The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

How to prepare for Hurricane Harvey — whether you evacuate or not

Texas Department of Transportation signage warns drivers to Hurricane Harvey’s development. (Jason Hoekema/The Brownsville Herald via AP)
Placeholder while article actions load

How are you preparing for Hurricane Harvey? Tell us in the comments and we’ll add your good ideas to the list.

Hurricane Harvey will probably be Texas’s most devastating storm in more than a decade. It will reach the coast as a major hurricane Friday and linger over the same location through the weekend. Rainfall will be torrential and prolonged. Flooding is guaranteed — though we don’t know exactly where yet.

More than half of all hurricane deaths are caused by flooding, and the majority of those occur while people are in their cars. This is preventable. By preparing now, you can keep your family safe.

“Today is the day to prepare for Harvey,” said Rick Knabb, former director of the National Hurricane Center and current Weather Channel hurricane expert, “before conditions deteriorate on Friday and life-threatening inland floods, storm surge, and winds begin and potentially last for days.”

“If local officials tell you to evacuate from the risk of storm surge, follow all of their instructions and leave promptly,” Knabb added, “because evacuation is the only way to ensure safety from storm-surge flooding.”

Even if you aren’t under a mandatory evacuation, you still need to be prepared for the worst. offers these tips to prepare for a hurricane and/or flood.

Strengthening Harvey forecast to slam Texas coast as first major hurricane in U.S. since 2005

If you’re evacuating

If you’re ordered to evacuate, don’t waste time. The sooner you leave, the safer you’ll be. It might be wise to leave before the order if you can sense it coming.

Before the evacuation order, map a route.

Fill up your gas tank.

Hotels will be crowded, so plan to make many calls for availability. Even better — stay with friends or relatives if you can.

You can go to a shelter as a last resort; they will be crowded and uncomfortable and should be used only by people who have nowhere else to go. You will not be able to bring your pets. You should take your emergency kit with you to the shelter, since it will probably not be able to provide anything more than a roof over your head.

What to pack:

  • Cash
  • Clothes
  • Some food and water for the road
  • Prescriptions and nonprescription medications (like pain relievers)
  • Diaper bag for baby
  • Toys and  books for children
  • Pets and their supplies (food and water for three to seven days, leashes, harnesses)
  • Important documents, copies of insurance policies, ID cards (in a plastic bag)
  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • First-aid kit
  • Local maps
  • Cellphone with chargers and a backup battery
  • Whistle to signal for help

Hurricane Harvey’s flood threat sparks memories of Tropical Storm Allison in Southeast Texas

If you’re staying

If you’re not ordered to evacuate and you decide to stay in your home, you should still be prepared for the worst. Prepare to lose power and running water. Have adequate supplies for several days. Roads may be flooded or blocked, so if you decide not to leave, you may not be able to change your mind.

Ways to prepare your home

Trim damaged trees or branches so they’re less likely to fall during the storm.

Secure all gutters and downspouts and clear them out to prevent home flooding.

Board up your windows if you’re close to the coast.

You can use a portable generator for power should you lose electricity, but never turn on the generator indoors and never plug a generator into a wall outlet. Don’t run it in the rain or in flooding. You can prevent the generator from getting rained on with a makeshift canopy.

Cover your air conditioning unit so debris does not damage it.

Bring your lawn furniture inside.

Reinforce or doubly secure your garage door.


  • Water — at least 1 gallon daily per person for three to seven days
  • Food — at least enough for three to seven days
    • nonperishable packaged or canned food and juices
    • food for infants or the elderly
    • snack foods
    • paper plates and plastic utensils
  • Fill your car with gas
  • Pet care items
    • proper identification, immunization records and medications
    • ample supply of food and water
    • a carrier or cage
    • muzzle and leash
  • Blankets, pillows, etc.
  • First-aid kit, medicines and prescription drugs
  • Special items for babies and the elderly
  • Toiletries, hygiene items and moisture wipes
  • Flashlight
  • Batteries
  • Fully charged cellphone with extra battery or a traditional (not cordless) telephone set
  • Cash (with some small bills)
  • Keys
  • Toys, books and games for the kids
  • Important documents (birth certificates, medical records, Social Security card, insurance policy, etc.) in a waterproof container or watertight, resealable plastic bag
  • Tools