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Hurricane information

Posted 9/6/2007   Updated 9/6/2007 Email story   Print story


9/6/2007 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- Due to the potential for hurricanes and severe weather, the following information is provided to help prepare Team Seymour members:


When reporting an emergency, always STAY ON THE LINE until you are directed to hang up. To call for emergency services from your duty phone you will need to call 911. If you are calling from base housing call 911 and you will get the base Fire Department. All members of your household, including young children, should be taught what "911" means, and how to use it. Although most children are taught to use 911 in school it is a very good idea for you to check for yourself.


POLICE 722-2740




CHAPLAIN 722-0315





Nights, weekends, holidays 735-7201

ARC Armed Forces Toll-Free Emergency Number 1-877-272-7337


If dialing from off-base:




Hurricanes are intense tropical storms characterized by heavy rains and strong winds rotating counter-clockwise around a central "eye." The eye is a relatively quiet area with little to no winds and sometimes clear skies. Eyes can be from a few miles in diameter to more than 50 miles. This calm period usually lasts for a few minutes to an hour.
Hurricanes are classified in strength on the Saffir-Simpson scale (see page 9). This scale goes from Category 1 hurricanes with winds between 74 and 95 miles per hour up to Category 5 hurricanes with wind speeds greater than 155 miles per hour.

Generally, hurricanes travel between 10 and 15 miles per hour, but as the storm gains strength, this speed usually decreases to 5 to 10 miles per hour. Conversely, as a hurricane weakens, its forward speed will usually increase to 20 miles per hour or more. However, there are always exceptions to the rule!

Some hazards encountered in hurricanes are destructive winds, heavy rains, flash flooding, lightning, tornadoes, and storm surge. Storm surge is simply water that is pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds swirling around the storm. This advancing surge combines with the normal tides to create the hurricane storm tide, which can increase the average water level 15 feet or more. Couple that with flash flooding, and you have the most dangerous hazard associated with hurricanes.

Today, more than 73 million people live within 50 miles of a hurricane prone coast. Each year, from June through November, any Atlantic or Gulf Coast state could be subject to hurricanes. These storms have caused thousands of deaths and damaged billions of dollars worth of property. Hurricanes are caused by atmospheric low-pressure areas which develop in the very warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean just north of the equator, off the coast of Africa, in the Gulf of Mexico, or just off the east coast of the US. When the sustained winds exceed 35 mile per hour, the storm is classified as a "Tropical Storm" and given a name. When the surface winds exceed 74 mph, the storm is reclassified as a hurricane.

Are we concerned about hurricanes at SJAFB? The coast is 90-100 miles away, so we won't need to be concerned about storm surge, but we could suffer the full effects of all the other hazards of a storm: high winds, extremely heavy rains, lightning, local flooding, and tornadoes.


Because of the seriousness of the storm and the time it takes to develop and reach land, the public receives a lot of advance warning. Television and radio are the primary means of keeping the public informed. The following terms are used to describe the threat of hurricanes:

A HURRICANE WATCH is set up for areas that could be affected within 36 hours. It does not necessarily mean that one will strike, but does allow time for preparation or evacuation.

A HURRICANE WARNING means expect the arrival of hurricane conditions within 24 hours. Areas subject to storm surge and flooding may be ordered to evacuate by local authorities. Warnings may include an assessment of flood danger, small craft warnings, and gale warnings for the storm's periphery and recommended emergency procedures from local officials. Mobile home residents should seek more substantial shelter immediately.


The Air Force uses a warning system of its own to inform personnel of an approaching hurricane. This system is known as "Hurricane Condition Warnings" or HURCONS. The following terms are used to describe the conditions of the HURCON system:

HURCON IV - 50 knot or greater winds possible within 72 hours.
HURCON III - 50 knot or greater winds possible within 48 hours. 

HURCON II - 50 knot or greater winds possible within 24 hours. 

HURCON I - 50 knot or greater winds possible within 12 hours. 


If you are in an area expecting a hurricane, when a hurricane watch is issued it is time to act. You must not wait for the Warning to be issued to begin your preparations. Listen for official bulletins on radio, TV or NOAA Weather Radio. Check mobile home tie-downs (if you live in a mobile home); moor small craft, or move them to safety. Secure outside items that could be blown by the storm and if you live in a mobile home leave the area as soon as possible and proceed to the nearest shelter. 


The next step in preparing for emergencies is to consider what items are essential for your family's survival. How much do you plan on stocking? Try to store like items together as much as possible and in a designated area. Mark locations on an inventory sheet for items stored in separate locations. Maintain enough emergency food and water to sustain your family for at least 3 days. Consider stocking the following items:

Canned foods/dry foods - foods that your family likes which require no refrigeration and little or no water for preparation.
Drinking water - Try to store one gallon a day for every person.
Water purification tablets - Not only are these a handy safeguards for camping, but they can be extremely useful if you couldn't store enough water before an emergency situation. In other situations, boil the water to ensure it is potable. When boiling is not possible and the situation becomes desperate, sterilize water with small amounts of household bleach (one to two drops bleach per gallon of water). 

NOTE: When the time comes for your family to go to a shelter, remember the base shelters and most shelters off base DO NOT allow pets. So, have a plan for them as well.

Many common household, garden and camping items can be useful in an emergency situation. 

Portable radio with extra batteries - this item is a must. In a widespread disaster it could be your only source of information for days. 

First aid kit - Include gauze, tape, scissors, slings, splint materials, and ointments for burns, cuts or bites.
Emergency cooking equipment - Do you own a barbecue grill? These can be handy in an emergency situation (if you have enough fuel stored).
- Flashlights (with extra batteries), lanterns (with adequate fuel) or candles and stick matches.

- Sleeping bags/blankets, extra clothing, jackets, coats, rain gear. 

- Ropes, tools, shovels, crowbar, hatchet or axe.

Your family's list may be longer or shorter than the basic items suggested above. Adjust it as you feel the need. The effort expended to accomplish the first list is worthwhile. When a hurricane strikes it is too late to prepare.


This checklist is intended to provide general guidelines for hurricane preparations. Expand it with any needed additional items, but remember not to add too many. You want all preparations to be performed at least 24 hours before the storm is expected to hit.

· Fuel your vehicle and check it for serviceability.
· If you will be deployed and your spouse does not drive ensure to make transportation arrangements with friends or neighbors. If transportation is not otherwise available, notify your sponsor unit.

· Ensure your vehicle has the necessary emergency equipment such as spare tire, jack and lug wrench and road flares.

· Have enough cash on hand to last a few days. ATM machines could be disabled.
· Secure outdoor materials or bring them inside.
· Wedge sliding glass doors to prevent them from being blown off their tracks.
· If you evacuate ensure you turn off water and electricity before you leave.
· Place your valuables in a secure area or plan to take them with you.

· Have important papers centrally located so you can take them with you.
  - Insurance papers (auto, home, flood and life)
  - Wedding and birth certificates 
  - Home, auto & boat owners' slips (deeds, titles, etc)
  - Personal property inventory (for claims)
  - Wills
· Check your emergency supplies of non-perishable food and canned drinks.
· Check prescription medicines -- get an extra bottle of each, as needed.
· Monitor radio and TV for storm's progress (channel 24, if on base)
· If assistance is needed, contact unit of assignment. Ask your neighbors to see if they need assistance.
· Inventory your survival kit. Is it complete? Do not wait for the Hurricane Warning to pick up needed supplies. 


· Stay inside, on the downwind side of the house, away from windows.
· Don't use the telephone, except for emergencies.
· Monitor the radio for local weather information. 

· Do not go outside unless it is a matter of life and death.
· If the eye passes overhead remember that the winds will return very quickly, from the opposite direction. Do not go outside during the lull unless it is an emergency.


· When recalled to duty return to base by safe route-DO NOT SIGHTSEE! 

· Report to the established central staging area.
· Upon arrival at home:
  - Notify unit of arrival.
  - Check the quarters for damage: if living on Seymour Johnson AFB report damage to CE service call. (5126)
  - Check utilities for operation. (Utilities may have been shut down by CE due to damage or high winds.) 
  - If quarters are unsafe, return to the central staging area. 

· Call next of kin to inform them of your safety. 


No area in the United States is completely free from the threat of floods. Each year nearly 75,000 Americans are driven from their homes by floods; 90 are killed; and more than 250 million dollars worth of property is damaged or destroyed.

Are we concerned with floods and flash floods here at Seymour Johnson AFB? Yes! While the normal threat from seasonal floods is minimal, in 1999 the Goldsboro area received the worst flooding in history due to Hurricane Floyd. According to the National Weather Service in Raleigh, NC: "There were 57 deaths directly attributed to Floyd, 56 in the United States and one in Grand Bahama Island. North Carolina reported 35 deaths directly attributed to Floyd. Of the 56 deaths, 48 were due to drowning in inland, freshwater flooding. Vehicle related deaths accounted for 55 percent of casualties, and of these, about 80 percent were male." Seymour Johnson AFB was also affected when rising waters from the Neuse River flowed onto the runway.

A slowly developing seasonal flood doesn't usually cause many injuries or fatalities because the public receives warnings in time to make preparations. However, there are many streams in our area which could be subject to a flash flood. Severe thunderstorms with extremely heavy rainfall can over fill any river basin quickly, creating a dangerous and unpredictable condition called a "FLASH FLOOD". Where are these likely to occur? One area comes to mind immediately: the mountains to our west. This major recreational area is subject to severe thunderstorms with heavy rains, all the ingredients for a flash flood.


Be aware of the local weather forecast when traveling or vacationing (especially in the mountains). Include obtaining weather forecasts in your pretrip planning. Always carry a battery-powered radio when hiking or camping. Avoid traveling in areas which flooding has been forecast. If flooding is predicted for your local areas listen to your radio or television for flood stage forecasts and possible evacuation instructions. Local authorities are likely to use one of the following terms to describe the flood threat:

A FLOOD WATCH indicates the possibility of flooding, but no flooding has occurred yet. This forecast will include area affected and usually a time for the start of flooding will be predicted.

A FLOOD WARNING means that flooding will occur very soon. This report usually includes the expected severity of flooding (minor, moderate, or major) as well as where and when the flooding is likely to begin.

A FLASH FLOOD WARNING is the most urgent type of flood warning issued. Flash floods are usually the result of extremely heavy rains. Rivers and streams will surge well beyond normal stream and riverbanks, and sweep away everything before them. Houses, bridges, and boulders can be tossed and rolled by flash floods. Immediate action must be taken to reach higher ground if this warning is issued for your area. If you are travelling or vacationing in a flash flood area, plan alternate routes to ensure rapid evacuation. 


Flash floods normally occur during, or immediately after extremely heavy rains. They develop quickly and usually without warning. If you notice local streams, creeks or rivers flowing more swiftly or rising rapidly, a flood may be building in your area. If you notice any sign of a potential flash flood, hear the roar of approaching waters or hear a flash flood warning on the radio, seek high ground immediately. Seconds may make the difference between life and death. Because of the speed with which a flash flood travels you have no time to gather any possessions or implement any precautionary measures. Save your life by moving to high ground without any hesitation. Do not remain in a car or truck near the water; many of the people who become casualties in a flash flood depended on their vehicles for security. Do not stay on a bridge, unless it is the only high ground available. Most important of all, do not attempt to cross a flooding stream or creek on foot or in your vehicle, flash floods are extremely quick and powerful and you could be swept away. Please remember that if you receive a flash flood warning, the only thing to do is move immediately to high ground.

Listen to your radio for updates or public announcements from emergency officials. If authorities advise or direct evacuation for your area, do so immediately. Use only those routes recommended by local authorities. Any other route could be blocked or made impassable by the flooding.

If you are forced to remain in the area check your emergency food and water supplies. Keep them high and dry. Do not use food that has come in contact with floodwaters. Make certain drinking water sources are safe before using them. Public health officials will test the water sources as soon as they can, and usually make public announcements over the radio. Seek all necessary medical care at the nearest hospital.
For additional Emergency Management information, contact the 4 CES Readiness Flight at 722-2687/2690.

For more information, visit the following web sites:

Saffir-Simpson Scale

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is a 1-5 rating based on the hurricane's present intensity. This is used to give an estimate of the potential property damage and flooding expected along the coast from a hurricane landfall. Wind speed is the determining factor in the scale, as storm surge values are highly dependent on the slope of the continental shelf and the shape of the coastline in the landfall region. 

Category One Hurricane: 

Winds 74-95 mph (64-82 kt or 119-153 km/hr). Storm surge generally 4-5 ft above normal. No real damage to building structures. Damage primarily to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery, and trees. Some damage to poorly constructed signs. Also, some coastal road flooding and minor pier damage. Hurricane Lili of 2002 made landfall on the Louisiana coast as a Category One hurricane. Hurricane Gaston of 2004 was a Category One hurricane that made landfall along the central South Carolina coast.

Category Two Hurricane: 

Winds 96-110 mph (83-95 kt or 154-177 km/hr). Storm surge generally 6-8 feet above normal. Some roofing material, door, and window damage of buildings. Considerable damage to shrubbery and trees with some trees blown down. Considerable damage to mobile homes, poorly constructed signs, and piers. Coastal and low-lying escape routes flood 2-4 hours before arrival of the hurricane center. Small craft in unprotected anchorages break moorings. Hurricane Frances of 2004 made landfall over the southern end of Hutchinson Island, Florida as a Category Two hurricane. Hurricane Isabel of 2003 made landfall near Drum Inlet on the Outer Banks of North Carolina as a Category 2 hurricane.

Category Three Hurricane: 

Winds 111-130 mph (96-113 kt or 178-209 km/hr). Storm surge generally 9-12 ft above normal. Some structural damage to small residences and utility buildings with a minor amount of curtain wall failures. Damage to shrubbery and trees with foliage blown off trees and large trees blown down. Mobile homes and poorly constructed signs are destroyed. Low-lying escape routes are cut by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the center of the hurricane. Flooding near the coast destroys smaller structures with larger structures damaged by battering from floating debris. Terrain continuously lower than 5 ft above mean sea level may be flooded inland 8 miles (13 km) or more. Evacuation of low-lying residences with several blocks of the shoreline may be required. Hurricanes Jeanne and Ivan of 2004 were Category Three hurricanes when they made landfall in Florida and in Alabama, respectively.

Category Four Hurricane: 

Winds 131-155 mph (114-135 kt or 210-249 km/hr). Storm surge generally 13-18 ft above normal. More extensive curtain wall failures with some complete roof structure failures on small residences. Shrubs, trees, and all signs are blown down. Complete destruction of mobile homes. Extensive damage to doors and windows. Low-lying escape routes may be cut by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the center of the hurricane. Major damage to lower floors of structures near the shore. Terrain lower than 10 ft above sea level may be flooded requiring massive evacuation of residential areas as far inland as 6 miles (10 km). Hurricane Charley of 2004 was a Category Four hurricane made landfall in Charlotte County, Florida with winds of 150 mph. Hurricane Dennis of 2005 struck the island of Cuba as a Category Four hurricane. 

Category Five Hurricane: 

Winds greater than 155 mph (135 kt or 249 km/hr). Storm surge generally greater than 18 ft above normal. Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away. All shrubs, trees, and signs blown down. Complete destruction of mobile homes. Severe and extensive window and door damage. Low-lying escape routes are cut by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the center of the hurricane. Major damage to lower floors of all structures located less than 15 ft above sea level and within 500 yards of the shoreline. Massive evacuation of residential areas on low ground within 5-10 miles (8-16 km) of the shoreline may be required. Only 3 Category Five Hurricanes have made landfall in the United States since records began: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, Hurricane Camille (1969), and Hurricane Andrew in August, 1992. The 1935 Labor Day Hurricane struck the Florida Keys with a minimum pressure of 892 mb--the lowest pressure ever observed in the United States. Hurricane Camille struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast causing a 25-foot storm surge, which inundated Pass Christian, Mississippi. Hurricane Andrew of 1992 made landfall over southern Florida causing 26.5 billion dollars in losses--the costliest hurricane on record. In addition, Hurricane Wilma of 2005 was a Category Five hurricane at peak intensity and is the strongest Atlantic tropical cyclone on record with a minimum pressure of 882 mb.

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