Hurricane Preparation

What to Do Should a Hurricane
Threaten Your Vacation

Hurricane preparation is key to calmly dealing with a hurricane heading for the Outer Banks during your vacation. And it should be noted that "calm" will ensure vacation safety for everyone. I must admit that in the entire time we have vacationed on the Outer Banks, we have successfully avoided this situation. However, prime hurricane season is from June 1st through November 30th, so the great summer fun is in the prime hurricane season.

Outer Banks, North Carolina

First some things you should know to help guide your hurricane preparation actions. A hurricane watch means hurricane conditions are possible in the specified area of the “watch” within the next 36 hours. A hurricane warning means hurricane conditions are expected in the specified area of the “warning” within 24 hours.

Storms are divided into three broad categories: tropical depression, tropical storm, and hurricane. The lower the barometric pressure, the stronger the storm will be. Storms are categorized as follows:

  • Tropical Depression: Winds up to 39 mph. Rough seas and small craft warnings will be issued. Barometric pressure is around 29.73".

  • Tropical Storm: Winds range from 39 to 73 mph. Flooding of low lying areas, heavy rain, heavy seas with capsizing of smaller vessels are the major threat. Barometric pressure is less than 29.53".

  • Hurricane Category 1: Winds from 74 to 95 mph. Some coastal flooding with minor pier damage. Storm surge is generally four to five feet above the norm. Light damage to buildings with damage to unanchored mobile homes and poorly constructed signs. Barometric pressure ranges from 28.94" to 29.53".

  • Hurricane Category 2: Winds range from 96 to 110 mph. Storm surge is on average six to eight feet above the norm. Some damage to doors, windows, and roofs. Considerable damage to mobile homes. Some trees are blown down. Small crafts may break their mooring in unprotected moorings, with flooding damaging piers. Barometric pressure ranges from 28.50" to 28.91".

  • Hurricane Category 3: Winds range from 111 to 130 mph. Storm surge is nine to twelve feet above the norm. Flooding may be well inland. Flooding near the coast will destroy smaller structures with larger structures damaged from floating debris. Larger trees blown down with mobile homes and poorly designed signs destroyed. Some structural damage to small homes and utility buildings. Barometric pressure ranges from 27.91" to 28.47".

  • Hurricane Category 4: Winds range from 131 to 155 mph. Storm surge generally from thirteen to eighteen feet. Tornadoes are a threat inland. Major erosion of beach areas and flooding may extend inland. Small residences may suffer complete roof structure failure with more extensive curtain wall failures for all buildings. Barometric pressure ranges from 27.17" to 27.88".

  • Hurricane Category 5: Winds are greater than 155 mph. Storm surge is greater than eighteen feet above the norm. Severe flooding with major damage to lower floors of all structures near the beach. Complete roof failures on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures. Barometric pressure ranges is below 27.17".

So, now that you have an overview, what do you do? When a hurricane watch is issued, you should begin hurricane preparation for possible evacuation. Your rental company will be your first line of defense, and will keep you up to date on any impending mandatory evacuations that may be issued by the county. Each rental company has their own hurricane preparation guidelines, so follow these carefully. The Outer Banks encompasses three counties. The Emergency Management Office for each county, which is responsible for the coordination of hurricane preparation, is as follows:

  • Currituck County: 252-232-2216 (Corolla and north)

  • Dare County: 252-475-5655 (Duck to the Village of Hatteras)

  • Hyde County: 252-926-4372 (Ocracoke Island)

In addition, here is a list of some local radio stations that will also supply hurricane preparation information: Outer Banks, North Carolina

  • NOAA Weather Radio 162.55

  • WOBR 1530 AM

  • WNHW 92.5 FM

  • WOBR 95.3 FM

  • WKJX 96.7 FM

  • WERX 102.5 FM

  • WCXL 104.1 FM

  • WRSR 105.7 FM

If the county issues a Mandatory Evacuation, you are required to pack all of your belongings, including food, and depart the island immediately. Neither the rental company nor the house owner is responsible for any belongings left behind. Prior to departing, please complete the following ten things to help secure the Outer Banks rental home as part of your overall hurricane preparation process:

  • Tightly lock and secure all doors and windows.

  • Turn picnic tables upside down.

  • Bring all deck furniture an anything that can get blown around inside the house.

  • Unplug all electronics and electrical devices, e.g. appliances, TVs, VCRs, DVDs, stereos, etc.

  • Bring trash cans in from the road and store in outside shower or storage area.

  • Secure all hot tub covers with the provided straps.

  • Set thermostats to the off position.

  • Turn off refrigerators and prop the door open with a chair.

  • Turn main power off at the breaker panel.

  • Close all blinds and make sure the door is locked and the screen door securely latched.

Outer Banks, North Carolina

If you are north of Southern Shores, proceed south on Route 12, and upon arriving at Route 158, you will be directed where to exit the island. If you are staying from Nags Head to Kitty Hawk, you will be directed where to exit the island. If you are staying on Hatteras Island, proceed north on Route 12 until you arrive at Route 158, at which time you will be directed where to exit the island. Note that the sooner you evacuate, the closer you will likely find accommodations inland and miss the traffic snarl.

Please note that per the North Carolina Vacation Rental Act, no tenant will be due a refund in the event of mandatory evacuations is they had the opportunity and declined renters insurance. If you are concerned with a hurricane interrupting your vacation, please consider taking the renters insurance which all rental companies offer at the time of lease signing.

Re-entry to the Outer Banks is first given to critical need personnel identified by special permit, then residents of the island, then rental home owners, and then finally vacationers. Please consider this when deciding whether to go home or try and stay locally should a hurricane interrupt your OBX vacation. Note that during the hurricane evacuation process, your rental company will likely have current updates on its web pages to alert you when to leave and when it is safe to return.

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