Hurricane Q&A: Should you tape your windows? Can anything prevent a storm?

Brittaney Wilmore Image
Friday, June 16, 2023
Hurricane Q&A: Should you tape your windows? Can anything prevent a storm?
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AccuWeather's Tom Bedard answered questions about terms we hear most during hurricane season and some of the wildest ideas to try to stop the storms.

It's hurricane season, and every year, some common questions and misconceptions come up when it comes to preparedness.

ABC13 talked to Tom Bedard, emergency preparedness manager and meteorologist at AccuWeather, to get some answers.

Bedard lived in Houston, not far from Rice University. He and his family left the summer before Hurricane Ike, but he can still recall experiencing serious flooding.

"The first week we moved to Houston in 2005, I was going to school at St. Anne's. I remember my mom picked me up and we had about 10 miles to go. I remember we had no way to get home because every single street in and out was flooded," Bedard said. "At the time, we didn't know what we were doing, we weren't from the area. Unfortunately, we went into floodwater, we lost the car, my parents were bitten up by fire ants and that was one of those experiences to help motivate me to become a meteorologist."

"It was frightening and alarming to know a simple, unnamed tropical event can flood an entire city," he added.

Not exactly the warmest welcome to the Bayou City. Sorry about that, Tom.

Here's what to know so you can hopefully avoid a similar, uncomfortable experience.

1) We hear the cone of uncertainty as it relates to hurricanes, but what does it really tell us?

"I think a lot of people look at the cone of uncertainty, and every weather source they look at is going to have one. They look at that cone as being an ultimate path of impact, but that's not it at all. It's just telling you where that storm might go. If you see some lopsided storms or ones that aren't terribly organized, your impacts could be hundreds of miles away from that," Bedard explained. "The cone is good. It's got its place, but look at rainfall and wind forecasts specifically, not just the cone."

2) A lot of assumptions are also made about a hurricane's category, which is denoted as part of the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. What part of the story does that tell us?

As Bedard told ABC13, the scale is based only on maximum sustained wind speed. It doesn't take into account impacts like storm surge, flooding or tornadoes. So don't make assumptions about the scale or think that a low category storm won't cause much damage.

"If you see a Category 1 hurricane or a tropical storm that's forecasted to impact your neighborhood, you might think, 'This is something I don't have to worry about, I can go on business as usual.' That storm could drop 30-40 inches of rain and shut down your neighborhood, shut down your work. It's all about looking at the impacts," Bedard said.

Texas is no stranger to low category storms causing extensive damage.

Back in 2008, many of us remember Ike, but months earlier, Dolly hit our southern coast as a Category 2 and was the most destructive storm to hit the Rio Grande Valley in more than four decades, according to the General Land Office.

3) You only have to worry about the flooding if you live on the coast, right?

Not so! Bedard says it's quite the opposite. You should keep in mind changes to your area - has there been new construction or have green spaces been taken away?

"You might see flood impacts change year to year depending on how that floodplain is managed," Bedard said. "Every weather event is going to have a different flood impact."

4) Is it worth taping your windows to protect them from breaking during a hurricane?

"There is no benefit to taping glass," Bedard said. "A big tree or branch or propane cylinder will break the window, and in fact, that tape is going to hold the glass together and form a larger shard. Not even that, but once that storm has passed the sun is going to bake and melt the tape on the glass, potentially ruining the window."

Instead, go the route of using plywood to board up windows instead. You may also want to consider storm shutters.

Remember, you don't need to live right along the coast to have window damage because strong straight line winds or a tornado embedded within a storm can still break your windows.

5) Let's talk about keeping out water. How much do sandbags help?

According to Bedard, they work, but can only help so much.

"Sandbags are a great approach... putting them on the inside of your door to block floodwaters from getting in. But there's only so much you can do to keep your structure water tight," Bedard began. "It might involve lifting it if you're in an area where that's possible. Sometimes that's required with new construction."

Bedard adds that you can shore up every hole that's in your structure at the lower levels, "but once water gets to a certain level, it's going to do what it's going to do and find the path of least resistance."

6) Is there anything that can prevent a hurricane?

"There have been a lot of entertaining thoughts about how you can eliminate or prevent a hurricane," Bedard said.

Seeding clouds, bombing, and towing icebergs are all ideas that have been floated, AccuWeather says, but the science just doesn't back it up.

"Right now, there is nothing scientifically viable that can prevent a hurricane from happening," Bedard said. "We don't have any magic button that takes a hurricane off the map. All we can do is prepare, wait for the next one, and make sure we're ready for it."

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