June 1st marks the start of the 2017 hurricane season, although the season officially started in April when Tropical Storm Arlene formed over the north Atlantic. This is the third consecutive year that a storm has formed before the official start of hurricane season. Tropical Storm Ana formed in May 2015 and Hurricane Alex formed in January 2016.
Tropical Storm Arlene, April 20, 2017
“It is impossible to precisely predict where storms will form or hit, so it is important that everyone prepares,” said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. "It only takes one storm to make it a bad year, regardless of the number of storms that are forecast."
This year, weather experts are predicting a slightly below-average Atlantic hurricane season. They are forecasting 11 named storms, four of those could become hurricanes, and two could possibly reach major hurricane strength. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1st to November 30th, but the peak of the season is from mid-August to mid-October.
In Texas, the county judge serves as the county’s emergency management director and has the authority over both incorporated and unincorporated areas. When cities can no longer handle a disaster on their own, they can request resources from the county. Harris County works closely with its 34 cities and other partners to prepare for all hazards in order to protect the health and safety of its constituents, property, infrastructure, and economy.
While the Harris County Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management (HCOHSEM) is responsible for all of Harris County, you are strongly encouraged to monitor and follow instructions from your city’s office of emergency management. Successfully responding to a hurricane or any emergency requires strong collaboration between the county and cities.
Harris County Emergency Operations Center
Under the leadership of Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, HCOHSEM works year-round with local, state, and federal partners to prepare the region for disasters. Hurricanes are not just a coastal problem. Their impacts can be felt hundreds of miles inland. For people that have recently moved here, it is very important that they are aware of the potential dangers during hurricane season.
“Our region has not been impacted since Hurricane Ike in 2008, so it is easy to become complacent,” added Emmett. “The goal is to educate residents about the importance of not waiting until the last minute to prepare for hurricane season.”
It is important that residents know who their local emergency management contacts are and any questions pertaining to emergency preparedness should be directed to the Emergency Management Coordinator in their city. Click here to find your local office of emergency management.
Go to ReadyHarris.org for preparedness tips and/or download the free ReadyHarris app, from the App Store or Google Play. The ReadyHarris app delivers real time weather alerts, hosts a step-by-step guide to building a personalized family disaster plan, offers survival tip sheets, maps evacuation routes, and locates local emergency services.
Everyone should have an emergency supply kit with enough non-perishable food and water to last seven to ten days. Other essential items include:
- Copies of insurance papers and identification sealed in a watertight plastic bag
- First-aid kit
- NOAA weather radio and batteries
- Mobile phone and charger
- Prescription medicines
- Sleeping bag or blankets
- Hygiene items such as toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, and deodorant
- Cash or checkbook
- Pet supplies including food, water, leashes, bedding, and vaccination records
Understanding the difference between National Weather Service watches and warnings is critical to being prepared for any dangerous weather hazard, including hurricanes.
Make sure your homeowners or commercial property insurance policy is current and that it provides adequate coverage to pay the full replacement cost of your property. It is important to understand what the policy covers and its limitations. You may have to buy separate policies to cover wind, hail, and flood damage.
Homeowners and commercial property policies do not pay for flood damages caused by rising waters. To protect yourself from losses caused by most flooding, you will need to purchase a separate flood insurance policy from the National Flood Insurance Program. Flood insurance policies have a 30-day waiting period before coverage takes effect, so if you do not have a policy, you should obtain one as soon as possible. For more information about flood insurance, go to FloodSmart.gov
or call 1-800-427-4661.
Residents who live in an evacuation zone need to learn their evacuation routes and follow instructions from local authorities. To determine if your home is located in an evacuation zone, check the Zip Zone Evacuation Map
If you are asked to evacuate:
- Leave as soon as possible
- Secure your home; lock windows and doors
- Unplug appliances; turn off electricity and main water valve
- Pack your emergency supply kit, extra blankets, and sleeping bags
- Take your pets with you
- Make sure your gas tank is full
- Follow recommended evacuation routes
If you are staying home:
- Identify a safe room, an area with no windows; stock it with a battery-powered TV/radio with spare batteries, sleeping bags, pillows, snacks, and water
- Secure your home; put away outdoor objects and furniture
- Fill bathtubs with water for non-drinking use (such as flushing toilets)
- Wait until storm passes to come out
Residents who need help evacuating should dial 2-1-1 to register for transportation assistance. The State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry
(STEAR) is a free service available to the elderly, people with disabilities or special medical conditions, and individuals who do not have a motor vehicle or other means of transportation.
It is important to stay informed before, during and after a hurricane. Sign up to receive weather and emergency alerts at www.readyharris.org
and closely monitor the news media. Local officials will provide information about current conditions, evacuations and re-entry. Residents can also follow HCOHSEM on Facebook
In addition to your personal preparedness, consider getting involved in neighborhood and community emergency preparedness activities. The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills. CERT members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help. Call Harris County Citizen Corps at (281) JOIN NOW (564-6669) or go to harriscountycitizencorps.com to sign up for classes or to get information about other volunteer opportunities. You can also get Harris County Citizen Corps news and updates on Facebook.
Volunteers during CERT Rodeo Roundup, February 11, 2017.