Hurricanes can be devastating to coastal areas, with powerful impacts from storm surge, high winds, tornadoes, and flooding. It is imperative to prepare for each type of hurricane hazard.

Advanced planning and preparation are essential to protecting property, reducing risk and ultimately saving lives.

It is critical for valley residents to take time to develop a family disaster plan, to review emergency preparations and checklists regularly, to build disaster supply kits in waterproof, easy-to-carry containers, and to stay aware of current weather situations by monitoring NOAA weather radio and local broadcasts.

This Guide is a roadmap that provides information on the supplies you will need and the actions you should be prepared to take as a storm moves in.

Hurricane Basics

Hurricanes form over warm ocean waters, like those found in the Gulf of Mexico. The hurricane season starts June 1 and ends November 30.

Satellite image of Hurricane Dolly (2008) prior to landfall on South Padre Island.

The peak threat for the Texas coast exists from August through September. However, hurricanes can and have struck the Texas coast during every month of the hurricane season.

Definitions you should know

  • TROPICAL DEPRESSION: An organized system of persistent clouds and thunderstorms with a closed low-level circulation and maximum winds of 38 mph or less.
  • TROPICAL STORM: An organized system of strong thunderstorms with a well defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph.
  • HURRICANE: An intense tropical weather system with a well defined circulation and sustained winds of 74 mph or higher.
  • TROPICAL CYCLONE: A general term used to describe a tropical depression, tropical storm, or hurricane.
  • HURRICANE/TROPICAL STORM WATCH: Hurricane or Tropical Storm conditions are possible in the watch area within 48 hours.
  • HURRICANE/TROPICAL STORM WARNING: Hurricane or Tropical Storm conditions are possible in the warning area within 36 hours.

Storm Surge

Storm surge is a large dome of water, 50 to 100 miles wide that sweeps across the coastline along and to the right of where the eye makes landfall. The stronger the hurricane winds, the higher the storm surge. The storm surge can be more than 15 feet in major hurricanes. Storm surge poses the greatest threat to life and property for coastal communities.

Storm surge from a major hurricane has the potential to submerge and destroy most of the coastal properties in South Padre Island, Port Isabel, and Laguna Vista. Evacuating well inland before a major storm strikes can save your life.

“The greatest potential for loss of life related to a hurricane is from the storm surge.”

National Hurricane Center

Five Practical Ways to Protect Yourself From Inland Flooding

  • Protect Your Personal Documents and Special Items
    • Store valuables in plastic tubs with locking tops
    • In case of evacuation, you should be able to secure and move all your valuables within 15 minutes
  • Buy Flood Insurance: A Plan for Replaceable Items
    • The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is available from an insurance agent or the NFIP
    • For more information see
  • Flood Proof Your Home
    • Shut off the main breaker to prevent short circuits, eliminating the threat of electrocution
    • Raise outside air conditioning units onto platforms above ground level
    • Store rarely used or expensive items in the attic or on high shelves
  • Develop a Family Flood Plan
    • Develop a plan of action to keep from panicking during an emergency
    • Have an evacuation route and alternatives planned in the event you are asked to evacuate
    • Communicate your plans with friends or family outside of your home area
  • Never Drive on Flooded Roads
    • Driving into flooded roadways puts your life and the lives of others at risk
    • Unless told to evacuate, you are probably safest staying at your current location
    • If you encounter flood waters when driving, Turn Around, Don’t Drown!