/ The Houston Guide
Houston — By Christina Uticone on June 30, 2010 at 8:48 pm
Filed under: hurricane, safety, top-feature, travel tips

Hurricane Safety for Travelers

hurricane, travel, tips, safetyIn recent years Houston has been hit by some major hurricanes, the most recent being 2008’s Hurricane Ike, which wreaked havoc on the city.¬† Folks I’ve met who lived here during Ike describe weeks without power or running water, couch-hopping between family and friends during the days following the storm when they were unable to get back to their own homes.¬† With the first hurricane of the season – dubbed Alex – making its way toward Texas, it seems like the perfect time to share some information about weather preparedness, travel advisory information, and safety precautions for hurricane season in Houston, which runs from June through November.¬† Currently, 19 counties in Texas are already under a state of emergency in anticipation of Hurricane Alex.¬† Rain and flooding are predicted for Harris County, in which Houston is located, and a coastal flood warning is in effect.¬† Flight cancellations and delays have begun, and re-routing measures are being taken out of both Bush Intercontinental (IAH) and Hobby (HOU) Airports.

So let’s start with the basics, shall we?¬† A few definitions, courtesy of the National Weather Service’s Online Glossary:

  • A tropical storm is a tropical cyclone in which the maximum 1-minute sustained surface wind ranges from 34 to 63 knots (39 to 73 mph) inclusive.
  • A tropical cyclone is a warm-core, non-frontal synoptic-scale cyclone, originating over tropical or subtropical waters with organized deep convection and a closed surface wind circulation about a well-defined center.

Once a tropical storm ticks up by one knot, from 63 to 64 knot winds, it’s officially classified as a “hurricane”.

  • A hurricane is a tropical cyclone in the Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, or eastern Pacific, which the maximum 1-minute sustained surface wind is 64 knots (74 mph) or greater.
  • A coastal/lakeshore flood warning is flooding that will pose a serious threat to life and property is occurring, imminent or highly likely. Coastal/Lakeshore Flood Warnings are issued using the Coastal/Lakeshore Hazard Message (CFW) product.

I’ve written recently about travel tips for surviving Houston in the summer, but hurricane season has prompted me to do a little extra studying up on additional safety tips.


Flash flooding occurs in a simple heavy thunderstorm, so during hurricanes and flood warnings it is especially important to keep your wits about you and know what to do.¬† I ran across an article at the KHOU Twitter feed the other day that included some useful tips, as well as some information that was new to me.¬† For example, underpasses and “feeder roads” are more susceptible to flooding; feeder roads are the roads that run alongside the highways, where cars “feed” on and off, via exits.¬† Also, when driving through flooded areas keep an eye on the curbs and medians.¬† If they are underwater, or if other cars are pulling over to the side of the road, it’s a good idea to not proceed any further.¬† A small car can get swept away in one foot of moving water, and almost all cars and trucks can be swept away in two or more feet.¬† Cars that are driven through heavily flooded area should be brought to a mechanic for a once-over.¬† Don’t forget – staying in your car is safer than getting out, so stay put; a person can get swept away in rushing water that looks passable.


flooding, weather, preparednessLast weekend my husband and I did a quick inventory of our pantry, making sure we had canned and dried goods that would last several days, in the event we are left without power.¬† We went to the store and bought ten gallons of fresh water, a first aid kit, supplies for the dog, and assorted toiletries.¬† We also mapped an evacuation route out of Houston in the event we ever need to leave the city entirely.¬† If you are planning to visit the Houston area for an extended period of time during hurricane season, it’s worth checking out hurricane preparedness checklists available on a variety of websites: the Houston Public Library, the Houston Chapter of the American Red Cross, and Ready Houston are all excellent resources for hurricane information and readiness.

For visitors planning shorter stays, a few common-sense safety tips for traveling during hurricane season:

  • Check a variety of online weather resources that track tropical storms and hurricanes: The National Weather Association/National Hurricane Center (NWA/NHC) and HurricaneTrack.com are two examples.
  • Check into travel insurance and protection for tickets, car rental, and hotel rooms, and purchase it when and where it is available.
  • Keep your important papers (tickets, passports/ID, etc.) in one place so you can access them easily and quickly.
  • If you are traveling and a hurricane knocks out power in your area, you can’t just grab more cash from an ATM, and you might not even be able to use a credit card.¬† Keep some travelers checks and cash on hand, just in case.
  • Inform friends and family of your itinerary: cities and towns, dates, and hotels in which you plan on staying, as well as your cell phone number.¬† Don’t forget that a cell phone needs to be charged, so if you are renting a car and you have a car charger, bring it – it could come in pretty handy if you need to charge your phone when the power is out!

Photo credits: SXC 1 & 2

Tags: hurricane, safety, top-feature, travel tips


  • Christina says:

    The hurricane hit land not long after publishing the story. It’s almost midnight here in Houston and our electricity is flickering off and on. It’s windy, but I haven’t seen any rain since early afternoon and no lightning, either. I’ll keep you posted!

  • Christina says:

    It’s 12:30 PM on Thursday and it’s POURING – and without lights on in my apartment, almost like nighttime! No electricity issues today though. Just a super rainy, super dreary day. Not even that windy. Hurricane Alex is (thankfully!) a dud!

  • Abbie says:

    Thanks for this post – most of us have no idea about hurricanes!

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