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Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center


Hurricane Preparedness

Hurricane Hugo, 1989. Courtesy of NOAA.

On September 22, 1989, Hurricane Hugo made landfall just north of Charleston, South Carolina, at Sullivan's Island as a Category 4 storm with estimated maximum winds of 135-140 mph, producing the highest storm tide heights ever recorded along the U.S. East Coast. (Photo courtesy of NOAA)

By Lanelle W. Strawder, Public Affairs Specialist
Monday, June 6, 2016

Welcome to the 2016 Hurricane Season!

If you've lived along the coast long enough, you've probably been under the threat of a hurricane, or have even experienced one. Each year hurricane season starts June 1st and lasts through the end of November; peak hurricane activity typically occurs from mid-August to late October. The dawn of hurricane season makes now a perfect time to prepare yourself and your family for a season of tropical storms.

It's important to get familiar with some of the terminology related to tropical storms and hurricanes. By definition, a tropical storm has maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph, while hurricanes are a type of tropical storm with sustained winds exceeding 74 mph or greater, and are often accompanied by dangerously high water and rough seas. As hurricanes get closer, meteorologists may refer to hurricane watches and/or warnings. A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions pose a possible threat within 36 hours; while a hurricane warning means that tropical storm or hurricane conditions are expected within 24 hours. Both can cause significant damage, so it's important to stay tuned to local news or The Weather Channel for updates, evacuation orders and instructions.

Charleston VAMC Emergency Manager Charlie Tupper stresses the importance of having an emergency plan in place in case of inclement weather.

"It's easy to get complacent, or to think that there's plenty of time to prepare for a storm. But here on the coast, you don't always have the privilege of being able to track a storm for days as it works its way across the Atlantic. Sometimes emergencies appear seemingly out of the blue, so it's vital to be prepared now," Tupper warns.

Find basic hurricane preparedness tips below.

Basic Preparedness Tips (adapted from

  • Know where to go. If you are ordered to evacuate, do so early and know the local hurricane evacuation route(s) to take and have a plan for where you can stay. The SC Emergency Management Division provides information about evacuation zones and routes.
  • Put together a disaster supply kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash, first aid supplies, and copies of your critical information in case you need to evacuate.
  • If you are not in an area that is advised to evacuate and decide to stay in your home, plan for adequate supplies for several days in case you lose power and water and are not able to leave due to flooding or blocked roads.
  • Have a family emergency plan. This should include places to meet in the case of an emergency, how to contact one another in case of separation, and where to find supplies if they are needed. And don't forget that pets are your family too; have a plan for how you will manage pets in case of emergency. 
  • Stay as connected as possible. The National Weather Service provides updates on Facebook and Twitter. The National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center also update their webpages during weather emergencies. You can also sign up for weather alerts through most local news stations and through a number of weather-related apps. Radio stations are also a great source of time information during weather emergencies (see a list of South Carolina and Georgia weather radio stations).
  • Additionally, many communities have a text or email alert system for emergency notifications, like the Citizen Alert Notification System for Charleston County. To find out what alerts are available in your area, search the Internet with your town, city, or county name and the word "alerts."

It's also important to remember that tropical storms and hurricanes may only signal the start of a weather emergency. Heavy rains and high winds are characteristic of these storms. Power outages are probable as fallen trees and debris can impact power lines. People living inland and in low lying areas may also face the threat of significant flooding. The local National Weather Service issues flash flood and flood watches and warnings.

Emergency management personnel at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center carefully evaluates the impact of each emergency situation and makes it a priority to protect our patients, visitors and employees. During severe weather, you can check the operational status of Charleston VAMC on the Current Operating Status page. 

For general employee information, Charleston VA employees should check the Work Status for Employees page, or call 1-866-233-0152. The VAMC's Facebook and Twitter pages are also updated during weather emergencies. Charleston VA employees should contact Charlie Tupper at to sign up for VA's emergency notification system.


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