The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season is predicted to be busy—here's how to prepare.

By Stacey Leasca and Katie Holdefehr
Updated May 28, 2021
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According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be a busy one. Experts predict that there is a 60 percent chance of an above-normal number of storms during hurricane season 2021, but it isn't expected to be as active as the historic 2020 hurricane season. There are expected to be as many as 13 to 20 named storms this year, of which three to five could be major hurricanes. Preparing your home and family in advance and having an emergency plan is the best way to stay safe this hurricane season.

To start the process, check the list below for all of the food, first aid, and tools you should keep on hand. Then read on to learn more about hurricanes, the difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning, and how you can stay ahead of the storm to keep your family safe. 

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Hurricane Florence's Path Over North Carolina and South Carolina
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1 What is a hurricane?

It’s important to understand that a hurricane is a distinct weather event from just a regular storm.

As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) explained, hurricanes first start out as a tropical cyclone, which is “a rotating low-pressure weather system that has organized thunderstorms but no fronts (a boundary separating two air masses of different densities).” Not all cyclones turn into hurricanes. However, tropical cyclones that come with maximum sustained surface winds of less than 39 miles per hour (mph) move into a category called tropical depressions. Then, those with maximum sustained winds of 39 mph or higher are called tropical storms. And when the storm’s maximum sustained winds reach 74 mph, it then becomes an official hurricane.

The Missouri Search and Rescue team prepare for Hurricane Florence in North Carolina
Credit: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/Getty Images

2 Why are they called hurricanes?

According to National Geographic, the name “hurricane” comes from the Caribbean god of evil, named Hurrican.

RELATED: Why and How Are Hurricanes Named?

Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a Category Five Storm
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3 How are hurricanes measured?

Each storm is measured on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which gives the storm a one to five rating. That rating is based on a hurricane's maximum sustained winds. For example, a category one storm has sustained winds of 74 to 95 mph. A category one storm can produce some damage, including structural damage to rooftops and trees.

A category five storm, however, comes with sustained winds of 157 mph or higher. It will produce catastrophic damage. For reference, Hurricane Katrina was a category five storm when it struck New Orleans in 2005.

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4 What’s the difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning?

As NOAA explains that a hurricane warning means hurricane conditions are expected to hit your area. These warnings are typically issued 36 hours in advance. A hurricane watch means these conditions could possibly hit your area. Hurricane watches are typically issued 48 hours in advance.

Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, in the Hurricane Florence path
Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

5 When is hurricane season?

The official "Hurricane Season" begins on June 1 and ends on November 30, according to NOAA's National Hurricane Center. But, that doesn’t mean hurricanes can’t happen before or after those dates. NOAA explained that on average, hurricanes occur 12 times a year in the Atlantic basin.

Here's How to Prepare for a Hurricane
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6 How to prepare for a hurricane:

If you can ride out the storm, the National Hurricane Survival Initiative suggests the following hurricane prep list:

  • Water (at least two quarts of bottled water per person per day)
  • Food (a three-day supply per person of nonperishable food should do)
  • First-aid kit (band-aids, gauze, prescription, and non-prescription drugs)
  • Tools (mess kits, pliers, storage containers, batteries)
  • Clothing (a few clean pairs of underwear, socks, and warm items)
  • Entertainment (board games and books)
  • Radio (to stay informed if the power goes out)
  • Pet needs (food, their own water, and bedding)

RELATED: These Are the Best Foods to Stockpile for an Emergency

For more information on preparing for and staying safe during the hurricane season check out the National Hurricane Center and follow all the rules and advice of first responders.