Ready NHC: Hurricanes

Hurricanes are powerful tropical weather systems with winds of 74 miles per hour or higher. North Carolina is especially vulnerable to direct hurricane strikes because the coastline extends out into the ocean. Heavy winds, tornadoes, flooding, and storm surges can all be caused by hurricanes, causing billions of dollars in damage.

All hurricanes should be taken very seriously regardless of the category. Although categories of hurricanes are determined by wind speed, most damage occurs from flooding so wind speed alone does not determine the severity of a hurricane. Hurricane Florence, which made landfall in Wrightsville Beach in 2019 as a category one hurricane, caused $24 billion in damages; more than the cost of Hurricane Matthew (2016) and Hurricane Floyd (1999) combined.

Hurricane Season is June 1-November 30 with peak season from mid-August to late October. Prepare your family and property before disaster strikes.

If New Hanover County’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is activated due to a hurricane or other emergency event, emergency information and instructions will be provided at

ReadyNHC: Make a Plan, Build a Kit, Stay Informed
Prepare your family and property before disaster strikes.

Hurricane Categories:

  • Tropical Depression – winds up to 39 miles per hour (mph)
  • Tropical Storm – 39-73 mph winds
  • Category 1 – 74-95 mph winds
  • Category 2 – 96-110 mph winds
  • Category 3 – 111-129 mph winds
  • Category 4 – 130-156 mph winds
  • Category 5 – winds 157 mph or greater

When a hurricane is 36 hours from arriving

  • Know the types of flood risks in your area.
  • Review your evacuation routes and shelter locations. You may have to leave quickly so plan ahead.
  • Make sure your car is in good working condition, and keep the gas tank full; stock your vehicle with emergency supplies and a change of clothes.
  • If you have flood insurance, check your policy to see if loss avoidance measures are covered. National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policies cover the cost of loss avoidance measures, like sandbags and water pumps, to protect your insured property. Keep copies of all receipts and a record of the time spent performing the work to submit to your flood insurance adjuster for reimbursement. Learn more about Flood Loss Avoidance on FEMA’s website.

When a hurricane is 18-36 hours from arriving

  • Continue to check often and turn on your TV and/or radio to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
  • Bring loose, lightweight objects inside that could become projectiles in high winds (e.g., patio furniture, garbage cans); anchor objects that would be unsafe to bring inside (e.g., propane tanks); and trim or remove trees close enough to fall on your house.
  • If possible, cover all of your home’s windows. Although permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows, another option is to board up windows with 5/8” exterior grade or marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install.
  • If encouraged by local officials, plan to evacuate.

When a hurricane is 6-18 hours from arriving

  • Continue checking frequently and turn on your TV and/or radio to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
  • Charge your cell phone so you will have a full battery in case you lose power.

When a hurricane is 6 hours from arriving

  • If you are not in an area that is recommended for evacuation, plan to stay at home or where you are, and share your location with friends and family.
  • Close storm shutters and stay away from windows. Flying glass from broken windows could injure you.
  • Turn your refrigerator or freezer to the coldest setting and open only when necessary. If you lose power, food will last longer. Keep a thermometer in the refrigerator to be able to check the food temperature when the power is restored.
  • Turn on your TV or radio, and check every 30 minutes in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
  • If told to evacuate, do so immediately. Do not drive around barricades.
  • If sheltering during high winds, try to stay in a small, interior, windowless room or hallway on the lowest floor that is not subject to flooding.
  • If trapped in a building by flooding, go to the highest level of the building and call 911. Do not climb into a closed attic. You may become trapped by rising flood water.
  • Listen for current emergency information and instructions.
  • Use a generator or other gasoline-powered machinery outdoors ONLY and away from windows.
  • Do not walk, swim, or drive through flood waters. Just six inches of fast-moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away. Turn Around. Don’t Drown!
  • Stay off of bridges over fast-moving water.
  • Listen to local authorities for information and special instructions. Continue checking or your weather radio for updates.
  • Be careful during clean-up. Wear protective clothing and work with someone else.
  • Do not touch electrical equipment if it is wet or if you are standing in water. If it is safe to do so, turn off electricity at the main breaker or fuse box to prevent electric shock.
  • Avoid wading in flood water, which can contain dangerous debris and bacteria. Underground or downed power lines can also electrically charge the water.
  • Practice good hygiene after contact with flood water, and do not allow children to play in flood water. Learn more about flood water safety.
  • Save phone calls for emergencies. Phone systems are often down or busy after a disaster. Use text messages or social media to communicate with family and friends.
  • Document any property damage with photographs. Contact your insurance company for assistance.

If you were affected by Hurricane Florence, please visit for recovery information and resources. 

Emergency Management: 230 Government Center Drive, Suite 115 • Wilmington, NC 28403 • Phone 910-798-6900 • Fax 910-798-6904
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