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Definitions
Keeping track of the various terminology regarding severe weather can be overwhelming. When the weather is at its worst, you need to know exactly what key terms and words mean. Click on each of the below terms for their definition.

TROPICAL DEPRESSION TROPICAL DEPRESSION


An organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 38 mph (33 knots) or less. Sustained winds are defined as one-minute average wind measured at about 33 feet (10 meters) above the surface.

TROPICAL STORM TROPICAL STORM


An organized system of strong thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 39-73 mph (34-63 knots).

HURRICANE HURRICANE


An intense tropical weather system of strong thunderstorms with a well-defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher.

STORM SURGE STORM SURGE


A dome of water pushed onshore by hurricane and tropical storm winds. Storm surges can reach 25 feet high and be 50-1,000 miles wide.

STORM TIDE STORM TIDE


A combination of storm surge and the normal tide (i.e., a 15-foot storm surge combined with a 2-foot normal high tide over the mean sea level created a 17-foot storm tide.)

HURRICANE & TROPICAL STORM WARNINGS HURRICANE & TROPICAL STORM WARNINGS


Hurricane and tropical storm conditions are expected in the specified area, usually within 24 hours.

SHORT TERM WATCHES & WARNINGS SHORT TERM WATCHES & WARNINGS


These warnings provide detailed information about specific hurricane threats, such as flash floods and tornadoes.
Tips: Before, During and After
Tropical storms and hurricanes pack deadly potential. Knowing what to do before, during and after the storm will allow you to protect yourself, your loved ones and your belongings. Click on each of the time frames below to view a checklist of steps to take to ensure preparedness.

WHEN THE STORM APPROACHES WHEN THE STORM APPROACHES
  • Gas up all vehicles
  • Withdraw extra cash from bank accounts and print out updated financial statements
  • Secure hurricane shutters and plywood
  • Tie down saplings, lawn furniture and other outdoor fixtures that cannot be taken inside
  • Store all outdoor toys, bird feeders, tools and other items in a locked shed, garage or other secure location
  • Stock up on nonperishable food, bottled water and essential medications
  • Add perishable items such as medications and food to the hurricane emergency kit
  • Make arrangements for pets to be boarded in safe locations or prepare safety kits for them
  • Cover pools, outdoor vehicles and other items with securely fastened tarps to minimize damage
  • Advise concerned family members and friends about your preparations and give them emergency contact information if available
  • Prepare a safe location in an interior, ground floor room with few or no windows to wait out the storm

DURING THE STORM DURING THE STORM
  • Stay calm and relaxed as the storm passes
  • Stay indoors at all times, even as the eye passes, because flying debris and unexpected wind gusts can be dangerous
  • Keep updated by watching weather forecasts, news coverage, or listening to the radio if possible
  • Keep children calm by playing games or pursuing normal activities as much as possible
  • As the storm intensifies, stay in the safe room and away from windows or other dangerous spots
  • Turn the refrigerator to its coldest setting and avoid opening it as much as possible
  • Minimize telephone use and other electronic diversions that could carry lightning strikes

AFTER THE STORM AFTER THE STORM
  • After the hurricane has passed the sense of relief can be overwhelming, but additional caution is necessary to avoid dangerous situations from the storm's damage
  • Tend to all first aid needs immediately
  • Keep telephone lines clear for emergency services
  • Stay home and avoid travel to keep roads open for emergency vehicles
  • If evacuation was necessary, return home only when authorities indicate it is safe
  • Keep pets and children in safe areas
  • Do not enter severely damaged buildings until they have been inspected
  • Report downed power lines immediately and stay clear of them
  • Avoid overexertion that can lead to heat stroke, exhaustion and other injuries
  • Use stored food and water if other supplies have been contaminated
  • Be patient -- it may take hours or days to restore services after a severe storm, but officials are working as fast as possible to help citizens resume their lives

Click here for a printable checklist
VDOT Evacuation Guide
Click here for VDOT's Hurricane Evacuation Guide
Evacuation Allowances Frequently Asked Questions
Saffir-Simpson Hurricane 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.

Click on each of the below categories for a description.

CATEGORY 1 HURRICANE CATEGORY 1 HURRICANE
  • Winds 74-95 mph (64-82 knots or 119-153 km/hr)
  • Storm surge generally 4-5 feet above normal
  • No real damage to building structures
  • Damage primarily to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery and trees
  • Some damage to poorly constructed signs
  • Some coastal road flooding and minor pier damage

CATEGORY 2 HURRICANE CATEGORY 2 HURRICANE
  • Winds 96-110 mph (83-95 knots 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 2 hurricane
  • Hurricane Isabel of 2003 made landfall near Drum Inlet on the Outer Banks of North Carolina as a Category 2 hurricane

CATEGORY 3 HURRICANE CATEGORY 3 HURRICANE
  • Winds 111-130 mph (96-113 knots or 178-209 km/hr)
  • Storm surge generally 9-12 feet above normal
  • Some structural damage to small residences and utility buildings with a minor amount of curtainwall 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 feet 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

CATEGORY 4 HURRICANE CATEGORY 4 HURRICANE
  • Winds 131-155 mph (114-135 knots or 210-249 km/hr)
  • Storm surge generally 13-18 feet above normal
  • More extensive curtainwall 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 feet above sea level may be flooded requiring massive evacuation of residential areas as far inland as 6 miles (10 km)

CATEGORY 5 HURRICANE CATEGORY 5 HURRICANE
  • Winds greater than 155 mph (135 knots or 249 km/hr)
  • Storm surge generally greater than 18 feet 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 feet 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 three Category 5 Hurricanes have made landfall in the United States since records began


Source: National Hurricane Center
Hurricane Conditions
Hurricane Condition (HURCON) is an alert scale used by the Armed Forces, primarily the U.S. Air Force, to indicate the state of emergency or preparedness for an approaching hurricane. This designation is especially important to installations in the southern Atlantic region, as it is most affected by hurricanes. A HURCON will typically be issued 72 hours or longer before a hurricane is expected to strike the installation.

The scale consists of four conditions, decreasing in seriousness, from Secure to Alert. As with civilian alerts, buildings may be boarded up and personnel evacuated. In addition; aircraft, ships, equipment, and other assets will be relocated, tied down, bunkered, or otherwise secured. Click on each HURCON for a description of its impact.

HURCON 4 HURCON 4


Hurricane Condition 4 is declared when the forecast calls for the arrival of a tropical storm with 50-knot (58 mph) sustained winds or greater within 72 hours.

HURCON 3 HURCON 3


Hurricane Condition 3 is declared when the forecast calls for the arrival of a tropical storm with 50-knot (58 mph) sustained winds or greater within 48 hours.

HURCON 2 HURCON 2


Hurricane Condition 2 is declared when the forecast calls for the arrival of a tropical storm with 50-knot (58 mph) sustained winds or greater within 24 hours.

HURCON 1 HURCON 1


Hurricane Condition 1 is when the forecast calls for the arrival of a tropical storm with 50-knot (58 mph) sustained winds or greater within 12 hours.
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VA Emergency Contacts
Accomack: (757) 787-0900
Chesapeake: (757) 382-6464
Chincoteague: (757) 336-6519
Franklin: (757) 562-8581
Gloucester: (804) 693-1390
Hampton: (757) 727-6414
Isle of Wight: (757) 357-2151
James City: (757) 566-0112
Newport News: (757) 269-2900
Norfolk: (757) 441-5600
Northampton: (757) 678-0443
Poquoson: (757) 868-3501
Portsmouth: (757) 393-8551
Southampton: (757) 653-2100
Suffolk: (757) 923-2110
Surry: (757) 294-5264
Virginia Beach: (757) 427-4228
Williamsburg: (757) 220-6220
York: (757) 890-3600
Hurricane News

-Hurricane Joaquin approaches Hampton Roads

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