Published on 05/21/09

Prepare for hurricane season

By April Sorrow
University of Georgia

The probability of Georgia being directly hit by a hurricane in any given year is low. Regardless, Georgians should prepare just in case. Because when one does hit, it will be devastating, says the state’s climatologist.

The Atlantic hurricane season starts June1 and runs to November 30. But tropical systems and the bad weather that comes with them can hit outside of the official season, said David Stooksbury, climatologist and associate professor with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Get a weather radio

The No. 1 way to stay informed of threatening weather is to have a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) radio. A NOAA weather radio sounds an alarm and broadcasts up-to-date details about tornadoes, thunderstorms, flash floods or tropical weather. Make sure you buy one with the Specific Area Message Encoding, or SAME, technology. It can be programmed for particular counties.

“You can buy NOAA weather radios at most electronic stores and even some grocery stores,” Stooksbury said.

Prepare a survival kit

All Georgians should prepare for stormy weather by assembling an all-hazards kit.

As seen with hurricane Katrina, it may take days for help to arrive after a natural or man-made disaster. So, prepare a kit with supplies that will allow you and your family to survive for three to seven days without electricity and clean running water. The most critical supply is at least one gallon of drinking water per person per day for at least three days. More water is needed for cooking and hygiene.

Besides water, an all-hazards kit should include nonperishable foods, a hand can opener, first-aid kit, important papers, battery-powered radio, NOAA weather radio, flashlight and extra batteries. A detailed list of recommended contents for an all-hazards kit is available at

Purchase flood insurance

It is not only important to have an all-hazards kit, many Georgian’s should look into buying flood insurance, too.

“The entire state is vulnerable to impacts from tropical systems,” he said. “While storm surge along the coast and wind damage receive the most attention, inland flooding is a concern statewide, from the coastal plain to the mountains.”

Most homeowner insurance policies don’t include flood damage, so it is necessary to purchase an additional policy just to cover these damages. But most policies are fairly inexpensive. Just be sure to purchase a policy at least 30 days before you need it, so it has time to take effect.

“Almost any place in south Georgia has a possibility of flooding,” he said. “As we’ve seen this year, heavy rains can flood the lowland piedmont region and cause significant damage.”

Don’t forget tornadoes

While hurricane season is starting, tornado season hasn’t really ended.

“Tornadoes are always a risk in Georgia,” Stooksbury said. “While they are more common in the spring and fall, they can occur at any time.”

In the event of a tornado, seek shelter in a sturdy building. The lowest level away from windows is the safest place, he said. If one isn't around, lie down in a ditch or low spot where cars or trees won't blow on top of you. Don't stay in a car.

“Regardless of where you seek shelter, protect your body, especially your head and neck, from flying debris,” he said. “Use pillows, blankets, coats or whatever you can find to protect yourself.”

April R. Sorrow is a science writer with the University of Georgia Public Affairs Office.