Coastal Storms & Hurricanes

A satellite image of a hurricane making its way up the East Coast of the United States.

Coastal storms, including nor'easters, tropical storms and hurricanes, can and do affect New York City. It's important New Yorkers take the time to prepare. All residents should have a plan in the event they need to evacuate or ride out the storm at home.

Visit the Know Your Zone website for everything you need to know about hurricanes in New York City.

Know the Terms

  • Nor'easter: an intense storm that can cause heavy rain and snow, strong winds, and coastal flooding. Nor'easters have cold, low barometric cores. Nor'easters may occur at any time of the year but are most common during fall and winter months.
  • Tropical Cyclone: an organized, rotating, low-pressure weather system of clouds and thunderstorms that develops in the tropics.
  • Tropical Depression: a tropical cyclone with sustained winds of 38 mph or less.
  • Tropical Storm: a tropical cyclone with sustained winds of 39 mph to 73 mph.
  • Tropical Storm Watch: issued when there is a threat of tropical storm conditions in 48 hours.
  • Tropical Storm Warning: tropical storm expected within 36 hours.
  • Hurricane: a tropical cyclone with sustained winds of 74 mph or greater. Hurricanes are classified into five categories (1 through 5) according to the hurricane's sustained wind speed. As the wind speed and intensity of a storm increases, the category number increases.
  • Hurricane Season: for the Atlantic, the season begins June 1 and ends November 30. (Historically, the greatest potential for hurricanes in New York City occurs from August through October.)
  • Hurricane Watch: an announcement that hurricane conditions are possible within a specified area. Watches are issued 48 hours before tropical-storm-force winds are predicted to occur.
  • Hurricane Warning: an announcement that hurricane conditions are expected within a specified area. The warning is issued 36 hours before tropical-storm-force winds are predicted to occur.
  • Storm Surge: a dome of ocean water that is pushed ashore by the oncoming hurricane’s winds. Learn more about storm surge and other types of flooding
  • Storm Surge Watch: the possibility of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the shoreline somewhere within the specified area, generally within 48 hours, in association with an ongoing or potential tropical cyclones, a subtropical cyclone or a post-tropical cyclone.
  • Storm Surge Warning: the danger of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the shoreline somewhere within the specified area, generally within 36 hours, in association with an ongoing or potential tropical cyclones, a subtropical cyclone or a post-tropical cyclone.

What to Do Before a Hurricane

  • Develop a plan with your household members that outlines what to do, how to find each other, and how to communicate if a hurricane strikes. Use Ready New York: My Emergency Plan at NYC.gov/myemergencyplan.
  • Know your zone. Areas of the city subject to storm surge flooding are divided into six evacuation zones (1 through 6) based on risk of storm surge flooding. The City may order residents to evacuate depending on the hurricane's track and projected storm surge. Use the Hurricane Evacuation Zone Finder or call 311 (212-639-9675 for Video Relay Service, or TTY: 212-504-4115) to find out if your address is located in an evacuation zone. If you live in an evacuation zone, have a plan for where you will go if an evacuation order is issued for your area.
    • Note: Flood zones are used to set flood insurance rates and building regulations. *Residents should not use flood zones to determine the need to evacuate during coastal storms.* The City will determine which of the hurricane evacuation zones (from zone 1 up through zone 6) should be evacuated based on the characteristics of an actual storm as it is approaching the city. For more information about flood zones, visit NYC.gov/floodmaps or www.floodhelpny.org.
  • Stay informed. Sign up for Notify NYC, the City of New York's official, free emergency communications program. Register for emergency notifications by getting the free Notify NYC mobile application, visiting NYC.gov/notifynyc, contacting 311 (212-639-9675 for Video Relay Service, or TTY: 212-504-4115) or following @NotifyNYC on Twitter. (Notify NYC messages are available through many formats, including email, text messages, telephone, the Notify NYC website, RSS, Twitter, and American Sign Language videos.)
  • Have the right insurance. Whether you rent or own your home, flood and wind damage are not covered by basic policies. You will need to buy a separate policy to protect your home in the case of flooding. Visit www.floodsmart.gov for more about the National Flood Insurance Program.
  • Check on friends, relatives, and neighbors, especially older adults and people with disabilities, access and functional needs, or health conditions. Help them to prepare and evacuate if needed.

For People with Disabilities, Access and Functional Needs

  • If you have a disability, access or functional need, make sure your plan addresses how your needs may affect your ability to evacuate, shelter in place, or communicate with emergency workers. Arrange help from family, friends, or service providers if you will need assistance. If you are unable to evacuate on your own, contact 311 for assistance.
  • If you depend on power for life-sustaining equipment, plan to evacuate. You may lose power following a hurricane. Ask your utility company if your medical equipment qualifies you to be listed as a life-sustaining equipment customer.
    • If you or anyone in your home depends on electrically-powered life-sustaining medical equipment (such as a ventilator or cardiac device), receives dialysis or has limited mobility, there are specific steps you should take to prepare for a coastal storm.
  • Allow additional travel time and consider your transportation, dietary, and medical needs (oxygen, extra batteries/chargers, eyeglasses, prescriptions, etc.)
  • Bring all medications with you, and have contact information for your health providers written down. Make a photocopy of your emergency contacts and health information. Keep it in your wallet or purse at all times.

More Resources

Learn more from the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene

If a Storm Approaches

  • Bring inside loose, lightweight objects, such as lawn furniture and garbage cans.
  • Anchor objects that will be unsafe to bring inside, like gas grills or propane tanks. Turn off propane tanks.
  • Close windows and outside doors securely.
  • Move valuable items from basements to upper floors. (Basements are vulnerable to flooding.)
  • Charge cell phone batteries.
  • Top off your vehicle and generator with fuel.
  • Consider moving your vehicle to higher ground if you live in an evacuation zone.
  • Turn your refrigerator and freezer to a colder setting. If you lose power, items that need refrigeration will stay cooler for longer.
  • Fill your bathtub and other large containers with water — you may lose water service if the power goes out.
  • Refill prescription medications.
  • Take out extra cash.
  • Residents of high-rise apartment buildings and basement apartments may face special risks from hurricanes even if they live outside evacuation zone boundaries.
    • If you live in a high-rise building, make sure your windows are closed, stay away from windows in case they break or shatter.
    • Basements are vulnerable to flooding. If you live in a basement apartment, be prepared to take shelter above ground.
  • Gather supplies. Every household member should have a Go Bag — a collection of items you may need during an evacuation — packed in an easy-to-carry container such as a backpack.
  • You may need to shelter in place (stay at home) during and after a hurricane.
  • Keep enough supplies in your home for up to seven days. Additionally, basic services, such as electricity, water, public transportation, and telephones may be disrupted for several days or longer. Make sure that you have enough additional supplies for potential service outages.

More Resources

Coastal storm-related health and safety tips (NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene)

If You Must Evacuate

  • Know your zone. Determine whether you live in an evacuation zone by using the Hurricane Evacuation Zone Finder at NYC.gov/knowyourzone or call 311 (212-639-9675 for Video Relay Service, or TTY: 212-504-4115). Zones are color-coded and labeled 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 when represented on a map. If your address is in one of the City’s hurricane evacuation zones, you may be ordered to evacuate if a hurricane threatens New York City.
  • Evacuees should be prepared to stay with friends or family who live outside evacuation zone boundaries.
  • If you cannot stay with friends or family, use the Hurricane Evacuation Zone Finder, or call 311 (212-639-9675 for Video Relay Service, or TTY: 212-504-4115) to identify which evacuation center is most appropriate for you.
    • Evacuation information is subject to change. For the latest information, visit NYC.gov or call 311 (212-639-9675 for Video Relay Service, or TTY: 212-504-4115). Visit the MTA's website at www.mta.info or call 511 for the latest transit information. If you need assistance evacuating during an emergency, please call 311.
    • Information on evacuation centers, including accessibility features, is subject to change. Please visit NYC.gov/knowyourzone or contact 311 for updated reports on building status and accessibility features.
  • When a coastal storm is approaching, the City may order the evacuation of neighborhoods in danger of flooding from storm surge, starting with zone 1 and adding more zones as needed. Zones will be evacuated depending on life safety-related threats from a hurricane’s forecasted strength, track, and storm surge.

*If the City issues an evacuation order for your area, do so as directed.* The City will communicate through local media specific instructions about which areas of the city should evacuate. If a mandatory evacuation is issued, do so as directed. Use public transportation if possible, keeping in mind that public transportation may shut down hours before the storm. For additional information about how to evacuate, including transportation options, please contact 311 (212-639-9675 for Video Relay Service, or TTY: 212-504-4115).

How to Evacuate

Since flooding and high winds can occur many hours before a hurricane makes landfall, evacuees should leave their homes immediately if instructed to do so by emergency officials. The City strongly recommends evacuees stay with friends or family who live outside evacuation zones. Evacuees should plan their mode of transportation with special care and take the following steps:

  • Plan to use mass transit as much as possible, as it offers the fastest way to reach your destination. Using mass transit reduces the volume of evacuees on the roadways, reducing the risk of dangerous and time-consuming traffic delays. Please note that public transportation may shut down hours before the storm.
  • Listen carefully to local news media, which will broadcast reports about weather and transportation conditions.
  • Leave early. Hazards like strong winds, heavy rain, and flooding may force the early closure of roads, bridges, and tunnels. Also, evacuate early if you rely on elevators to get out of your building. Elevators may be out of service and may not be available at all times.
  • Allow additional travel time and consider your transportation, dietary, and medical needs (oxygen, extra batteries/chargers, eyeglasses, prescriptions, etc.). Bring all medications with you and have contact information for your health providers written down to carry with you.
  • The City advises against car travel during an evacuation. The City will be working hard to keep roads clear, but traffic is unavoidable in any evacuation.
    • Be ready for a long, slow trip. The City will monitor conditions along major transportation routes to help vehicular traffic flow as smoothly as possible.
    • Evacuation route signs point the way to high ground, away from coastal flooding. If you must evacuate, leave your home before storm conditions make roadways unsafe.
    • Stay tuned to local media for information about road and bridge closures. New York State's 511 can help you monitor traffic on State roads.
    • Many evacuation centers do NOT have parking available.
    • Wind restrictions and vehicle bans may be implemented on area bridges. Large vehicles such as trailers, trucks, other vehicles with higher wind profiles will be restricted sooner than cars or SUVs.
    • In any significant rainstorm, *avoid driving through standing water.*

If you must go to an evacuation center, it is important to carefully select what you take with you. Do not bring more than you can carry, but be sure to bring your Go Bag with you.

Evacuation information is subject to change. For the latest information, visit NYC.gov or call 311 (212-639-9675 for Video Relay Service, or TTY: 212-504-4115). Visit the MTA's website at www.mta.info or call 511 for the latest transit information. If you need assistance evacuating during an emergency, please call 311.

Evacuation Transportation for People with Disabilities and Others with Access or Functional Needs

When the Mayor has issued an evacuation order due to a coastal storm or hurricane, people with disabilities or other access or functional needs, who have no other options to evacuate safely, can request transportation assistance.

Depending on your need, you will either be taken to:

  • An accessible evacuation center in an accessible vehicle, OR
  • A hospital outside of the evacuation zone via ambulance.

You may not be able to request transportation to a specific address.

Specific instructions about which areas of the City should be evacuated will be communicated through various channels. If you live or are staying in an evacuation zone and your zone is ordered to evacuate, leave as soon as you can.

Use public transportation to evacuate if possible. When considering your transportation route, be aware that public transportation, including MTA's Access-A-Ride, may shut down hours before the storm arrives.

For Residents of High-Rise Buildings and Basements

Residents of high-rise apartment buildings may face special risks from hurricanes even if they live outside evacuation zone boundaries.

If you live in a high-rise building, make sure your windows are closed, stay away from windows in case they break or shatter.

  • If you live in a high-rise building located in an evacuation zone, heed all storm warnings and evacuation orders.
  • If you live in a high-rise building outside of an evacuation zone, especially on the 10th floor or above, stay away from windows in case they break or shatter. You should move to a lower floor. Be aware of your building's evacuation plan. Read OSHA's tips for Evacuating High-Rise Buildings (in PDF)

If you live in a basement, you may face additional risks from hurricanes even if you live outside evacuation zone boundaries. Many areas of the city can experience rainfall flooding. If you live in a basement apartment, be prepared to take shelter above ground, and move valuable items from basements to upper floors.

Evacuation Centers and Sheltering

The City strongly recommends evacuees stay with friends or family who live outside evacuation zones. For those who have no other shelter, the City will open evacuation centers throughout the five boroughs.

All evacuees will be accepted, and evacuees will not be asked about their immigration status at any New York City evacuation center or shelter.

Evacuation centers include accessible facilities and accommodations for people with disabilities and access and functional needs.*

To find out the location of your nearest evacuation center, use NYC Emergency Management's Hurricane Evacuation Zone Finder.

If you are going to an evacuation center, pack lightly, and bring:

  • Your Go Bag
  • Sleeping bag or bedding
  • At least a week's supply of any medication (if possible), medical supplies, or medical equipment you use regularly
  • Toiletries

If You Have a Pet or Service Animal

Make sure your disaster plan addresses what you will do with your pet or service animal if a hurricane requires you to leave your home.

If you cannot shelter your pet at a kennel or with friends or relatives outside the evacuation area, pets are allowed at all City evacuation centers. Please bring supplies to care for your pet or service animal, including food, leashes, a carrier, and medication.

Learn more about emergency preparedness for pets

*Information on evacuation centers, including accessibility features, is subject to change. Please visit the Hurricane Evacuation Zone Finder or contact 311 for information about a particular facility and updated reports on building status and accessibility features.

More Resources

Watch the video below for information about staying in evacuation centers (presented in American Sign Language).

If You Are Not Ordered to Evacuate

  • Be prepared to lose power. Make sure you have all recommended items in your emergency supply kit in case you lose power or other basic services.
    • If you have concerns about how a loss of power, basic services, and public transportation may affect you, consider evacuating.
  • Shelter in place. If you do not need to evacuate, shelter in place and make use of your emergency supply kit. Stay away from windows in case they break or shatter and stay indoors to avoid hurricane hazards.
  • Stay informed and connected. Listen to local weather forecasts and announcements from officials. NYC Emergency Management will send emergency alerts and updates to New Yorkers through various channels.

What to Do After a Hurricane

  • Listen to authorities for information and special instructions.
  • Be careful during clean-up. Wear protective clothing and work with someone else.
  • Do not touch electrical equipment if it is wet or if you are standing in water. If it is safe to do so, turn off electricity at the main breaker or fuse box to prevent electric shock.
  • Avoid wading in flood water, which can contain dangerous debris. Underground or downed power lines can also electrically charge the water.
  • Save phone calls for emergencies. Phone systems are often down or busy after a disaster. Use text messages or social media to communicate with family and friends.
  • Document any property damage with photographs. Contact your insurance company for assistance.

What the City Does

The City’s Coastal Storm Plan describes a citywide response to a large-scale coastal storm event, particularly a hurricane. The worst-case scenario for New York City is a Category 4 hurricane strike, a catastrophic event that would affect all New Yorkers. The Coastal Storm Plan includes scalable plans for operations such as evacuation (including healthcare facility evacuation), sheltering, logistics management, donations and volunteer management, commodity distribution, debris management, and public information.

The City works closely with the National Weather Service to monitor severe weather threats that could affect the five boroughs. The City uses several forms of media to alert the public in an emergency, including Notify NYC, the City of New York's official emergency communications program.