Severe weather is inevitable. It’s important to know the facts about hurricanes — that way, you can make informed decisions to protect your family before, during and after the storm.
Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions surrounding hurricanes because there’s widespread misinformation about the topic.
Read on for the top 10 myths about hurricanes — and the truth behind them.
Myth #10: Hurricanes only happen in coastal areas
While the drama of a hurricane crashing onto a coastal area makes compelling front-page news, the effects are felt far inland.
In fact, strong winds, heavy rain, tornadoes, and inland flooding can spread hundreds of miles from the coast, leaving behind extensive death and damage.
Myth #9: The storm surge is a hurricane’s deadliest part
A storm surge is a wall of water pushed ashore as the center of a hurricane moves on land. That image alone often sticks in people’s minds as perhaps the most threatening part of a hurricane.
Once you visualize an avalanche of water headed straight toward you at hurricane-force speed, it’s easy to consider that event’s impact and underestimate other destruction not far behind.
And rest assured, there will be additional destruction.
Here’s the reality check: While a storm surge can certainly be deadly, more people actually die from inland flooding and flash floods of rivers and streams because they underestimate the power of moving water.
Myth #8: An apartment or condominium’s upper floors are safe places to ride out a storm
Think the top of a high-rise apartment or condominium building is the best place to be during a hurricane? Think again. This so-called “vertical evacuation” is a bad idea!
Here are the facts:
- Wind speed increases the higher you go
- Hurricane-force winds can blow out windows and rip off siding
- Rising water can cause structural damage to the building’s lower levels
- The room you’re in could topple over once lower levels collapse
If that’s not enough to convince you to evacuate your high-rise, maybe this will: high winds and rising water make rescue nearly impossible.
In a couple of years, I will be moving to Florida for independent living. The list of myths and facts is very interesting, especially since my parents actually believe the myth that “a big hurricane will wipe out your house no matter what.” Therefore, they love trying to convince me to “buy a flimsy mobile home” and I allready decided that mobile homes are a total no-no for me; I choose to live in a more substantial structure, preferrably made of concrete block. But they still love to tell me that “even concrete will never, ever stand a chance in a hurricane”, which I know is blatantly false. For example, the Turkey Point Nuclear power plant just east of Homestead, Fl took a direct hit by Hurricane Andrew and survived with none more than a couple of damaged/cracked smoke stacks. But many times, I imagine my parents doing a research paper on Hurricane Andrew and saying in their paper that “the Turkey Point nuclear power plant, despite it’s solid iron, steel, and reinforced concrete construction, was shattered and violently hurled from the ground by Andrew’s winds, and the plant’s remains now lie scattered throughout an approximately 150,000 square mile area of the Gulf of Mexico.” The truth is, while I did read that there were a few concrete block homes severely damaged/destroyed by Hurricane Andrew, I also happen to know that there were many numerous concrete block homes that stood strong in Hurricane Andrew that were even directly in the path of Andrew’s worst winds.
I understand that tape won’t keep a window from breaking, but I was told it WILL keep large shards from falling and hurting people. That was my understanding of why we tape windows. Is that true?
Sorry but I disagree with no. 3 about cracking windows during a hurricane. I live in Bermuda and have been through countless hurricanes. No-one EVER dies in a hurricane in their home in Bermuda and we have very little property damage. Our homes are built differently and are very strong but one thing we have done for generations is crack our windows. People who have failed to do this, have had their roofs blown clean off.
I have been home in many a hurricane and if we’ve only cracked a couple of winsdows, felt the air pressure build up. When that has happened, we have cracked a few more windows and felt the air pressure subside. I don’t know how scientists can discount this-it all has to do with aerodynamics. As I said, we’ve always done it and we’ve always been fine. Our weather experts here who have had TONS of experience with hurricanes still advise us to do this and I trust their advice.
As for the tip about taping windows, that contains incorrect information as well. The point of taping windows is not to prevent them from breaking! It is so that when they do break, the glass doesn’t shatter all over the place and hurt someone. Instead it breaks in large pieces and holds together allowing you to take it down gently. Covering windows with plywood is best, but if you can’t it’s good advice to tape them rather than do nothing! So what if the tape sticks-spray some Windex and the gooey residue comes right off-nobody has to scrape anything, for goodness sake!
Reading Mike’s comments, I wanted to add that the reason our homes hold in Bermuda up is that they are built of concrete. We have strict building codes in Bermuda because of hurricanes with one being that our houses are built of concrete block and we have strict rules as far as foundations are concerned (like have deep they have to be). Our buildings here hold up really well if they are built properly. The most that usually happens is that we lose slate off roofs…nobody’s house will blow down, that’s for sure.
I look at damage in the aftermath of hurricanes in the U.S. and other places and see whole homes fallen down. That just doesn’t happen here. Concrete is a product that gets stronger over time-not weaker-so if I lived in the U.S in a hurricane zone I most definitely would make sure my home was built of concrete block instead of that stucco or whatever else they use. If it’s made of concrete, the structure should hold up.
I agree w/Anne and mike. I live in Mexico and we get hit by 1 strong hurricane at least once a year. Homes here don’t get blown away like they do in the US. We build our houses of concrete block. It probably takes a little more to build but these houses are definitely solid rock. We might get flooded, of course, but houses stand firm.
I have never understood why the US builds wood (or whatever material they use) houses… and speaking of fires too, conrete block stands it all!
Oh yeah strong concrete. I see a lot of cracked concrete sidewalks. Real strong stuff there.
America, at least on the West Coast, we have used wood because we need our buildings to be flexible because of earthquakes. Concrete buildings break with the strain of a quake, while wooden structures sway and remain intact.
You cannot compare Bermuda to the States. First of all, it is a tiny island and therefore barely gets a direct hit. The worst one in the last 60 years was Fabian, and that only had winds of 120 MPH.
To the person in Mexico, a Category 1 hurricane is not exactly noteworthy in South Florida but it could definitely do lots of damage to other parts of the US depending on their building codes. I am sure there are places in Mexico that a Cat 1 could wipe out depending on economics and building codes.
To anyone in the states, do not crack your windows. In addition, do not waste time taping your windows. It is dumb, an old wive’s tale and not only Andrew but countless hurricanes in the 2000’s proved that it does not work. Shutters, plywood or impact-resistant are the way to go if you can.
I live in South Africa and we never experience any hurricanes but we do experience earthquakes. I did some research on why a concrete house is safer than a wooden house during hurricane. Research says that concrete houses are safer because they don’t get blown away during a hurricane and are much cheaper to repair. Research says that there was a hurricane in the 1940’s and it killed about 57 people and destroyed 484 wooden houses and damaged a market and a high school that was built with concrete. The cost to repair the houses was estimated to $50 million and the cost to repair the market and school was less than $200.
Most places with hurricane codes in the U.S. apply them equally to wood-framed, masonry and concrete buildings. So, if you can expect a code-built concrete-block house to stand up to 120 MPH winds, so will a wooden one built recently in that area (thanks to hurricane straps, joist hangers, overlapping sheathing, sill bolts, etc.). But concrete block has inherent protection against flying debris, protection that might not be required on a wood structure, thought brick-veneer or stucco can, if thick enough, add any protection one might want. Built to non-hurricane standards, a masonry structure has only a minor advantage over wood; it has lots of compression strength but almost no tensile strength (it’s little more than a pile of stones), so it’s mainly weight holding it together. A non-reinforced wood structure will peel apart earlier, but slightly stronger winds will shatter a non-reinforced masonry structure. The strength of concrete is also heavily dependent on how much reinforcement it has.
Um I think you should be talking about the subject hurricanes not earthquakes that will get people confused ?
Ayyyyyeeee how did your concrete buildings hold up for Irma @Bermuda??? I’m in central Florida, haven’t been hit yet but I’m p sure my house is made from concrete.
Me and my family live in a concrete, block and steel house in Palm beach county Fl and plan on staying home during the hurricane . What is the most wind could a home built in the early 1990s withstand?
Great post. Hurricane Irma is about to hit us. And this did nothing to calm my nerves!!
Buy or live in a concrete house for safety against both hurricanes and earthquakes (built within the last 10 years at least). To live in a wooden house and in a state or area that is prone to hurricanes you have to be prepared to lose everything. Buildings and most concrete/brick built homes are now built using rubber as well which helps absorb earthquake shocks/make them more safe. Also, our house has 3 lower layers of foundation concrete, two layers of brick wall, insulator and plaster board; if that can’t survive then nothing will. Note: we have wild weather all year round
We live in a single story concrete block house in Central Florida built in the 1980’s, and took a direct hit from the N/E eyewall of Hurricane Irma. Our house had no damage at all, did not even shake during the hurricane. I thought our back door was going to blow in, but it didn’t.
No windows broke which surprised me, because they’re original. We did hear much crashing during the hurricane which turned out to be numerous trees knocked over. One went into a house across the street.
One thing I did notice was the houses in the middle of the tract (like ours) did much better than houses on the edge. Some of them lost sections of their roofs.
Myth 3 is not really a myth in a hurricane. Opening windows on the leeward side of a house will reduce the internal pressure and may be the difference between losing your roof or rear wall and keeping it. You may need to change which windows you open if you are near the eye of the hurricane. If you are shuttered up none of this is an option but shutters are better on than off
In a tornado you get into a basement or alternatively you should put your your head between you knees… and kiss your ass goodbye!