How to Survive a Hurricane

We’re entering the heart of hurricane season, and while conventional wisdom would suggest high tailing out of town here’s how to make that Class 5 look more like a Class 2.

Just because you don’t live in a Gulf Coast state doesn’t mean you’re safe from a hur­ricane’s spin cycle of death and destruction. If your ZIP code is within 100 miles of the Atlantic or even the Pacific, you’re in the kill zone, says Jeff Masters, Ph.D., director of meteorology for the Weather Underground, the Internet weather service. Need proof? New England claims one of the biggest single hurricane death tolls, 120 mph winds have pummeled Oregon, and storm surges have drowned scores of Pennsylvanians. But despite the flooding, roof-shredding winds, and poststorm anarchy, tropical cyclones are survivable. Here’s how to stare a hurricane down and emerge unscathed. See you in November.


One good thing about a hurricane: You know it’s coming, giving you ample time to procrastinate before you really have to get your shit wired tight. Here’s your hurry-the-hell-up shopping list for the ultimate survival stash.

¦ Zippo, smokes. (The smokes are our idea.)

¦ Camping stove. Because your gas will be out and large bonfires attract marauding, supply-less neighbors.

¦ LED headlamps. Yes, they make you look silly, but they work wonders when you’re trying to load your gun at night. (Petzl e+LITE, $30, from

¦ Battery-less hand-crank radio. So you can hear the white noise of the apocalypse, Rush Limbaugh. (Etón FR300, $50

¦ First aid kit. And don’t forget to include anti­diarrhea meds in case your food supply gets doused in questionable runoff.

¦ Waterproof container. Stock with key paperwork: ID cards, insurance docs, property deeds. Toss in a few family photos as well, but make sure they’re recent—Grandma’s wedding picture from 1939 won’t help the search party locate her in 2008.

¦ MP7A1 rifle. Not a psycho? An air rifle or a sling­shot with a sack of marbles will work just fine for what you’ll soon be hunting.

¦ One last thing. Make sure your next block party isn’t really awkward by bringing in all your lawn furniture, hanging plants, and Jarts sets. Hurricane gusts can turn these things into neighbor-slaying missiles.


When the hurricane begins smacking your abode, shut off all utilities, including the water. “During a flood the storm can overrun fresh­water systems and render the stuff undrinkable,” says Doug Ritter, director of the Equipped to Survive Foundation.

¦ Best place to ride it out. First floor bathtub with a mattress pulled over you. (When chunks of drywall start flying, you’ll owe Serta your life.) Second best: a first floor interior room.

¦ Skip the basement. Most hurricane deaths are caused by flash floods. These unpredictable surges can flood communities with a wall of water in hours (see Katrina).

¦ Eye this. A lull in the action? Sunshine and blue skies overhead? Don’t be fooled—it’s the hurricane’s eye. The second half of a hurricane is worse “because it picks up all the loose debris and throws it back at you in the opposite direction. Just sit tight,” says Masters.


If you emerge from your bunker to neighbors waving firearms and “harvesting” song birds for food, the nightmare has just begun. “If it’s anarchy, the National Guard will probably come. Still, you may be on your own for a few days.” Those who didn’t prepare will go on the offensive. “The key is not to broadcast that you have supplies,” says Ritter. To avoid attention, cook in small batches. “Cooking smells travel, so do it on a small camping stove, not the huge backyard barbecue grill.”

¦ Catch and replenish. The general rule with water (for both cooking and drinking) is a gallon per person, per day. If your supply runs dry, use a tarp as a rain catch—lay itflat, hoist up corners, then pour the water into a clean container.