Hurricane Threats

Hurricane Season

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30 and can affect the following regions:

  • Atlantic
  • Caribbean Sea
  • Gulf of Mexico

Threat Definitions

Meteorologists and weather watchers use certain key terms when referring to these massive storms:

Tropical Storms

A Tropical Storm is an intense storm that has a spinning wind rotation that develops near the Earth's equator. 

These storms bring heavy rain and high winds to any area they pass over and, although they are less powerful than hurricanes, they are still very destructive and can cause damage to property as well as injury and death. 

Hurricanes will often be downgraded to tropical storms as they move inland and it is not unheard for these still-powerful remnants to buffet the Carolinas and the Charlotte area with heavy rain and winds.

The National Weather Service is charged with monitoring these storms and will issue various threat warning based on the storm's strength, speed and location:

  • Tropical storm watch - When there is the possibility of 39 to 73 mph winds at a location, the National Weather Service will issue a 48 hour tropical storm watch. 
  • Tropical storm warning - If a storm generating 39 to 73 mph winds is expected to hit a location, the National Weather Service will issue a 36 hour tropical storm warning.  

Hurricanes

Once the wind level of an ocean storm generates sustained 74 mph wind speeds, it is classified as a hurricane. 

Hurricanes are generally more organized than Tropical Storms and begin to form an "eye" near the center which becomes a region of calm weather around which the rest of the clouds form and spin. 

When conditions for a hurricane come to fruition, the National Weather Service will issue residents one of two types of alerts:

  • Hurricane watch - is issued when the possibility of winds exceeding 74 mph may come through an area within the next 48 hours.
  • Hurricane warning - is issued when winds greater than 74 mph are expected to come through an area in the next 36 hours. 

Hurricane Scale (Category 1,2,3,4,5)

Hurricanes are given a category rating based on how strong they are. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is used to classify these storms to give an indication of the potential power of a storm. 

The scale is broken down into five categories: 

  • Category 1: 74-95 mph sustained winds (some damage expected)
  • Category 2: 96-110 mph sustained winds (extensive damage expected) 
  • Category 3: 111-119 mph sustained winds (devastating damage expected)
  • Category 4: 130-156 mph sustained winds (catastrophic damage expected)
  • Category 5: Sustained wind speeds over 156 mph (catastrophic/widespread damage) 

Category 1 Dangers

  • People or animals can be injured or killed by flying debris
  • Older (pre-1994 construction) mobile homes can be destroyed or shifted off of their foundations
  • Newer mobile homes that are not anchored property can sustain damage
  • Roof coverings, gutters, shingles or gable ends can become detached or blown away
  • Vinyl siding can be pulled off homes and carports or sunrooms can be damaged
  • Unprotected windows can break if struck by debris
  • Masonry chimneys can be toppled
  • Apartment buildings and shopping centers can have their roof coverings partially removed
  • High-rise buildings can sustain broken windows and falling glass and debris around these buildings will continue to be a hazard even after the storm passes
  • Occasional damage to commercial signs, fences and canopies
  • Damage to power lines and poles could result in a loss of electricity in some areas

Category 2 Dangers

  • Substantial risk of injury or death to people or animals from flying debris. 
  • Older (pre-1994 construction) mobile homes have a high chance of destruction and are often turned into debris that can shred nearby mobile homes
  • Newer mobile homes can be destroyed by debris
  • Poorly constructed frame homes can have their roofs removed
  • Unprotected windows have a high chance of being broken by debris
  • Homes could sustain damage to siding and roofs
  • A substantial percentage of roof and siding damage will occur to apartment and industrial buildings
  • Un-reinforced masonry walls can collapse
  • High-rise buildings can sustain broken windows and falling glass and debris around these buildings will continue to be a hazard even after the storm passes
  • Commercial signs, fences and canopies will often be damaged or destroyed
  • Shallowly rooted trees will snap or become uprooted, often blocking roads
  • Near-total power loss is expected with outages that can last weeks
  • Potable water may become scarce as filtration systems fail

Category 3 Dangers

  • High risk of injury or death to people or animals from flying debris. 
  • Nearly all older (pre-1994 construction) mobile homes will be destroyed
  • Newer mobile homes will sustain severe damage with potential for complete roof failure and wall collapse
  • Poorly constructed frame homes can be destroyed from wall and roof collapse
  • Unprotected windows will be broken by debris
  • Homes could sustain major damage to roof decking and gable ends
  • A high percentage of roof and siding damage will occur to apartment and industrial buildings
  • Isolated structural damage to wood and steel framed buildings
  • Complete failure of older metal buildings is possible
  • Older un-reinforced masonry buildings can collapse
  • Numerous windows from high-rise buildings will be blown out and falling glass and debris around these buildings will continue to be a hazard even after the storm passes
  • Most commercial signs, fences and canopies will be destroyed
  • Many trees will snap or become uprooted, often blocking roads
  • Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to a few weeks until after the storm passes

Category 4 Dangers

  • Very high risk of injury or death to people or animals from flying debris. 
  • Nearly all older (pre-1994 construction) mobile homes will be destroyed
  • A high percentage of newer mobile homes will be destroyed
  • Many homes will be destroyed from wall and roof collapse
  • Extensive damage to roof coverings, windows, and doors will occur
  • Windborne debris will break most unprotected windows and penetrate some protected windows
  • A high percentage of damage to the top floor of apartment buildings
  • Steel framed buildings can collapse
  • Complete failure of older metal buildings is possible
  • A high percent of older un-reinforced masonry buildings will collapse
  • Most windows from high-rise buildings will be blown out and falling glass and debris around these buildings will continue to be a hazard even after the storm passes
  • Nearly all commercial signs, fences and canopies will be destroyed
  • Most trees will snap or become uprooted and power poles will fall
  • Power outages will be extensive and long-term water shortages will be felt
  • Much of the area will become uninhabitable for weeks or months

Hurricane 5 Dangers

  • Very high risk of injury or death to people or animals from flying debris even if indoors in mobile homes or framed homes 
  • Almost all mobile homes will be destroyed, regardless of age
  • A high percentage of homes will be destroyed from wall and roof collapse
  • Extensive damage to roof coverings, windows, and doors will occur
  • Windborne debris will break most unprotected windows and penetrate many protected windows
  • A high percentage of damage to the top floor of apartment buildings
  • Steel framed buildings can collapse
  • Complete collapse of many metal buildings is possible
  • Most un-reinforced masonry buildings will collapse resulting in many building collapses
  • A high percent of industrial buildings and low-rise apartment buildings will be destroyed
  • Nearly all windows from high-rise buildings will be blown out and falling glass and debris around these buildings will continue to be a hazard even after the storm passes
  • Nearly all commercial signs, fences and canopies will be destroyed
  • Most trees will snap or become uprooted and power poles will fall
  • Power outages will be extensive and long-term water shortages will be felt
  • Most of the area will become uninhabitable for weeks or months

Emergency Notifications

Updates regarding University operations in response to weather conditions will be on the inclement weather or severe weather web pages. You should also look for messages via SMS text, voicemail, and email. Learn more about how we communicate emergency notifications.

Remember to follow instructions given by the University and monitor local media and the University website for closings or delays. 

Heed all warnings issued by local officials, especially regarding evacuation notices. 

Get more information with Hurricane Preparedness Tips.