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Hurricane Preparedness Week continues through Saturday. And organizations like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service are using each day of the week to focus on a specific aspect of disaster readiness.

Hurricane Preparedness Week: Wind hazards and tornadoes

courtesy: NOAA

Hurricane Preparedness Week focuses on a different aspect of storm hazards and hurricane readiness each day.As WHQR’s Rachel Lewis Hilburn reports, today spotlights high wind hazards and tornadoes stemming from hurricanes – and explores the difference between storm watches and warnings. 

The Saffir-Simpson wind scale relates wind speeds to damage potential.  That’s how National Weather Service meteorologist Terry Lebo explains it.  Based on this scale, hurricanes are categorized from one to five. 

“Damage is typically – when you get to Category 4 – damage is roughly going to be a thousand times greater than a Category 1 storm.” 

What that means in concrete terms:  a Category 1 storm might take a few shingles off a home – or strip away some siding, says Lebo. 

“Whereas a Category 4 – if you have a little bit of a weakness in the house, it can take the roof off.  And if you lose the roof, then you can lose walls and everything else.” 

Lebo says at those wind speeds, two by fours become projectiles that will go through walls.  But it’s not just winds from the hurricane that are risky.  Tornadoes often accompany hurricanes.  In that case, the safest place is to be as far inside a structure as possible. 

“The biggest thing is to get into an interior room.”

And close all the doors to the hallway. 

“So that the hallway is interior and it’s sealed off from the rest of the house.  That way if a window breaks in one of the rooms, and stuff is coming into the rooms, it’s just hitting the doors.  It’s not going through to the hallway.” 

Lebo says taking shelter in a basement is an option but it could be a dangerous one if the building collapses. 

And, he says, the main difference between storm watches and warnings:  timing – and confidence in the forecast.  Watches mean the conditions are expected within 48 hours. 

“A watch is 30% confidence and a warning is 50% confidence.”  

He adds that a watch means you should be starting your preparations, checking your non-perishable food supply, bottled water stash, and medications.  By the time a hurricane warning is issued, consider evacuation, if it’s been suggested by local authorities. 

“Once the watches and warnings come up, the biggest thing you need to do is stay informed.  You need to be in touch with what’s going on around you.” 

Stay tuned to WHQR during Hurricane Preparedness Week and visit our website for more information.  Also – follow us on FaceBook and Twitter.

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.