Hurricane Preparedness
By CENTCOM Public Affairs

Current Hurricane Condition: Pre-Hurricane – 72+ Hours

Hurcon Levels Defined:

HURCON 4 – 72-48 Hours

HURCON 3 – 48-24 Hours

HURCON 2 – 24 Hours

HURCON 1 – 12 Hours

The following numbers will give current hurricane condition information for USCENTCOM and MacDill AFB:

  • USCENTCOM Command Center:  1-866-656-7754

  • Air Force Personnel Command:  1-800-435-9941


Are you at risk?

How to prepare

How/when to act

Hurricane Ready Kit


Terms and Definitions

Links of Interest

Hurricane Season is from 1-Jun to 30-Nov; however, severe tropical weather can produce hurricanes during any month of the year.  The 6-month Hurricane Season is the period most likely for hurricane impacts to the Tampa Bay area. The huge storm system can span hundreds of miles and like a super-charged thunderstorm.  Add a moving wall of water (storm surge) and you have a very destructive force of nature.

It does not matter how many hurricanes are predicted for a season, when a single hurricane can completely destroy your home and contents.


  • Tropical depressions can escalate to Tropical Storms and worse yet, hurricanes. A Storm surge is simply water that is pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds swirling around the storm.  This combines with the normal tides to create the hurricane storm tide, which can make the moving water level 15 feet or more.  Additionally, wind-driven waves are superimposed on the storm tide.  This rise in water level can cause severe flooding in coastal areas, particularly when the storm tide coincides with the normal high tides.  The danger from such storm tides in Tampa Bay’s and the Gulf Coast’s shorelines is tremendous.
  • High winds, tornadoes, heavy rains, flooding, flash floods, high lightning activity, and dramatic barometric drops accompany the storm surge.
  • Even before the arrival of Storm force winds (>58 mph), area bridges will be closed by transportation authorities.  Closures generally begin at 40 mph.
  • The Tampa Bay area is the country’s third-most vulnerable city for hurricane destruction.
  • Following a hurricane making landfall, especially a major hurricane, emergency responders and relief agencies should not be expected for days.
  • Safe drinking water, electrical power, and natural gas services may be out for days to weeks…or longer.
  • Evacuating and returning will be delayed by the severity of damage and safety factors/hazards.

Are you at risk?

If you live in any one of these counties, you are at risk!  Please learn about your Hurricane Evacuation (Hurrivac) Zone.

  • Emergency Supply Kit

    How to prepare

    • Know your evacuation zone. Plan to relocate if your home is in an evacuation zone or is a mobile home. Develop travel routes, home preparedness and damage mitigation efforts.
    • Ensure you have adequate insurance for vehicles, personal property, and real estate. If you rent or lease and apartment, ensure you have a “renter’s insurance policy” and that your geographic location and residence are accurately recorded with your insurance company.
    • Identify your risk of Flood Damage. If you own a home and flooding may be a threat, contact your insurance company and ensure you have coverage against flooding. Flood insurance often requires separate coverage. There is usually a two week waiting period prior to the coverage going into effect. For more information, see the National Flood Insurance Program.
    • Create a household disaster plan. Plan to meet your family in case you are separated. Choose an out-of-town contact for everyone to call to say they are safe. Locate the nearest public shelter as a back up to your primary plan.
    • Retrofit roofs and structure for strong winds and other storm hazards. Consider the gutters and downspouts, protection/coverings for windows (not tape), parking and stoarge of vehicles (cars, boats, etc.).
    • Prepare surrounding areas to reduce debris that can be blown and cause damage.
    • Obtain supplies to protect your property and for survival.
    • Arrange for the safe keeping of your pets. They cannot be taken to public shelters.
    • Make a complete inventory of personal property; take photographs or video of major items
    • Ensure your directorate’s Disaster Preparedness Officer or designated Point of Contact knows your anticipated evacuation location. Also include anticipated location of dependents if you expect separate locations. Include email addresses and telephone numbers for each location.
    • Click Here to download the Hurricane Preparedness Guide from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

    How/when to act  

    If a hurricane is predicted:

    • Monitor reliable radio or TV for official reports.
    • Implement your preparedness planning efforts for your home, Disaster Kit(s), Emergency Kit, evacuations, and so on.
    • Turn off utilities if instructed to do so.  Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
    • Ensure a supply of water for sanitary purposes such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other large containers with water.
    • Report your (and your family’s) accountability according to the command’s instructions.

    Decision Point: When a storm watch is issued, you'll need to decide whether to go or stay.

    You should evacuate under the following conditions:

    • If you live in a surge zone officially declared as an evacuation zone or if directed by local authorities to do so – follow credible authorities’ instructions.
    • If you live in a mobile home or temporary structure - these are particularly dangerous during hurricanes no matter how well secured to the ground.
    • If you live in a high-rise building - hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations.
    • If you live on the coast, on a floodplain, near a river, or on an inland waterway.
    • If you feel you are in danger.

    * Reimbursement for evacuations is dependent upon formal evacuation orders generated by the MacDill AFB Commander

    Staying Home: If you remain in your home 

    • Call to let someone know where you are, per your Communications Plan.
    • Implement your household disaster plan
    • Stay away from windows, glass doors, exterior walls, and overhead hazards. Take refuge in a small interior room, closet, or hallway on the lowest level.
    • Lie on the floor under a table or another sturdy object.
    • Close all doors, windows, curtains and blinds - secure and brace external doors.
    • Do not be fooled if there is a lull; it could be the eye of the storm - winds will go from Zero to Extreme without warning.
    • Fill water containers and clean bath tubs with water.
    • Periodically check your telephone for a dial tone.
    • Prepare to cope with any family members that have special medical needs? What special supplies and food will you need to have on hand?
    • Do you need to have any special equipment available for after the storm?
    • Put important documents in a safe, waterproof location, such as a waterproof safe, or an ice cooler sealed with duct tape?
    • Notify out-of-area relatives that you are staying behind
    • Prepared to live without utilities and normal services for as long as two weeks after the storm
    • Remain calm.

    Leaving: If you evacuate:

    • Implement your household disaster plan
    • When a hurricane strike is imminent, plan ahead and be prepared to evacuate as soon as the anticipated evacuation order is given
    • Identify ahead of time where you could go if you are told to evacuate. Choose several places -- a friend's home in another town, a motel, or a shelter.
    • Evacuation orders are mandatory. Don't try to stay behind or argue with authorities.
    • Keep handy the telephone numbers of these places as well as a road map of your locality. You may need to take alternative or unfamiliar routes if major roads are closed or clogged.
    • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or local radio or TV stations such as am950 or Bay News 9 for evacuation instructions.
    • Know where you are going. Have a backup plan if roads are too congested to get out in time. Know your designated local shelter.
    • Take your hurricane box with you.
    • Before leaving your home, shut off all gas appliances and water at root valves. Shut off main electrical breakers. (NOTE: consider leaving refrigerator circuit on.)
    • Be alert for tornadoes, which are often spawned by hurricanes
    • Do not bring pets, alcoholic beverages, or weapons to public shelters.
    • Keep important papers, especially insurance policies, with you at all times.
    • Constantly monitor your radio for the latest information on the storm movement or until the “All Clear” has been issued.
    • Notify other family members where you will be
    • Do not try to return to your home until local authorities grant permission. Expect limited access and curfews during recovery operations.

    In Either Case, do the following

    • Constantly monitor weather reports on television or radio. Hurricanes can move very quickly. Hurricanes typically move at a forward speed of 8 to 25 miles per hour. This means an approaching storm can move up to 200 miles during the course of a normal work day. As the hurricane gets close, begin monitoring the weather reports every hour. Bay News 9 and the Weather Channel are two examples of weather information.
    • Double check hurricane box and collect items not kept with your hurricane box.
    • Keep a Photo I.D. with your current address. This may become important when asking a police officer or National Guardsman for permission to re-enter your neighborhood.
    • Fuel all your vehicles
    • Get a supply of cash. During the recovery period, checks and credit cards may not be accepted and ATMs may not be working.
    • Anchor small boats or move them to shelter. Anchor loose items on or near your property such as TV antennas, garbage cans, garden tools, toys, lawn furniture, etc.
    • Board up or shutter large windows. Tape exposed glass surfaces to prevent shattering.

    Hurricane Ready Kit

    As a minimum, prepare yourself to be without food and water for at least 3 days. The following are suggested items for your hurricane kit.

    Hurricane Box: A suggested list of hurricane box contents is below:

    • Canned and non-perishable foods
    • Water - at least 1 gallon daily per person for 3 to 7 days
    • Cooking tools (ie. A non-electric can opener.)
    • Camp stove (with fuel)
    • Lantern (with fuel)
    • Several flashlights and fresh batteries
    • A portable, battery operated radio and fresh batteries
    • Cell phone
    • Zip-lock bags to protect valuables
    • A portable cooler and ice
    • Baby food, formula, diapers, and baby wipes
    • Toiletries
    • Eating utensils
    • Masking tape
    • Bedding, blankets or sleeping bags
    • Valuables and important papers(ie.. insurance, medical records, bank account numbers, Social Security card, etc.) in waterproof containers, including your directorate recall list
    • Plastic drop cloth
    • A few games and books for children
    • Iodine or other water purification tablets
    • Candles and matches
    • Radio - Battery operated with NOAA Weather Radio
    • Blankets / Pillows, etc.
    • Clothing - seasonal / rain gear/sturdy shoes
    • First Aid Kit / Medicines / Prescription Drugs
    • Special Items - for babies and the elderly
    • Toiletries / Hygiene items /Moisture wipes
    • Keys
    • Important documents - in a waterproof container
    • Vehicle fuel tanks filled
    • Pet care items (proper identification/immunization records/medications), ample supply of food and water, a carrier or cage, muzzle and leash
    • Canned sodas
    • Plastic garbage bags
    • Mosquito repellent
    • Bleach
    • Pet food
    • Bedding (1 blanket or sleeping bag per person)
    • Cooler
    • Ice
    • Toiletries
    • Clean clothes and sturdy shoes
    • Clothes & dish detergent
    • Clothesline and pins
    • Fire extinguisher - ABC type
    • Gloves & goggles
    • Small tools
    • Cleaning supplies
    • Brooms & mops
    • Pails and buckets
    • Ladders
    • Plywood & nails
    • Rakes & shovels
    • Chain saw, gas & oil
    • Duct and masking tape
    • Rolls of plastic
    • Wheelbarrow
    • Battery operated clock
    • Butane lighter or matches
    • Axes, hatchets, pruners
    • Rope

    Commercially available disaster kits are also available. Click Here for more information.

    Review this inventory at the beginning of each hurricane season, replacing batteries, foods, water, etc. with fresh stock for the new season.

    Rehearse your Plan

    Consider the following exercise: Try to live for one day without your utilities and begin making a list of essential items that become evident. Parents should plan a "camp in" with their children. This will make it less traumatic both you and your children when you are forced to live without the everyday things we all take for granted.

    The Hazards

    A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone, the generic term for a low pressure system that generally forms in the tropics. The ingredients for a hurricane include a pre-existing weather disturbance, warm tropical oceans, moisture, and relatively light winds aloft. A typical cyclone is accompanied by thunderstorms, and in the Northern Hemisphere, a counterclockwise circulation of winds near the earth’s surface. none;"


    High Winds

    The intensity of a landfalling hurricane is expressed in terms of categories that relate wind speeds and potential damage



    Hurricanes can also produce tornadoes that add to the storm's destructive power. Tornadoes are most likely to occur in the right-front quadrant of the hurricane. However, they are also often found elsewhere embedded in the rainbands, well away from the center of the hurricane.


    Storm Surge

    Storm surge is water that is pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds swirling around the storm



    While storm surge is always a potential threat, more people have died from inland flooding in the last 30 years. Intense rainfall is not directly related to the wind speed of tropical cyclones. In fact, some of the greatest rainfall amounts occur from weaker

    storms that drift slowly or stall over an area.


    Marine Hazards

    Hurricanes have been the cause of many maritime disasters and unfortunately, there is no single rule of thumb that can be used by mariners to ensure safe separation from a hurricane at sea. Instead, constant monitoring of hurricane potential & continual risk analysis when used with some fundamental guidelines become the basic tools to minimize a hurricane's impact to vessels at sea or in port.


    Terms and Definitions

    • Tropical Disturbance: An area of thunderstorms in the tropics that may have rotary circulation and maintains its identity for at least 24 hours.
    • Tropical Depression: A storm system displaying a noticeable rotary circulation and maximum sustained wind speeds of 38 miles per hour.
    • Tropical Storm: A storm system that displays substantial rotary circulation and maximum sustained winds between 39 and 73 miles per hour. When a system reaches Tropical Storm strength, it is assigned a name by the National Hurricane Center.
    • Tropical Storm Watch: An announcement for specific areas that a storm, or the potential of a newly developing tropical storm, poses a threat to coastal areas, generally within 36 hours.
    • Tropical Storm Warning: A warning that tropical storm conditions, including possible sustained winds within the range of 39 - 73 miles per hour, are expected in specific coastal areas within 24 hours.
    • Hurricane: Once a tropical storm's constant wind speed reaches 74 mph or greater, it is classified as a hurricane.
    • Hurricane Watch: An announcement for specific coastal areas that a hurricane or an incipient hurricane condition poses a possible threat, generally within 36 hours.
    • Hurricane Warning: A warning that a hurricane is expected in a specific coastal area within 24 hours. When a hurricane warning is issued, all precautions should be taken immediately. If the hurricane's path is unusual or erratic, the warning may be issued only a few hours before the beginning of hurricane conditions.
    • Storm Surge: The increase in water level beyond normal tidal changes caused by the action of the storm. This is an increase in standing water level; wave action may cause damage above this level.
    • Hurricane Categories: Safir-Simpson Scale for categorizing a hurricane's intensity:

    Links of Interest

    General Hurricane Information

    Hurricane Safety Information 

    Real-time Hurricane Imagery 



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