What is a Hurricane?

A hurricane develops from a tropical cyclone when the storm’s maximum sustained winds reach 74 mph. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is a 1 to 5 rating, or category, based on the hurricane’s maximum sustained winds. It was developed to predict the potential property damage that a hurricane could cause. The scale is based on historical data from past hurricanes with similar characteristics: winds, rainfall, storm surge and central pressure.

A tropical cyclone is a meteorological term for a storm system characterized by a low-pressure center and thunderstorms, that produces strong wind and flooding rain.

Hurricane Season begins on June 1 and ends on November 30.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale

Minimal Hurricane
Hurricane winds are from 74 to 95 mph
Damage: loose objects, trees and shrubbery
Moderate hurricane
Hurricane winds are from 96 to 110 mph
Damage: trees, loose structures, windows, coastal areas may be evacuated
Moderate hurricane
Hurricane winds are from 96 to 110 mph
Damage: trees, loose structures, windows, coastal areas may be evacuated
Extreme Hurricane
Hurricane winds are from 131 to 155 mph
Damage: widespread and well-inland
Catastrophic Hurricane
Hurricane winds are greater than 155 mph
Damage: Complete failure of roofs and small buildings, extensive shattering of glass, doors blown out, ocean front buildings flattened


Be Prepared for a Hurricane

Our Hurricane Season lasts from June 1 through November 30. We recommend that all Hawaii residents prepare for tropical storms and the problems they can cause — from high winds, rain and surf surges to power outages, flooding, structure damage and mandatory evacuations. Be prepared well in advance of an actual hurricane. Know what you need and how to plan. To get the latest Hurricane Checklist, CLICK HERE.


    Here are the stages of hurricane development and what you should do:

  • All of the Hawaiian Islands are at risk of hurricanes. 
  • Make preparations before the start of hurricane season.
  • Sign up for your community’s warning system. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also provide emergency alerts. 
  • If your home is at risk for flash flooding, watch for warning signs such as during heavy rain.
  • Update your family emergency plan. For family emergency plan tips CLICK HERE.
  • Based on your location and community, make plans for evacuation or sheltering in place.
  • Become familiar with your evacuation zone, the evacuation route and shelter locations.
  • Gather needed supplies for at least fourteen (14) days. For a full list of supplies CLICK HERE. 
  • Put together a go-to bag with a disaster supplies kit including flashlight, batteries, cash, first aid supplies, and medication / medical equipment should you need to evacuate. 
  • Plan for your pets. For more information CLICK HERE.
  • Keep important documents in a safe place protected from water damage or create password-protected digital copies (store in the cloud or on digital devices protected from water damage).

Before hurricane season, you can prepare your home to best withstand a storm:

  • Trim or remove damaged trees and branches that could damage the structure in high winds.
  • Check gutters and downspouts, repair or clear if necessary.
  • Consider retrofitting to secure and reinforce the roof.
  • Decide if a generator is necessary for your household.
  • Keep supplies and tools on hand that may be needed to cover windows.
  • Review insurance policies.

A ‘watch’ means hurricane conditions are possible within 48 hours. This is the moment your hurricane insurance activates. 

  • Stay tuned to your local news for storm updates, and information regarding possible evacuations.
  • Fuel cars.
  • Review your stock of food, water and other items in your disaster supplies kit.
  • Determine additional needs for children, elderly, disabled and pets.
  • Collect and store all loose outdoor objects. Hurricane winds can turn these objects into missiles.
  • Take down outdoor canopies, if possible.
  • Use empty plastic containers as ‘ice blocks,’ filling them with water and placing in freezer.
  • Use the telephone only for emergencies.

A ‘warning’ means hurricane conditions are possible within 36 hours.

  • Stay tuned into media to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
  • Review and restock your disaster supplies kit. Include food & water and medications sufficient for your household for at least fourteen (14) days; a flashlight, batteries, cash, and first aid supplies.
  • Plan how to communicate with family members if you lose power. For example, you can call, text, email or use social media. Remember that during disasters, sending text messages is usually reliable and faster than making phone calls because phone lines are often overloaded.
  • If you live in a low-lying area, be prepared to evacuate. 
  • Review your evacuation zone, evacuation route and shelter locations. Plan with your family. You may have to leave quickly, so plan ahead. Do so if instructed or when threatened by rising water.
  • Keep your car in good-working condition and keep the gas tank full or fully electrically charged; stock your vehicle with emergency supplies and a change of clothes.
  • Determine plans for pets — boarding, taking them with you, as well as food, water, medication, and other needs.
  • If you are not likely to be evacuated, stay at home and off the roads so that others may more easily evacuate and finish hurricane preparations. Let friends and family know where you are.
  • Sterilize bathtub and plastic containers and fill them with fresh drinking water. Plan about one gallon per person per day for 14 days.
  • Turn refrigerators and freezers to the coldest possible settings and keep them closed if the electricity goes out.
  • Turn off electricity to swimming pool and add extra chlorine.
  • Charge cell phones but use them only for emergencies.
  • Bring loose, lightweight objects inside that could become projectiles in high winds (e.g., patio furniture, garbage cans, etc.); anchor objects that would be unsafe to bring inside (e.g., propane tanks); and trim or remove trees that are close enough to fall on the building.
  • Securely cover all of your home’s windows if possible. Storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” exterior grade or marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install.
  • Stay tuned to TV/radio or check your city/county website every 30 minutes in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
  • Charge your cell phones now so you will have a full battery in case you lose power.
  • Turn your refrigerator or freezer to the coldest setting and open only when necessary. If you lose power, food will last longer. Keep a thermometer in the refrigerator to be able to check the food temperature when the power is restored.
  • Continue to stay tuned to TV/radio or check your city/county website every 30 minutes in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.

Survive DURING

  • If told to evacuate, do so immediately. Do not drive around barricades.
  • If sheltering during high winds, go to a FEMA safe room, ICC 500 storm shelter, or a small, interior, windowless room or hallway on the lowest floor that is not subject to flooding.
  • If trapped in a building by flooding, go to the highest level of the building. Do not climb into a closed attic. You may become trapped by rising flood water.
  • Listen for current emergency information and instructions.
  • Use a generator or other gasoline-powered machinery outdoors ONLY and away from windows.
  • Do not walk, swim, or drive through flood waters. Turn Around. Don’t Drown! Just six inches of fast-moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
  • Stay off of bridges over fast-moving water.


  • Listen to authorities for information and special instructions.
  • Be careful during clean-up. Wear protective clothing and work with someone else.
  • Do not touch electrical equipment if it is wet or if you are standing in water. If it is safe to do so, turn off electricity at the main breaker or fuse box to prevent electric shock.
  • Avoid wading in flood water, which can contain dangerous debris. Underground or downed power lines can also electrically charge the water.
  • Save phone calls for emergencies. Phone systems are often down or busy after a disaster. Use text messages or social media to communicate with family and friends.
  • Document any property damage with photographs.
  • Contact your insurance company for assistance.