Hurricane Emergency Terms

EMERGENCY ALERT SYSTEM: (EAS) A digital system designed to give emergency information and instructions from federal, state and local authorities. The system is interfaced with the cable television system as well as radio and television stations. When activated, it broadcasts the latest information on weather reports, road conditions, evacuations, shelter locations and re-entry information.

EMERGENCY SHELTER: A shelter provided during and immediately following a disaster.

EVACUATION ORDER: The most important instruction you will receive from local government officials.

EVACUATION ROUTE SIGNS: Signs are located on all major evacuation routes.

SHELTER PERIOD: The interval of time from the point of evacuation until the primary situation or event has decreased to a level that will permit people to leave designated emergency shelters. The time may vary from several hours to several days, depending upon the severity of the hurricane.

SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY: When a tropical cyclone threatens a coastal area, small craft operators are advised to remain in port and not venture to sea.


EYE: The low pressure center of a hurricane. It is surrounded by the most intense area of the storm, and in contrast to the eye wall, winds are normally calm and sometimes the sky clears.

EYE WALL: The ring of thunderstorms that surrounds a storm’s eye. The heaviest rain, strongest winds and worst turbulence are normally in this area.

FLASH FLOOD WATCH: The National Weather Service issues this type of watch when local flooding can be expected within 12 to 24 hours. Stay alert.

FLOOD WARNING: The National Weather Service issues a flood warning when flood waters are expected to exceed flood stage at any point on rivers and bayous. Most flood warnings will be issued 24 to 60 hours in advance of the crest.

GALE WARNINGS: Issued when winds of 39 to 54 mph (34-47 knots) are expected.

HURRICANE: Pronounced rotary circulation with a constant wind speed of at least 74 mph (64 knots).

HURRICANE SEASON: The portion of the year having a relatively high incidence of hurricanes. In the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, generally regarded as June 1 through Nov. 30.

HURRICANE WARNING: Hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the specified coastal area, usually within 36 hours.

HURRICANE WATCH: Hurricane conditions are possible somewhere within the specified coast area, usually within 48 hours.

KNOTS: A measure of speed. It is one nautical mile that measures speed. A nautical mile is one minute of one degree of longitude and is slightly longer than the ordinary statute mile as used in the United States.

LANDFALL: The term used that indicates the moment the eye of a hurricane hits land.

MILLIBAR: A metric measure of air pressure.

STORM SURGE: A great dome of water, often 50 miles wide, that comes sweeping across the coastline near the area where the eye of a hurricane makes landfall.