Hurricane Preparedness

Hurricanes are among the most powerful and destructive phenomena in nature. The primary hazards from tropical cyclones (which include tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes) are storm surge flooding, inland flooding from heavy rains, destructive winds, tornadoes, and high surf and rip currents. Hurricane season starts on June 1 in the Atlantic and the Caribbean and ends on November 30.

The location of Winchester and the Shenandoah Valley removes us from the direct path of hurricanes, tropical storms, or depressions.  However, there have been those events when the residual effects of hurricanes have impacted Winchester and Frederick County. The Commonwealth of Virginia has a long history of hurricanes and tropical storms each leaving its mark. Hurricane Hazel impacted the state in 1954 creating damages of $1.5M, hurricane Agnes had a significant impact on Winchester and the surrounding area in 1972 inundating the City with floodwaters and resulting in damages in the state of $222,000,000. Hurricane Isabel visited the state in 2003 creating damages of $1.85B. Although Winchester is not concerned with storm surge, rising tides, and the impacts of the storm making direct landfall in the coastal reaches of the state we are not immune from the impacts of the storm.

As a community, we must prepare for the results of tropical activity as history will repeat and we will again be inundated with the remanence of hurricanes, tropical storms, and depressions.

Remember, plan now for survival. See below for tips and important information.

prepare for emergencies

Hazards and How to Be Prepared

The following are some of the hazards and situations which may be encountered in our area should the state be impacted by a tropical system:

  • Heavy rain can be expected creating flooding conditions of small streams, rivers and/or localized street flooding. Torrential rains can reach hundreds of miles inland creating flooding that may last for days. Flash flooding of small streams and roadways will obstruct roadways and traffic flow. Flooding is the second leading cause of fatalities from land falling tropical storms. Remember do not drive through flooded streets, a relatively small amount of water can float a vehicle or the vehicle may be overcome by the flood water and stall leaving the operator and the passengers in harm’s way. REMEMBER, TURN AROUND DON’T DROWN.
  • High winds in all likelihood will bring down tree limbs, power lines, cable lines and possibly trees. When power lines come down they can remain energized creating an extreme hazard to those that may come in contact with them or they may energize standing water extending the hazard of electrocution far from the source. Do not approach downed power lines and do not enter water where power lines have fallen and are submerged.
  • Power Outages and services such as cable, phone, etc. provided through other overhead lines may be discontinued.
    • Be prepared with flashlights, spare batteries, battery operated radio or a radio which can generate its own power.
    • It is recommended that each household have 1 gallon of water per each person in the household per day and have a three day supply as electrical power is necessary to produce and move potable water.
    • Do not use candles for light as this has and often creates an extreme fire hazard.
    • If you have a generator make certain you have an ample supply of fuel for the generator. Do not fuel the generator inside a structure or garage. Fueling of generators should be done outside. Also, DO NOT OPERATE A GENERATOR IN A GARAGE OR OTHER ENCLOSED AREA. CARBON MONOXIDE IS A COLORLESS, ODORLESS, POISONOUS GAS WHICH CAN ENTER A BUILDING AND BECOME LETHAL.
  • Food may be in short supply and each household should be prepared with a three day supply of non-perishable food.
  • Remember your pets and prepare for their needs by having sufficient food and water on hand for them. If you must evacuate your home be prepared to take your pet with you as many jurisdictions have resources for sheltering pets as well as people.
  • Stay tuned to local radio and television for the latest information concerning the current and future weather forecast. Remember hurricanes, tropical storms and depressions and the remanence of these storms can and do spawn tornadoes. Have a plan in the event a tornado watch or warning is issued, know where you are going to take shelter and do so immediately if a  warning is issued.

Have a GO KIT and be prepared to evacuate should the need arise. This should include food, water, a change of clothing, important papers, some cash, medicines, personal hygiene items a battery powered radio, extra batteries, flashlight and other items.

Additional information concerning hurricane preparedness and preparedness in general can be found on the above mentioned websites or you may call the City of Winchester's Department of Emergency Management a 540-545-4721.

Hurricane Watch

Hurricane watch = conditions possible within the next 48 hrs.

Steps to take:

  • Review your evacuation route(s) & listen to local officials.
  • Review the items in your disaster supply kit; and add items to meet the household needs for children, parents, individuals with disabilities or other access and functional needs or pets.

Hurricane Warning

Hurricane warning = conditions are expected within 36 hrs.

Steps to take:

  • Follow evacuation orders from local officials, if given.
  • Check-in with family and friends by texting or using social media.
  • Follow the hurricane timeline preparedness checklist, depending on when the storm is anticipated to hit and the impact that is projected for your location.

What to do when a hurricane is 6 hours from arriving

  • If you’re not in an area that is recommended for evacuation, plan to stay at home or where you are and let friends and family know where you are.
  • 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/radio, or check your city/county website every 30 minutes in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.

What to do when a hurricane is 6-18 hours from arriving

  • Turn on your TV/radio, or check your city/county website every 30 minutes in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
  • Charge your cell phone now so you will have a full battery in case you lose power.
  • What to do when a hurricane is 18-36 hours from arriving
  • Bookmark your city or county website for quick access to storm 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 the building.
  • Cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” exterior grade or marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install.

What to do when a hurricane is 36 hours from arriving

  • Turn on your TV or radio in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
  • Build or restock your emergency preparedness kit. Include food and water sufficient for at least three days, medications, a flashlight, batteries, cash, and first aid supplies.
  • Plan how to communicate with family members if you lose power. For example, you can call, text, email or use social media. Remember that during disasters, sending text messages is usually reliable and faster than making phone calls because phone lines are often overloaded.
  • Review your evacuation plan with your family. You may have to leave quickly so plan ahead.
  • Keep your car in good working condition, and keep the gas tank full; stock your vehicle with emergency supplies and a change of clothes.

After a Hurricane

  • Listen to local officials for updates and instructions.
  • Check-in with family and friends by texting or using social media.
  • Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
  • Watch out for debris and downed power lines.
  • Avoid walking or driving through flood waters. Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and one foot of fast-moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
  • Avoid flood water as it may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines and may hide dangerous debris or places where the ground is washed away.
  • Photograph the damage to your property in order to assist in filing an insurance claim.
  • Do what you can to prevent further damage to your property, (e.g., putting a tarp on a damaged roof), as insurance may not cover additional damage that occurs after the storm.

Hurricane preparedness supplies