Tracking a Hurricane

The National Weather Service knows about a hurricane long before it reaches land. Satellites are constantly taking pictures of any weather disturbances. When a hurricane is spotted, hurricane hunter airplanes fly into the storm and report on it. As it comes closer to land, special weather radars track it. Radio, television, and more than 300 NOAA Weather Radio stations warn people about the hurricane. It is a big responsibility of the National Weather Service to make accurate observations so that they can warn people about an approaching hurricane. The National Hurricane Center issues a series of warnings to specific areas of coastline as a hurricane speeds closer to land.

You can track a hurricane using latitude and longitude. Download a hurricane tracking map from the National Hurricane Center. Listen to the radio or television for the latest coordinates. They are updated each hour. You will be able to trace the path of the hurricane as it moves towards land.

If you had been around in 1900 when the deadliest hurricane in history struck Galveston, your track would have looked something like this. At that time there were no weather satellites or Doppler radar. However, people were advised to seek higher ground by the U.S. Weather Bureau. Unfortunately, many folks didn't take the warnings seriously. They thought it would be fun to watch the huge waves.

Today, a HURRICANE WATCH is issued when weather forecasters determine that you could experience hurricane conditions within 36 hours. A Hurricane Watch alerts people along the coast so that they can evacuate. It is important to keep listening to the radio or television for weather advisories from the National Weather Service.


  • Check often for official bulletins on your local radio or television.
  • Fuel your car.
  • Check mobile home tie downs.
  • Move boats to safe shelter.
  • Make sure you have the items in your Disaster Supply Kit.
  • Secure lawn furniture and other loose material outdoors.
  • Shutter or board windows. If neither are available, tape windows.

Winds in a hurricane will blow at least 74 miles an hour. A HURRICANE WARNING is issued when dangerous high water and very rough seas are expected within 24 hours. Once this warning has been issued, your family should be in the process of completing protective actions and deciding the safest location to be during the storm.


  • Stay tuned to your local radio or television station.
  • Stay home if sturdy and on high ground.
  • Board up garage and porch doors.
  • Move valuables to upper floors.
  • Bring in your pets.
  • Fill containers with drinking water.
  • Turn up refrigerator to maximum cool. Do not open unless necessary.
  • Use phone only if necessary.


  • If you're not ordered to evacuate, get into a safe room away from windows.
  • If electricity goes out, use flashlightsó candles can start fires.
  • Do not cook during the storm. A gust of wind could spread a fire and the fire department would not be able to help you!
  • BEWARE OF THE EYE OF THE STORM. Rain and wind may stop for a few minutes to a half hour. DON'T BE FOOLED. Rain and winds can suddenly pick up from the opposite direction.


  • Tune in to your local news on a battery-operated radio or television for the latest information.
  • Wait for the "all clear" before venturing outdoors.
  • Stay away from dangling power lines.
  • Report broken or damaged water, sewer or electrical lines to proper authorities.
  • Use only water that has been stored in bottles or declared safe by public officials.
  • Don't eat food opened or contaminated in any way by the storm.
  • Make temporary repairs as soon as possible to keep further damage from occurring.
  • Notify your insurance company immediately of property damage.
  • Be patient! Local, state and federal officials will work around the clock to help residents with cleanup.

Try this interactive Tropical Cyclone Tracker.

Return to the Top.

Images on this page from NOAA.