How to Prepare for a Hurricane

Preparing for a hurricane or tropical storm, and following the advice of officials, is the best way to ensure the health and safety of your family and loved ones during an emergency.

Hurricanes: Facts at a Glance

The key threats from an approaching Tropical Storm or Hurricane are WIND, STORM SURGE, FLOODING, and the potential for TORNADOES.

  • Hurricane WINDS can reach 74-95 mph for a Category 1 storm, to above 155 mph for a Category 5 storm.
  • The STORM SURGE is a dome of ocean water the hurricane pushes ahead of itself. At its peak, a storm surge can be 25 feet high and 50-100 miles wide. The storm surge can wreak havoc as the water pushes into rivers and tributaries, causing water levels to rise. During Hurricane Isabel in 2003, for example, the storm surge caused the Inner Harbor in Baltimore to rise and it flooded the storm sewers, causing massive flooding for blocks inland of the Harbor.
  • The thunderstorms and torrential rains that accompany a hurricane can create dangerous and deadly FLOODS or FLASH FLOODS.
  • Seventy percent of hurricanes making landfall trigger at least one TORNADO.


Hurricane Dangers

Hurricane season normally occurs June 1 through November 30. The peak potential for Hurricane and Tropical Storm activity in the Washington Metropolitan area runs from mid-August through the end of October.

The combination of warm ocean water, humid air and consistent winds contributes to the formation of 'tropical cyclones' - low-pressure systems of circulating winds, clouds and thunderstorms - over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.

As they gain strength, these cyclones are classified as Tropical Depressions, Tropical Storms or Hurricanes. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale rates Hurricane strengths, from Category 1 to Category 5. Most of these storms remain over the ocean without affecting the U.S. coastline.

When they approach land, Tropical Storms and Hurricanes can be extremely deadly and destructive - even as far north as the Washington Metro area. Even when they do not make landfall here, these storms can cause severe property damage, injury and death.


Preparing for a Hurricane-What You Should Do

  • Store at least 1 gallon of water per day for each person and each pet. You should consider storing more water than this for hot climates, for pregnant women, and for persons who are sick.
  • Store at least a 3-day supply of water for each person and each pet (try to store a 2-week supply if possible).
  • Observe the expiration date for store-bought water; replace other stored water every six months.
  • Store a bottle of unscented liquid household chlorine bleach to disinfect your water and to use for general cleaning and sanitizing.

Water Containers (Cleaning and Storage) - Use of food-grade water storage containers, such as those found at surplus or camping supply stores, is recommended if you prepare stored water yourself.

Before filling with safe water, use these steps to clean and sanitize storage containers:

  • Wash the storage container with dishwashing soap and water and rinse completely with clean water.
  • Sanitize the container by adding a solution made by mixing 1 teaspoon of unscented liquid household chlorine bleach in one quart of water.
  • Cover the container and shake it well so that the sanitizing bleach solution touches all inside surfaces of the container.
  • Wait at least 30 seconds and then pour the sanitizing solution out of the container.
  • Let the empty sanitized container air-dry before use OR rinse the empty container with clean, safe water that already is available.

For proper water storage :

  • Label container as "drinking water" and include storage date.
  • Replace stored water that is not commercially bottled every six months.
  • Keep stored water in a place with a fairly constant cool temperature.
  • Do not store water containers in direct sunlight.
  • Do not store water containers in areas where toxic substances such as gasoline or pesticides are present.

See the following sites for information on basic preparedness.

If you live in a low-lying area or an area prone to flooding, please see our "Guide to Preventing Sewer Backups and Flooding" for steps you can take to protect your property.

Preparing for a Hurricane-What DC Water Will Do

In preparation of a hurricane, DC Water's water and sewer crews will be stationed throughout the District so that they can respond more quickly to emergency calls.

Please be advised that DC Water crews will respond to water and sewer emergencies as long as conditions remain safe to do so. Once sustained winds reach 40 mph, or other conditions warrant, DC Water employees will be instructed to return to a DC Water facility or to find nearby shelter.

DC Water wastewater treatment crews will remain at Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant as long as it is safe for them to do so. Relief crews will remain onsite during the storm so that they do not have to travel during the storm.

DC Water will also make provisions for the 24-hour Emergency Call Center to remain staffed; however crews will not respond to water and sewer emergencies while storm conditions are unsafe for travel. If you have a life threatening emergency, dial 911.

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