As hurricane season approaches, being aware of hazards and having a plan for evacuation, in the case a tropical cyclone (hurricane) occurs, can be lifesaving. The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season begins on June 1 and concludes on November 30. The storms that occur during this time are among the most powerful and destructive of all natural phenomena. The United States Department of Homeland Security, the American Red Cross, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration , Texas Department of Public Safety, and many more agencies work diligently to create awareness and provide resources to keep Americans safe throughout hurricane season.

During hurricane season, tropical cyclones are more likely to form. Tropical cyclones are a rotating organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that originate over tropical or subtropical waters, have a closed low-level circulation, and rotate counterclockwise. Not all tropical cyclones produce hurricanes. The NOAA defines a tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 38mph or less as tropical depressions. A tropical storm is a tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 39-73mph. Hurricanes are a tropical cyclone with wind speeds of 74mph or higher and a major hurricane has a maximum sustained wind speed of 111 mph or more.

The Coastal Bend is considered an “evacuation zone” during hurricane season. If a hurricane is approaching, the best/safest thing to do is evacuate. It is advised to prepare an evacuation checklist and kit ahead of time. The Texas Division of Emergency Management and the National Weather Service urges all coastal residents to have the following on their checklist and in their evacuation kits:

• First-aid kit, prescription medications, eyeglasses, copies of prescriptions, other special medical items, hearing aids and batteries

• Important documents and records, photo IDs, proof of residence, information to process insurance claims

• Credit cards and cash (if power is out, banks and ATMs may not be available)

• Battery-operated radio, NOAA Weather Radio and extra batteries

• Phone numbers of family, friends and other important phone numbers

• Road maps

• 3-day supply of non-perishable food, one gallon of bottled water per person per day, coolers for food and ice storage, paper plates, utensils

• Manual can opener, knife, tools, booster cables, fire extinguisher, duct tape, tarp, rope, flashlight with extra batteries

• Extra keys

• Blankets, pillows, sleeping bags for each person, extra clothing, toys for children

• Supplies for babies, the elderly and family members with special health care needs

• Toilet paper, cleanup supplies, personal hygiene products

• Leash, food, cleaning supplies and veterinary records for pets

Discussing how and where you plan to evacuate is essential, as well. To find the best evacuation route please visit Texas Department of Transportation – Hurricane Information. Once you have established your travel plan, create a list of places between your town and your destination to stop if the highways are clogged. Having a document of potential hotel reservations is helpful, too.

The physical damage from hurricanes can be devastating. There are ways to mitigate damage from the strong winds and rain, though. Simple fixes include trimming or removing damaged trees and limbs from your yard, as well as, securing loose rain gutters and cleaning them out to prevent clogging. Retrofit to secure/reinforce your roof, windows, doors, and garages to reduce serious property damage. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also advises building/creating a storm shelter “safe room” in the event that you are unable to evacuate. More information and tips on how to accomplish this can be found at FEMA – Safe Rooms.

To keep up with potential storms throughout hurricane season, visit National Hurricane Center. The National Hurricane Center provides several resources to keep you up-to-date. To learn more about what hurricanes are associated hazards, visit Tropical Cyclones Preparedness Guide. For more information on how and what to prepare for hurricane season, please visit American Red Cross – Prepare for Hurricanes, Texas Prepares, Ready.gov – Hurricanes, and Hurricane Preparedness: Helpful Information Links.

If you have questions regarding any of the information mentioned in this week’s article, please do not hesitate to call my Capitol or District Office. Please always feel free to contact my office if you have any questions or issues regarding a Texas state agency, or if you would like to contact my office regarding constituent services. As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office, 361-949-4603).

– State Representative Todd Hunter, District 32

Rep. Hunter represents Nueces County (Part). He can be contacted at todd.hunter@house.texas.gov or at 512-463-0672