Hurricanes

According to the National Hurricane Center:

"A tropical cyclone is a rotating, organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that originates over tropical or subtropical waters and has a closed low-level circulation." They are classified as follows:

  • Tropical Depression: A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 38 mph (33 knots) or less.
  • Tropical Storm: A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph (34 to 63 knots).
  • Hurricane: A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher.
  • Major Hurricane: A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 111 mph (96 knots) or higher, corresponding to a Category 3-5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

The Atlantic Hurricane seasons lasts from June 1st to November 30th and peak season for tropical storm systems in the North-Atlantic is late August - September.

Hurricane Preparedness

Hurricane Preparedness

When preparing for hurricane season the needs of all members of a household should be considered. If a household includes a young child, senior citizen or a person with a disability or severe illness, special steps to assist them may be necessary and should be incorporated into all emergency planning. Pets require special handling as well, especially since most shelters do not accept animals.

Hurricanes can produce storm surges of water along the coastline, high winds, tornadoes, heavy rains and flooding. In some hurricanes, wind alone can cause a lot of damage such as downed trees and power lines, collapsing weak areas of homes, businesses or other buildings. Roads and bridges can be washed away and homes can be ruined by flood waters.

Some common information to help prepare for hurricane season is to Make a Kit, Make a Plan and Stay Informed. For tips on being prepared before, during, and after a hurricane, download our Hurricane Preparedness Guide.

Rhode Island Hurricanes

Rhode Island Hurricanes

The following is a list of hurricanes that have directly affected the State of Rhode Island:

Hurricane Categories

Hurricane Categories

The table below provides more information about the 5 categories in the Saffir-Simpson scale, which is used to describe the strength of a hurricane. The table includes the wind speeds and likely damage impacts for a hurricane in each category.

Scale Number (Category)
Sustained Winds (MPH)
Damage
1
74-95
Minimal: Unanchored mobile homes, vegetation and signs.
2
96-110
Moderate: All mobile homes, roofs, small crafts, flooding.
3
111-130
Extensive: Small buildings, low-lying roads cut off.
4
131-155
Extreme: Roofs destroyed, trees down, roads cut off, mobile homes destroyed. Beach homes flooded.
5
More than 155
Catastrophic: Most buildings destroyed. Vegetation destroyed. Major roads cut off. Homes flooded.

Hurricane Inundation Maps

Hurricane Inundation Maps

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, under the Hurricane Evacuation Study Program, develops information that assists Federal, State, and Local Emergency Management Officials in planning for and responding to a hurricane. Under this program, the Army Corps recently (summer 2009) updated the inundation maps for coastal areas in Rhode Island. The maps were developed using GIS software by overlaying the hurricane surge water surface elevations from Sea, Lake, and Overland Surge from Hurricanes (SLOSH) model results on top of ground elevations from FEMA LiDAR data to show which areas would be inundated (flooded) by hurricane storm surge.

To learn more about the study and the production of the maps, click here.

Please keep in mind, these maps are based on the results from a worst-case scenario model and are intended to estimate areas of concern in the event of a hurricane. Do not rely on these maps in the event of a hurricane. These maps are provided as an informational tool to help consider impacted areas and even to help establish tougher land use guidelines and/or mitigation needs in areas that may be inundated.