How to Evacuate from a Hurricane

Two Methods:Before you need to evacuateExecute your evacuation plan

Unlike some natural disasters, hurricanes may require a widespread evacuation enforced to keep residents out of harm's way during the storm.[1] This article offers suggestions on the best ways to prepare and proceed with evacuation should a hurricane threaten your city.

Method 1
Before you need to evacuate

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    Decide in advance the destination of your egress. This decision should be made as soon as possible, and is best if made even well before the hurricane season. Hotels and motels may be sold out everywhere within 300 miles (480 km) of the evacuation point, making it really important to have somewhere established to evacuate to (for example, a friend's or relative's house in a nearby state, etc.). Make plans to evacuate with friends or family in advance as well.
    • Have an agreement that, if an evacuation appears imminent, both parties will attempt to contact each other. Phone lines may be too jammed to complete a call but you might be able to leave a message online or through some other means, so be sure to make arrangements to check these different messaging possibilities. Above all, agree that they should expect your arrival anyway even if there is no message or contact.
    • Review hurricane maps provided by local authorities. These will detail major routes and shelter locations and you should be able to pinpoint the evacuation routes and resources most apt to your own situation.
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    Decide on the route to your safe location, as well as an alternate path. Major highways will inevitably be backed up for miles. Find an alternative, winding path if one is available. You may and most likely will find it necessary. Having GPS can be helpful in this instance but also have road maps with you in case the GPS hasn't covered everything or it doesn't work.
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    Be prepared to spend at least 12 hours on the road. Ensure you have enough to eat, drink, and stay entertained, as well as allowing ample time for restroom breaks. Failing to prepare for hours on the road can turn gloomy trip into a nightmare!
    • If you have children, be sure to have their favorite toys, games and books as well as some sleeping items such as blankets and pillows. If you have a portable DVD player, this can be a good way to pass a few hours and older children can bring along portable game machines (be sure to also bring along the car charger).
    • If you have pets, make sure to have their necessities with them, and never leave them in the car unattended if you need to stop. The articles How to Prepare Your Pets for Disaster and How to Prepare an Emergency Plan For Your Pets go into greater detail on how to plan for your pets.
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    Purchase two large gasoline cans long before you might ever need them. Gasoline cans will become impossible to find when the storm approaches. Keep one can empty and another can full, then store them in a locked trunk for safekeeping.
    • If you live on an island and plan to leave by ferry, do not use or fill any gas cans until you have left the island. In most cases, you will not be allowed to ride the ferry with them. However, be sure to bring them empty and fill as soon as possible.
    • Only use approved gasoline containers to hold gas. Not doing so can be a safety hazard.
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    During hurricane season, always keep your car's gas tank at least half full. If a storm is approaching (before an evacuation order), top it off every day.
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    Purchase plywood and hardware for covering windows and doors before you leave. If you have a way to store these supplies, purchase them as soon as possible. Hardware and lumber stores will become swamped by crowds as the hurricane approaches. You could even have your plywood fitted for each window in advance.
    • Store hurricane lumber somewhere safe from moisture, such as in a shed or hanging from a dry wall.
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    Make a checklist of everything you need to do before you leave. This should include notifying who you will be residing with, turning off the breakers and gas main, gathering your pets (or doing whatever you plan to do with them), gathering clothing, food, medications, etc.
    • If you complete none of the other steps above, complete this one. When the time comes to evacuate, having a checklist will save you time, prevent panic and allow you to leave knowing that everything has been taken care of.

Method 2
Execute your evacuation plan

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    Go through your checklist. If you have made this checklist in advance, evacuating will be much easier, as you will have already made all the key decisions.
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    Monitor television and/or radio broadcasts. Important information regarding evacuation procedures and weather updates may change quickly.
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    Keep your car's tank as full as possible. Gasoline may be impossible to find on the road. Fill your spare gasoline cans as soon as possible (if you have to make a ferry crossing, wait until after the crossing; federal regulations do not allow gas cans with fuel on board). Try to keep your gas tank at least half full while you are evacuating to avoid getting stuck in long, monotonous gas lines.


  • Always stay alert and aware of the weather. It could change course and head in your direction (or away from your direction) within a moment's notice.
  • If you don't own a car, try to make arrangements for evacuation with someone who does own a vehicle. There may not be arrangements for evacuating residents who don't own vehicles. Be sure to make plans for any pets and animals as well, in Hurricane Katrina while pets were evacuated they were sent away separately and some wound up in the wrong part of the country. One woman wound up in Minnesota while her cat turned up in California. It took seven months for her to get her cat back.
  • If you live in a large city, such as New York City, using mass transit may be better than attempting to use your own car. Listen for the suggestions from local authorities.
  • Keep an eye on Twitter hashtags for up-to-date information; local authorities will use Twitter as well as citizens. News feeds and phone updates are also useful means for keeping informed.[2]


  • Be as courteous as possible while evacuating, and make an effort not to berate fellow motorists for minor improprieties. Everyone is just as stressed, worried and frustrated as you are.

Things You'll Need

  • Enough food and liquids for each person to last 24 hours
  • Three shirts and two pairs of pants for each person
  • Important papers, including insurance policies, phone lists of relatives and other important people in your life, birth certificates, passports, bank account information, etc.
  • Enough cash to live on for 72 hours, in the event you cannot use your ATM card due to power outages
  • Pets, if you plan to take them with you
  • Diapers for infants and feminine products
  • Prescription medications and supplies, if you have a health concerns
  • Two gas cans (filled)
  • Emergency lighting and cooking fuel; potential necessities for your return
  • Battery operated radio (other than your vehicle's)
  • Any other small possessions you may find necessary or valuable
  • Chargers for cell-phones, cameras & portable electronic equipment.
  • Foul weather gear for all persons.

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