Classified into five categories based on their wind speed, central pressure, and damage potential, hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland. Like hurricanes, tropical storms can spawn tornadoes, create storm surges along the coast, and cause extensive damage from heavy rainfall.

Hurricanes that are classified as Category Three and higher are considered major hurricanes, though Categories One and Two are still extremely dangerous and warrant your full attention.


Hurricane: Generally, an intense tropical weather system of strong thunderstorms, with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph or higher.

Tropical Storm: Generally, an organized system of strong thunderstorms, with maximum sustained winds of 39-73 mph.

Hurricane/Tropical Storm Watch: A hurricane or tropical storm is possible in your area, usually within 36 hours.

Hurricane/Tropical Storm Warning: A hurricane or tropical storm is expected in your area, usually within 24 hours.

More Terms from FEMA »

Preparation for Hurricanes

  • Know your emergency plans, including Boston evacuation routes as well as emergency plans and procedures for both your workplace and your child's school. Have an emergency plan in place for your pet.
    Create a Plan »

  • Put together an emergency supply kit, which should include food, water, medical supplies, and any other necessities which will allow you to get by for 3 days after the hurricane hits.
    Make a Kit » 

If a Storm is Approaching

  • Be informed of the most up to date information by listening to the radio or TV.
    Be Informed » 

  • Turn off utilities as instructed. Otherwise, turn your refrigerator and/or freezer thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its door closed.

  • Turn off propane tanks.

  • Stock a supply of water for sanitary purposes such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other large containers with water.

  • Prepare your home by covering your windows with pre-cut ply wood, bringing in all outdoor objects that are not tied down, and keep all trees and shrubs well trimmed so that they are wind resistant.

  • If you are directed to evacuate by local authorities, do so in a timely manner and follow all instructions. Stick to designated evacuation routes.
    More Information on Evacuations » 

What to do During a Hurricane

  • If you are unable to evacuate, stay indoors and away from windows. Keep curtains and blinds closed.

  • Close all interior doors, and secure and brace external doors.

  • Go to a safe indoor place, such as an interior room, closet, or hallway, on the lowest level. If necessary, lie on the floor under a table or other sturdy object until the storm passes.

  • Don't be tricked by a lull in the storm. It may be the calmer center of the storm passing over, and the storm will resume.

What to do After a Hurricane

  • Immediately after a storm, use extreme caution going out of doors. Be alert for hazards such as broken glass and damage to buildings.

  • Continue listening to the radio or TV and follow instructions from local authorities.

  • Do not drink tap water until you know it's safe.


News & Press Releases »

Preparedness Tools

  • Family Preparedness Planner

    Family Preparedness Planner (Flash required)

    Additional Languages

Multimedia & Downloads »

Social Media »