Hurricane Preparation Checklist

Chris Riley by Chris Riley Updated on January 3, 2021. In nauticalknowhow

Hurricane Preparation Checklist

Here is a list of the many things to consider before, during and after a hurricane. Some of the safety rules will make things easier for you during a hurricane. All are important and could help save your life and the lives of others. If local authorities recommend evacuation, you should leave! Their advice is based on knowledge of the strength of the storm and its potential for death and destruction.


Check your marine insurance carefully to see if you are required to take some action in order to make the claim valid.

Check with your marina and find out their policy for handling hurricanes. In some States marinas can order all boats to leave.

If you are going to move your boat, determine where ahead of time.

Learn the storm surge history and elevation of your area.

Learn safe routes inland and make plans of where you will evacuate to.

Inventory the property on your boat…with video equipment if possible. Plan what will be removed from the boat and what must stay.

Keep all legal documents such as registration, insurance policy, marina rental agreement, radio license etc. in one easily moved, secure container. Make an inventory of documents, photos, and other irreplaceable articles that need to be taken in case of an evacuation.

II. WHEN A HURRICANE WATCH IS ISSUED (A WATCH means hurricane conditions pose a possible threat to the watch area within 36 hours)

Frequently monitor radio, TV, NOAA Weather Radio, or hurricane Hotline telephone numbers for official bulletins of the storm’s progress.

Review needs and working condition of emergency equipment, such as first aid kit, flashlights, battery-powered radios.

Move boats on trailers close to house. Weigh them down. Lash securely to trailer and use tie-downs to anchor trailer to ground or house. Let air out of trailer tires.

Anchored boats should be tied high, using a half hitch knot (loop knots slip). Anchor rigging should consist of new or good line and chain.

Boats docked at marinas should have extra lines attached. Line lengths should be sufficient to take care of excessive high water.

Once your boat is secured, leave it and don’t return once the wind and waves are up.

Fuel your car.

Stock up on canned provisions

Check supplies of special medicines and drugs.

Secure lawn furniture and other loose material outdoors.

Tape, board, or shutter windows to prevent shattering.

Wedge sliding glass doors to prevent their lifting from their tracks.

III. WHEN A HURRICANE WARNING IS ISSUED (A WARNING means sustained winds of 74 mph or higher are expected in the warning area within 24 hours or less.)

Closely monitor radio, TV, NOAA Weather Radio, or hurricane Hotline telephone numbers for official bulletins.

Follow instructions issued by local officials. LEAVE IMMEDIATELY IF ORDERED TO DO SO.

If staying home , in a sturdy structure on high ground: (plan to evacuate if you live on the coastline or on an offshore island, or live near a river or in a flood plain)

Board up garage and porch doors.

Move valuables to upper floors.

Bring pets in.

Fill containers (bathtubs) with several days supply of drinking water. (one gallon per person per day)

Turn up refrigerator to maximum cold and don’t open unless necessary.

Use phone only for emergencies.

Stay indoors on the downwind side of the house away from windows.

Beware of the eye of the hurricane.

Bring in small hand tools to aid you should your home be damaged during the storm.

If you are evacuating : (always evacuate if you live in a mobile home)

Leave areas which might be affected by storm tide or a stream flooding.

Leave early – in daylight if possible.

Shut off water and electricity at main stations.

Take small valuables and papers, but travel light.

Persons needing special foods or medicines should take them with them.

Take sufficient money in small bills to defray certain expenses you may incur.

Leave food and water for pets (shelters will not take your pets).

Lock up house.

Notify family members or friends outside of the warned area of your evacuation plans.

Drive carefully to designated shelter or other evacuation location using recommended evacuation routes.


Stay in your protected area until announcements are made on the radio or TV that the dangerous winds have passed.

Drive carefully; watch for dangling electrical wires, undermined roads, and flooded low spots.

Report broken or damaged water, sewer, and electrical lines.

Use caution re-entering your home.

Check for gas leaks.

Check food and water for spoilage.

If your home has structural damage, do not enter until it is checked by building officials.


Images of death and destruction are easily conjured within our minds when hearing the word Hurricane!

Due to his or her vulnerability, the mariner’s images are even more vivid and threatening. This is probably true due to the fact that hurricane conditions have a tremendous effect upon the ocean. The ocean is no place for the recreational boater to be during the extreme conditions associated with a hurricane.

Hurricane season runs from June 1st through November 30th of each year. This is no time to drop our guard. I’d like to start by reviewing some of the hurricane-associated terminology, and then discuss some specific preparations that mariners can take to help themselves and their boats survive the storm.

A hurricane watch is issued by the National Weather Service when a hurricane may threaten a specified portion of the coast. It is issued 36 hours before landfall may occur. A hurricane warning is issued when hurricane conditions are expected for a specified portion of the coast within 24 hours of landfall.

There are five categories of hurricanes

  • Category (1): winds 74 to 95 MPH – 4 to 5 foot storm surge
  • Category (2): winds 96 to 110 MPH – 6 to 8 foot storm surge
  • Category (3): winds 111 to 130 MPH – 9 to 12 foot storm surge
  • Category (4): winds 131 to 155 MPH – 13 to 18 foot storm surge
  • Category (5): winds 156 MPH and above – 18 foot and above storm surge

Despite the fact that we are more then half way through this year’s hurricane season, we must continue to maintain our vigilance and forehandedness. It makes good sense to have a hurricane plan in place long before a hurricane is bearing down on us. When formulating our hurricane plans we must always keep in mind that life always comes before property. I strongly encourage that you heed all evacuation notices issued by your local county emergency management office regardless of the vulnerability of your boat.

Mariners are faced with a significant challenge when formulating an effective plan to protect their most cherished property. We must keep in mind that, despite their best preparatory efforts, many mariners still have lost their boats to the ravaging effects of these storms. A non-trailerable boat at a coastal mooring is in a very vulnerable spot. This fact should not deter us from completing some common sense preparations.

It would be wise to have your boat properly secured long before any public evacuation notices are issued. Waiting too long to make preparations may trap your boat at its present location, or worse, result in you being in a dangerous location during the storm. Note that the draw bridges are authorized to remain closed upon the approach of gale force winds of 34 knots or greater. Make preparations early and then evacuate to safe location.

Due to the various levels of their intensity and the unpredictability of a hurricane’s track, I have found it very effective when formulating a hurricane plan to list all the possible options. Then, upon a hurricane’s approach, chose the options that best fit the particular circumstances.

For example, if you own a trailerable boat, what would be some of the possible options to take in an effort to save your boat? You may want to tow the boat to a safe location outside of the path of the storm. Another option might be to keep your trailerable boat in your backyard, and with the manufacturer’s approval, fill the hull with water. In addition, it may be a good idea to put your anchor out right there in your backyard. If the storm surge reaches your property the anchor may help the boat stay in your backyard. Keep in mind, these backyard actions may stop your boat from being blown around, but it will not protect it from falling trees and flying debris.

If it is a non-trailerable boat that you own, your best option may be to cruise to another part of the world during the Atlantic Hurricane season; the Great Lakes may be one option. Of course, this is not a viable option for most mariners. Some of the more common options may be to have one of the local marine dealers haul your boat out of the water and place it in protective dry storage upon the approach of a hurricane, or you may want to relocate your boat to a previously identified hurricane haven, or you may wish to reinforce your boat’s present moorings and put out extra mooring lines. The publication “Hurricane Havens Handbook for the Atlantic Ocean” (stock # ADA 116103.) can be ordered from the National Technical information Service, 5285 Port Royal Road, Springfield, Va. 22161 (703) 487-4600.

I do not recommend that you get underway on your recreational vessel and head out to sea upon the approach of a hurricane to ride out the storm. Most boats are not designed to withstand the large seas and high winds generated by these severe storms. It is most important for all mariners to obtain a daily updated tropical weather forecast and plan their boating activities accordingly. Keep abreast of what is happening just over the horizon in our earth’s atmosphere.

Mariners are reminded that aids to navigation, particularly lighted and unlighted buoys, may be moved from charted position, damaged, destroyed, extinguished or otherwise deemed discrepant due to the effects of hurricanes and storms. Mariners should not rely solely upon the position or operation of an aid to navigation, but should also employ such other methods of determining position as may be available.

Protecting Your Boat in a Hurricane

marine weather pic Hollywood Beach, FL Hurricanes are enormous cyclonic storm systems covering thousands of square miles which usually develop in the tropical or subtropical latitudes during the summer and fall. To be a hurricane, the system must be producing winds of 64 knots or more. Less intense storms are designated tropical depressions or tropical storms. Tropical storms and hurricanes are named to aid in identifying them. Each hurricane is, essentially, an organized system made up of hundreds of individual thunderstorms. The core of the hurricane is called the eye, an area of relatively benign weather several miles across surrounded by turmoil. All of the severe weather conditions produced by individual thunderstorms (heavy rain, hail, lightning, tornadoes, downbursts, etc.) are produced and magnified within the hurricane. Working together, such storms generate tremendous tidal surges which can decimate coastal areas.

Historically, individual hurricanes have caused the loss of thousands of lives and billions of dollars in damage as they ran their course over populated areas. If you know that a hurricane is approaching your area, prepare for the worst. The important point is, GET OFF THE OPEN WATER AS FAR AWAY FROM THE STORM AS POSSIBLE! If this is impossible, keep in mind that the right front quadrant of a hurricane usually, but not always, produces the most violent weather.

marine weather pic - Hollywood Beach With todayÂ’s modern communication net to warn them, people have a better chance to reach safety before a hurricane hits their area. Even so, you may have little more than 24 hours advance notice to get your boat secured against the stormÂ’s full force. Check the weather often.

If your boat is easily trailerable, store it ashore, far from the danger of high water. Follow these tips:

  • If you must move your boat, first inspect the trailer to ensure that it is in proper operating condition. Check tires (including spare), wheel bearings, tow hitch and lights.If you can, put your boat and trailer in a garage. If they must be left out, secure them to strong trees or a “deadman” anchor. Strip off every thing that could be torn loose by a strong wind.
  • Increase the weight of your trailered outboard boat by filling it with fresh water and leaving in the drainplug (inboard boats must be drained to avoid motor damage). Insert wood blocks between the trailer frame and the springs for extra support with the added weight.

If your boat must stay in the water you have three options: BERTH at a dock that has sturdy pilings and offers reasonable shelter from open water and storm surge. Double up all mooring lines but provide enough slack so your boat can rise with the higher tides. Cover all lines with chafe protectors (double neoprene garden hose cut along the side) at points where the line is likely to wear and put out extra fenders and fenderboards (the more the better).

ANCHOR your boat in a protected harbor where the bottom can allow a good anchor hold. An advantage to anchoring is that the boat can more easily respond to wind and water changes without striking docks or other boats than when moored. Heavy and extra anchors are needed for this option and enough line should be on hand to allow a scope of at least 10:1 for each anchor.

HURRICANE HOLES are ideal locations to moor your boat during a hurricane. These are deep, narrow coves or inlets that are surrounded by a number of sturdy trees which block the wind and provide a tie-off for anchor lines. The best location for a hurricane hole is one far enough inland to avoid the most severe winds and tides, yet close enough to reach under short notice. You may want to scout out a satisfactory hurricane hole ahead of time!

Remember :

  • Never stay with your boat . Your boat should be stripped of anything that can become loose during the storm. This would include unstepping the mast in sailboats. Boat documents, radios and other valuables should be removed from the vessel prior to the storm, since you never know how long it will take for you to get back to your boat once the storm passes.
  • Hurricanes are among the most destructive phenomena of nature, their appearance is not to be taken lightly. Advance planning cannot guarantee that your boat will survive a hurricane safely or even survive at all.
  • Planning can, however, improve survivability and is therefore certainly worth the time and money to do so.

General Weather Tips

Before Setting Out : Obtain the latest available weather forecast for the boating area. Where they can be received, the NOAA Weather Radio continuous broadcasts (VHF-FM) are the best way to keep informed of expected weather and sea conditions. If you hear on the radio that warnings are in effect, donÂ’t venture out on the water unless confident your boat can be navigated safely under forecast conditions of wind and sea. This link will take you to up-to-date marine weather information.

While afloat :

  • Keep an eye out for the approach of dark, threatening clouds which may foretell a squall or thunderstorm.Check radio weather broadcasts periodically for latest forecasts and warnings.Heavy static on your AM radio may be an indication of nearby thunderstorm activity.
  • If a thunderstorm catches you afloat:
    • Put on a Personal Flotation Device. (if not already wearing one)
    • Stay below deck if possible.
    • Keep away from metal objects that are not grounded to the boatÂ’s protection system.

Hurricane Tips From a Liveaboard

Here ‘hurricanes’ are called typhoons. What ever they are, I always am very apprehensive when they are on their way. Below is a list of precautions I have learned over 30 years of boating.

  • Tie down or remove loose objects.
  • Wrap lines around sail covers to prevent ballooning.
  • Stay, if possible, on a secure mooring so that the boat can turn into the wind. Mooring all round puts a great deal of strain on the boat, however, if there is no swinging room it can’t be helped, much of what follows still applies.
  • ALL connections to the mooring should go through a swivel. Lines without a swivel that have become twisted can break very easily under strain. I have seen it happen.
  • When securing the boat, secure each line to a separate cleat/sampson post. DO NOT secure all lines to the same point on the boat. If the mast is stepped below on the keel, use the mast as well if necessary. DON’T if stepped on deck.
  • Add chain to the mooring/boat connection, with a loop in the chain with a nylon spring attached to the boat to take the shock of snatching together with a swivel.
  • Add 2 nylon rope lines from the mooring to the boat, making a total of 3 lines to the mooring.
  • Make sure that the lines from the boat to the mooring are longer by at least 50% than is normal, more if considered appropriate, to allow for any tidal surge.
  • Check all hatches and port holes and dorade boxes for potential leaks.
  • Check the engine for easy starting in an emergency.
  • Stock up with plenty of fresh food and water and fuel.
  • Secure or remove all loose items in the tender.
  • Secure the tender BEHIND the main boat by at least 2 separate lines to the main boat.
  • STAY ON BOARD with radio, barograph, weather fax all ‘ON’ for as much weather information as possible. Weather reports by the authorities are not always as up to date as one’s own observations.
  • Keep a constant watch on lines for chafe, leaks on board, any small things that arise that could become BIG if not watched and attended to.
  • Check bilge pumps, hand and electric, making sure all are working.
  • Put out the fenders all round the sides of the boat, you never know when the other person’s UNATTENDED boat is going to cause havoc.
  • Check all unusual sounds immediately when you hear them.

All this assumes that your mooring is in a good location, protected from wave action and, as much as possible, from the wind. AVOID high hills and mountains within the immediate proximity of the mooring area, they cause mini cyclones locally that are often worse than the typhoon.

Have a friend ashore, if you wish, to check in with at intervals; that friend knowing before hand what to do in an emergency.

DO NOT rely on Insurance companies or the authorities to get you out of the jam that you are in. Be self-reliant, that is the principal behind ‘messing around in boats’ in whatever manner one chooses, and should be born in mind at all times.

I disagree with your advice on:

1. Not staying with the boat.

2. Removing radios and papers.

I prefer to put papers in a secure, waterproof container, that can be taken easily IF abandoning ship should arise. So far for me, this has never been necessary, but it is a possibility that should be taken into consideration and be prepared for BEFORE HAND.




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