what does a hurricane warning mean

What does a hurricane warning mean?

In order to educate the public about the potential danger posed by an impending hurricane, meteorological authorities issue warnings and watches.

It is important to differentiate between the two since different warning signs signal different levels of danger and call for different precautions to be taken.

Many people ask, “What does it mean if a hurricane warning has been issued?”  Should you take these warnings seriously?

You should take hurricane warnings seriously because it means sustained winds of 74 mph or greater may hit you in 36-48 hours.   

What Does a Hurricane Warning Mean?

hurricane warning indication

It is quite common for people to feel confused when they have to differentiate between a hurricane warning and a watch.

So, what does a hurricane warning indicate?

If you get a hurricane warning, it means a storm is imminent and you might witness strong winds in the next 36 hours or so. 

 A warning is a more serious alert that indicates impending danger and that people should finish making preparations, evacuate if necessary, and comply with local authorities orders.

Fact: The eye of a hurricane is the calm, cloudless center where the hurricane revolves. 

More About Hurricane Watches

The National Hurricane Center issues a hurricane watch when sustained winds of 74 mph or greater are predicted to hit a certain location over the next 48 hours.

more about hurricane watches

A hurricane watch is the first warning level and indicates that people should start preparing for possible hurricane conditions.

It also means they should carefully monitor subsequent developments in the storm’s direction and intensity. 

The Process of Issuing Hurricane Warnings

Meteorological departments have a moral obligation to provide timely and reliable hurricane warnings.

This allows people to take necessary precautions to protect themselves, their families, and their homes from the destructive force of these storms.   

Monitoring and Tracking Hurricanes

monitoring and tracking hurricanes

Departments of meteorology use a wide range of instruments and methods to keep tabs on tropical weather systems that have the potential to become hurricanes.

Some of them include the following: 

Images from Space

Geostationary satellites and other high-tech satellites give meteorologists near-constant access to Earth-atmosphere imagery.

This allows them to track the evolution of weather phenomena like tropical cyclones

Weather Models

Meteorologists utilize complex computational models to simulate the behavior of the atmosphere and forecast the future path and severity of tropical storms.

weather models

These models utilize data from various sources, such as:

  • Satellite observations
  • Surface weather station readings
  • Upper air measurements
An Important Consideration

Meteorological agencies sometimes send in “Hurricane Hunters” from the United States Air Force Reserve to fly inside of tropical cyclones. 

They collect vital information about the storms’ composition, strength, and path.

After collecting this data, meteorologists utilize it to make their storm predictions more accurate.

Fact: Hurricanes' whirling winds can reach speeds of up to 320 kilometers per hour, which is fast enough to tear down entire trees and level entire buildings. 

Role of Different Meteorological Agencies

role of different meteorological agencies

The tracking and forecasting of hurricanes and issuing warning involve a complex process.

Local meteorological departments connect with international organizations to share information, weather data, resources, and skills to forecast hurricanes.

Some of the most important organizations are: 

World Meteorological Organization

This intergovernmental organization focuses on establishing and maintaining global cooperation in hydrology, meteorology, and related fields.

It is also responsible for explaining protocols and standards for reporting hurricanes and other meteorological data. 

Regional Specialized Meteorological Centers
regional specialized meteorological centers

 It offers meteorological services and issues hurricane warnings in the Atlantic.

It also plays a role in monitoring typhoons in the western Pacific

National Hurricane Center

The department is responsible for keeping an eye on major weather occurrences and predicting tropical weather systems, mainly in the Atlantic and Eastern North Pacific basins.

Besides offering advisories on tropical cyclones, it also issues hurricane warnings and watches

Determining When to Issue Hurricane Warning

determining when to issue hurricane warning

Meteorological departments consider a number of factors when deciding whether or not they should issue a hurricane warning in the event of an approaching tropical cyclone

The intensity of the Storm

When sustained winds of 74 mph (119 kph) or greater are forecast to make landfall within 36 hours, a hurricane warning is issued.

Satellite images, computer models, and flyovers by reconnaissance aircraft all help meteorologists gauge the storm’s current strength and project its likely progression. 

Storm Track

storm track

Predicted hurricane course is a major factor in deciding whether or not to issue a hurricane warning.

Meteorologists employ cutting-edge computer models and storm records to forecast where a hurricane is likely to make landfall. 

Storm Surge

While evaluating whether or not to issue a hurricane warning, it is also important to consider the potential for severe storm surge.

It is the rise in seawater levels caused by the combined impacts of high winds and low air pressure.

storm surge

Local seafloor topography and coastal topography are factored into state-of-the-art numerical models used by meteorologists to keep a close eye on storm surge estimates.

A hurricane warning may specify areas at risk of flooding due to storm surge in order to encourage residents to take protective measures or evacuate.

Fact: During a hurricane watch, storm shutters and other forms of protection from flying debris should be considered if at all practicable. 

How to React to Hurricane Warnings

how to react to hurricane warnings

When a hurricane warning is issued, the storm is quite close and people need to take precautions immediately.

Important things to do during a storm warning include: 

Be Prepared to Evacuate

If local officials tell you to evacuate, do so as soon as possible.

Do not disregard evacuation orders or attempt to weather the storm in a dangerous place; doing so puts your life and the lives of rescue workers at risk.

Do not forget to bring everyone’s prescriptions, vital paperwork, and clothes.

Bring your emergency supplies with you, and make sure your house is safe before you leave. 

Do Not Let the News Slip

do not let the news slip

Keep an eye on the latest information from local authorities, meteorological agencies, and news outlets to learn about the storm’s current status and any changes to its predicted route or strength.

Knowing this will allow you to make educated judgments about whether or not to evacuate or take other preventative measures. 

Communicate with Family

Share your emergency plan and what you will be doing during the hurricane watch with your loved ones and neighbors.

Make sure any elderly or disabled neighbors are aware of the warning and have access to assistance if they need it. 

Deal with Power Outage

deal with power outage

In the event of a hurricane, severe power outages may occur and remain in effect for days or even weeks.

You should stock up on batteries, flashlights, and a portable radio that runs off of batteries.

Keep in touch with the outside world even when the storm is raging by charging your mobile devices or purchasing a portable power bank. 

Find Some Shelter

If leaving your home is not possible or is not recommended by local authorities, you should find the safest place possible inside your house and stay there until the storm passes.

This space needs to be a windowless, internal chamber on the ground floor.

Bring your emergency supplies, including blankets, pillows, and any medications you may need, and make sure everyone in your household is aware of where to go. 

Take Care of Pets

take care of pets

Prepare for your animals by stocking up on food and water and finding a safe place to shelter them from the storm.

Take your pets with you if you have to evacuate, or make sure they have somewhere to stay like a pet-friendly shelter or a friend’s house.

Prepare for Floods

Prepare for the possibility of severe flooding, as hurricanes frequently bring heavy rain and storm surge that can cause such conditions.

 If you can, elevate your essential equipment and valuables such as water heaters and electrical panels.

If you live in a floodplain, be prepared with sandbags and other flood defenses.

Fact: You can lessen the odds of harm by educating yourself, practicing your emergency plan, and implementing sensible safety measures. 


What does a hurricane warning mean?

A hurricane warning indicates that you are about to witness a hurricane within 36 hours.

A hurricane warning is much more serious as compared to a hurricane watch.

Therefore, you should take it seriously and ensure you find shelter and take other necessary steps to stay safe during the storm.