coriolis effect.

As the design develops, an eye begins to form at the center. The eye is a relatively calm area with light winds and clear skies, surrounded by a circular eyewall where the strongest winds and heaviest rainfall occur. The continuous supply of warm water and a favorable atmosphere causes the hurricane to intensify. This, in turn, causes the storm’s wind speeds to increase, and the central pressure drops, resulting in a more powerful and well-defined hurricane. 

Once formed, meteorologists track hurricanes using satellite imagery and other tools. They can move across vast distances, impacting coastal areas and sometimes traveling inland (which we’ll touch on further down the post). Eventually, a hurricane weakens as it moves over cooler waters or encounters land, losing its primary heat and moisture sources. It may transition into a tropical storm or dissipate altogether.

All chaos aside, that’s some neat earth science

Important Terms to Know For Hurricane Preparation

Thankfully, you don’t need to memorize the science behind hurricanes because here in Florida, our news stations keep us well informed and up-to-date. Here are some terms that you will hear often and need to know the meaning of: 

  • Tropical Storm Watch: There is a possibility of experiencing tropical storm conditions in the area.
  • Hurricane Watch: There is a possibility of experiencing hurricane conditions in the area.
  • Watches are issued 48 hours before the expected arrival of tropical-storm-force winds.
  • Tropical Storm Warning: Tropical storm conditions are expected to occur in the area.
  • Hurricane Warning: Hurricane conditions are expected to occur in the area.
  • Warnings are issued 36 hours before the expected arrival of tropical-storm-force winds.
  • Eye: The center of the storm that is clear and sometimes well-defined, characterized by calm weather conditions.
  • Eye Wall: Surrounding the eye is the area with the most severe weather conditions in the storm, including the highest wind speeds and heaviest precipitation.
  • Rain Bands: Bands extending from the cyclone that bring severe weather conditions such as heavy rain, strong winds, and sometimes tornadoes.
  • Storm Surge: A frequently underestimated and dangerous consequence of a landfalling storm occurs when ocean water swells, rapidly floods coastal areas, and sometimes extends further inland.

hurricane season warning sign amidst storm clouds as hurricanes in florda form

When is Hurricane Season in Florida?

Hurricane season in Florida typically spans from June 1st to November 30th, with the peak occurring between August and October. High temperatures and plenty of rain showers mean September is the month that has the most hurricanes in Florida. It’s also common for out-of-season storms to happen in May. 

How Often Does Florida Get Hurricanes?

Florida experiences hurricanes regularly, but it’s important to note that not every hurricane makes landfall or affects the entire state. The frequency of hurricanes can vary from year to year. Still, historical data indicates that some hurricane activity is expected each season, with eight major category five hurricanes hitting Florida since 2000. 

Hurricane Forecasts

Predicting a tropical cyclone’s path can be challenging as many global and local factors come into play. The storm’s size and path can directly influence what wind patterns guide, enhance or hinder its growth, and vice versa! Forecasters have computers that take vast amounts of data and try to predict where the storm will go and usually can calculate 2-3 days out fairly accurately. The National Hurricane Center has the most up-to-date information on tropical cyclone developments, forecasts and weather alerts, discussions analyzing the data, and more. 

Safest Places in Florida From Hurricanes

Hurricane impact will undoubtedly play a role in deciding where to buy your dream house in Florida, so you’ll be happy to know that some areas are less likely to be hit. 

Low-lying areas near water are particularly vulnerable during hurricanes, but the northern inland areas bordering Georgia tend to fare better. Cities like Orlando, Ocala, Gainesville, and Lake City in the north-central inland region offer higher safety.

The northeast part of the state is relatively safe, too. This area’s cool waters and climate often cause hurricanes to veer away, with most of them making landfall in the Carolinas instead. While coastal cities like St. Augustine may still experience some impact, the frequency of hurricanes in the northeast area is generally lower. 

man securing the galss on a house in preparation for hurricane season

Preparation for Hurricane Season

Hurricane preparation is the key to staying safe. Having a hurricane checklist created in advance and in a place everyone in the family can easily access will help you all to keep calm. The two essential things you need to know are:

  1. Monitor News Reports: Stay informed by regularly monitoring weather reports from trusted sources, such as the National Hurricane Center and local news stations. This will help you stay updated on the latest developments and advisories.
  2. Emergency Supply Kits: Create your emergency supply kits and go bags early to avoid long lines and depleted stocks. Include essentials such as non-perishable food, water, batteries, flashlights, a first aid kit, medications, important documents, cash, and a portable phone charger.

Hurricane Preparation Checklist

While hurricanes are inconvenient, dealing with them can be overwhelming if you’ve never experienced them. To help you stay calm and prepared for hurricanes in Florida, we’ve put together this comprehensive hurricane checklist to ensure you have all the necessary supplies:

  1. Food and Water: Stock up on non-perishable food items (like cans, jars, dry food, etc.) and have at least one gallon of water per person per day for a minimum of three days. One way to store water is to fill bathtubs before the storm, or use giant storage bins. You might even want to bump this up to 5 or even 7 days, if you can, just to be extra safe (and help your neighbors too).
  2. Medications and First Aid Kit: Gather a supply of necessary medicines and assemble a first aid kit with essential items.
  3. Important Documents: Keep copies of important documents, such as identification, insurance policies, and medical records, in a waterproof container or digitally stored.
  4. Battery-Powered Devices: Have extra batteries for flashlights, radios, and other devices that are not reliant on mains power.
  5. Emergency Lighting: Include battery-operated lanterns or candles with waterproof matches or lighters.
  6. Personal Hygiene Items: Pack personal hygiene products, including toilet paper, hand sanitizer, wet wipes, and feminine hygiene products.
  7. Cash: Ensure you have enough cash on hand since power outages may affect electronic payment systems.
  8. Clothing and Bedding: Prepare a set of comfortable clothing, blankets, and sleeping bags for each family member.
  9. Communication Devices: Charge all electronic devices with a portable phone charger as a backup.
  10. Tools and Supplies: Gather tools such as a manual can opener, wrench or pliers, duct tape, plastic sheeting, and a whistle.
  11. Pet Supplies: If you have pets, include food, water, medications, and any necessary pet supplies in your emergency kit.
  12.  Generator – If possible, invest in a generator for your home. Be sure to research how much power you will need to run basic things like a fridge, lights, charge electronics, etc. to make sure you buy a generator that is strong enough to handle it. And BE SURE to only run the generator outside, well away from your home. Exhaust fumes are extremely dangerous and deadly. Lastly, be sure your extension cord is property rated to handle the load. 
  13.  Gasoline – Make sure to fill your vehicles with gas in case you need to evacuate and because pumps may not work after the storm. Keep in mind that lines may be long if a storm is approaching, so fill up as soon as possible to try and avoid lines. Also, be sure to have plenty of gas cans filled if you have a generator. You may need at least 3 days of fuel for an emergency power situation. 

Tax-Free Hurricane Supplies in Florida

Florida offers tax-free holidays to encourage residents to purchase hurricane supplies. Take advantage of these opportunities to save money while building your hurricane emergency kit and go bag.

water coming inland as hurricanes in florida rage

Preparing Your Home for a Hurricane

Protecting your home is essential during a hurricane. Naturally, some damage is likely if a storm hits your home. However, you can take steps to minimize the risk and impact. Consider the following measures:

  1. Secure Outdoor Items: Move or secure outdoor furniture, plants, and other items that could become projectiles in high winds.
  2. Reinforce Windows and Doors: Install storm shutters or reinforce windows with plywood. Strengthen doors to withstand strong winds. If your property already has hurricane / impact glass windows, then you may not need to worry about this.
  3. Clear Gutters and Drains: Ensure gutters and drains are free from debris to prevent water backup.
  4. Trim Trees and Shrubs: Trim branches and remove dead or weak trees to minimize the risk of falling debris.
  5. Reviewing all existing insurance policies, such as property and vehicle insurance, is also essential to hurricane preparation in Florida. Some policies may include coverage for emergency evacuation or provide assistance with finding temporary housing after severe storm events; review each policy carefully and update them if needed before hurricane season begins. You also need to know the steps to take so if there is damage and you need to submit a claim, you can do it properly and within the appropriate time frame.
  6. Take Photos / Videos of Your Home – taking photos & videos of your home (inside & out) before a storm can be valuable if you need to prove damage later with your insurance company. Be sure to include timestamps with the date on the images.

Other Hurricane Preparations: Evacuations and Routes

Hurricane Katrina & the more recent Hurricane Ian were important reminders about the importance of evacuations.  And local governments here in Florida, especially along the coast and here in Sarasota County will keep the community up-to-date about evacuations. While it’s a pain, it is always more important to be safe than sorry. And waiting too late to try and evacuate can be even worse than staying! 

Just in case, it is extremely important to have a clear evacuation plan in place. Key points to consider:

  1. Know Your Evacuation Zone: Determine your evacuation zone and familiarize yourself with the recommended routes and shelter locations in your area. You can also find a list of shelters that accept pets here.
  2. Gas Up Your Vehicle: Keep your vehicle’s gas tank at least half full during hurricane season to ensure you can evacuate if necessary.
  3. Create a “Go Bag”: Prepare a “go bag” containing important documents, medications, clothing, food, water, and cash ready to grab and go.
  4. Secure a Place to Go, If Possible: Shelters should be a last resort for those who have no other options due to limited space. So if you have friends or family in safer areas of Florida, coordinate with them for a place to stay. Remember roads might be clogged & hotels may be full.

How to Stay Safe During a Hurricane

If you cannot or choose not to evacuate, follow these guidelines to stay safe.

  • Stay Indoors: Seek shelter in the sturdiest part of your home, away from windows, skylights, and exterior doors. Move any appliances and fixtures away from window areas and unplug appliances. 
  • Listen to Officials: Stay tuned to local authorities for updates and instructions throughout the storm. 
  • Avoid Outdoor Hazards: Do not venture outside during the storm, as flying debris and strong winds pose significant dangers.
  • Emergency Contacts: Keep a list of emergency contact numbers readily accessible.
  • Move any vehicles to higher ground or a secure place of shelter. Please don’t put them under power lines, trees, or low-lying areas where they could be vulnerable to impacts or flooding.

shops and buildings boarded up to protect from hurricanes in florida

Post Hurricane Assistance & What to Do

After a hurricane, it’s important to stay connected with your local city and county officials to get updates and find out where you can get assistance, if needed. Some shelters may stay open for a period of time, and there could be areas where emergency supplies are being distributed, such as water.

When it comes to insurance claims, it is extremely important that you follow any processes / procedures from your insurance company. After a hurricane, be sure to check your home thoroughly and take video / photos with your phone that includes the timestamp so that you can prove any damage.

In some states, insurance companies must settle claims within a specific timeframe, or they may be held liable for damages incurred since the claim filing date. 

Therefore, filing claims as soon as possible is crucial to give yourself the best chance of receiving full reimbursement for the costs of damage caused by natural disasters like hurricanes.

Other Financial Assistance

Various financial assistance programs are available to help families recover from losses due to storm damage. For instance, The Red Cross provides financial grants that cover immediate costs like food, water, clothing, cleaning supplies, sanitation products, and debris removal tools, among other things. In addition, these grants aim to restore homes after storm events pass. FEMA is another valuable resource that offers assistance as well.

Additionally, some cities offer short-term loan programs for individuals impacted by natural disasters like hurricanes or tornadoes. These loans come with zero percent interest repayment plans designed to prevent long-term debt issues for those struggling financially before the disaster.

Hurricanes Are Part of Life in Florida, We Can Handle Them!

While hurricane season is a drawback to an otherwise fantastic part of the country, it doesn’t have to be the end of your Sunshine State dream-home life. 

Living with hurricanes in Florida is a reality, but being well-prepared can make all the difference in ensuring your safety. By staying informed, creating emergency supply kits, preparing your home, and knowing evacuation routes, you can face hurricane season confidently while you live that Florida life. 

If you’re still keen to move in, check out our real estate listings to find homes in your preferred areas all across Florida as well as here in the SWFL Sarasota / Venice areas.

Leighanne Payton

Leighanne is an artist, writer, and travel lover. She is currently based in Scotland, UK where she teaches traditional crafts, storytelling and land based alchemy. She loves to explore off the beaten track, finding people, places, and stories that inspire her work. A good beach, a woolly cardigan, and a cuppa tea can make her feel at home anywhere!

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