About Hurricanes

About Hurricanes - how they work, how to prepare for one, and how they've affected Cape Coral.

Hurricane season officially lasts from June 1 - November 30.

Most hurricanes and tropical storms in Florida tend to occur in August and September.

As the hurricane moves across the ocean, it sucks in warm, moist air from the bottom while expelling cool air out of the top.

Surface temperature of Gulf waters needs to be 82 degrees for a hurricane to develop. It gathers intensity until it makes landfall, where it then loses power. But how do hurricanes impact people and buildings, and what can Cape Coral residents expect when a storm hits?

about hurricanes

Hurricane Categories

One thing that is very important to understand about hurricanes is their category.

That will help you to determine whether to put up your hurricane shutters or not, ride out the storm, or evacuate.

  • Category 1 - Winds: 74-95 mph(64-82 kt) Surge: 4-5 ft
    No real damage to building structures. Damage primarily to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery, and trees. Also, some coastal flooding and minor pier damage.
  • Category 2 - Winds: 96-110 mph(83-95 kt) Surge: 6-8 ft
    Some roofing material, door, and window damage. Considerable damage to vegetation, mobile homes, etc. Flooding damages piers and small craft in unprotected moorings may break their moorings.

  • Category 3 - Winds: 111-130 mph(96-113 kt) Surge: 9-12 ft
    Some structural damage to small residences and utility buildings, with a minor amount of curtain-wall failures. Mobile homes are destroyed. Flooding near the coast destroys smaller structures with larger structures damaged by floating debris. Terrain may be flooded well inland.

  • Category 4 - Winds: 131-155 mph(114-135 kt) Surge: 13-18 ft
    More extensive curtain-wall failures with some complete roof structure failure on small residences. Major erosion of beach areas. Terrain may be flooded well inland.

  • Category 5 - Winds: 155 mph+(135+ kt) Surge: 18 ft +
    Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away. Flooding causes major damage to lower floors of all structures near the shoreline. Massive evacuation of residential areas may be required.

Cape Coral has a high-speed, telephone emergency notification service that you can sign up for online called CodeRED, This emergency system has the ability to deliver a prerecorded message about hurricane's evacuation advisories or evacuation orders at a rate of up to 60,000 calls per hour.

Because of possible power loss, it is important that you have a battery-operated radio or TV, and an old fashioned phone that doesn't require electricity.

If you prefer, you can sign up for CodeRED by calling (239)242-3901.


Damaging wind is one thing about hurricanes, flooding is quite another. Flooding can occur from heavy rains and storm surge.

It's important to know the elevation of your property and where you are in Cape Coral's flood zones.

Generally, if you live within a mile or 2 of the water that surrounds the Cape, either the Caloosahatchee River or Matlacha Pass, you're in a flood zone.  Go to this website to see a map of Lee County Flood Zones.

Cape Coral has not had problems with flooding of properties at least 15' above sea level, though that doesn't necessarily mean flooding of higher properties can't happen in the future.  To check the height above sea level of your property, go to VeloRoutes.  Punch in your town first, then street address in the window.  They will also tell you the GPS coordinates of your property.

If a hurricane is threatening and they are predicting a category where the surge is higher than your property is, you will need to evacuate.

The city has evacuation routes posted and shelters for those who need a safe place to stay. To find out what to do about hurricanes, get more info on evacuation routes and shelters, and to get a Lee County All Hazards Guide go to the Lee County Emergency Operations Center.

Preparing for a Hurricane

A hurricane watch means a hurricane is possible within 36 hours. This is the time to prepare your home and family, because it might be too late once a hurricane warning has been issued.

A hurricane warning means that a hurricane is expected within 24 hours and sustained winds have reached 74+ mph.

Even though Southwest Florida has not been hit as often or as hard as other areas, our city's policy about hurricanes is to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

You can make a kit to have on hand at the beginning of the season. I keep many of these items in a plastic container, ready-to-go for just in case.

Hurricane Survival Kit Items:

  • Enough food and one gallon of water per person per day, for 3 days. Bleach and medicine dropper - dilute 1 part plain bleach in 9 parts water for a disinfectant, or 16 parts bleach in 1 gallon of water to treat drinking water during an emergency.

  • Flashlight, batteries, hand-cranked or battery-operated radio, for NOAA weather alerts about hurricanes from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.

  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags, first aid kit, can opener, pliers, duct tape, plastic sheeting.

Other Items:

  • Cash, important documents, first aid book.

  • Extra clothes, blankets or sleeping bags, mess kits, matches in waterproof container.

  • Paper and pencils, books, games, puzzles and activities for children.
  • Pet supplies, diapers and other things for baby, feminine and personal hygiene items.

One very important thing to know about hurricanes is that most shelters do not allow pets. Find a friend who is willing to take them or keep a list of pet friendly hotels.

Never leave pets outside during a storm. Keep small pets like birds and hamsters separated from cats and dogs, and separate cats and dogs, even if they are friends. Keep dangerous pets like snakes secured in crates or cages.

Cape Coral Shelters:

  • Diplomat Elementary - 1115 NE 16th Terrace
  • Diplomat Middle School - 1039 NE 16th Terrace
  • Island Coast High School - 2125 DeNavarra Parkway
  • Mariner Middle School - 425 Chiquita Blvd

Our area's pet-friendly shelter is at South Ft Myers High School, 14020 Plantation Rd.

They are only for clean and healthy dogs and cats, and residents of Lee County.

Lee County Animal Services manages this shelter. Pets are sheltered in a different section from owners.

You'll need a cage, collar and leash, their food, water, medications, your pet's medical records and ID tags. You must shelter with your pet there and will be responsible to feed, care, and exercise your pet.

If you evacuate, check for pet-friendly hotels in the location you are evacuating to.

hurricane survival kit

Memorable Cape Coral Hurricanes

Back in 1926, before hurricanes were named, a bad storm passed through and completely wiped out the bridge into Matlacha.

The bridge had been in Alva, but was taken out and floated downriver when Alva needed a bigger bridge to accommodate increasing traffic.

Workers had just finished attaching the bridge to one side when the hurricane struck and sank it.

You can read more about what happened by if you get my free ebook, Weird Cape Coral, which you get when you sign up for my newsletter Gator Bites.

hurricane donna

Hurricane Donna hit Cape Coral in 1960 with winds of 121mph and caused some of damage to the 2 year-old community.

A school bus took some residents to shelters in Ft. Myers. The rest hunkered down at the Surfside Restaurant and Nautilus Motel.

During the storm, residents at the motel kept their spirits up with a rousing sing-a-long around the piano.

Five homes had serious damage and the company promised to rebuild for everyone who lost a house, even those who didn't have insurance. No one was injured.

The developers went out of their way to make repairs quickly and allowed homeless residents to stay at the Nautilus. They fed everyone for free for the first 3 days.

They lost 30 roofs, and so another good thing that came out of Donna was a change in the way the roofs were constructed and a tightening of building codes to make homes safer.

hurricane damage

In 2004, Hurricane Charley was predicted to head up through the Tampa area, but the category 4 storm came through Sanibel, Punta Gorda, and Cape Coral instead.

There was significant wind damage, trees down, pool cages ripped out, and power outages.

Again, building codes were changed in 2006, with requirements to strengthen roofs, pool cages, garage doors. All new homes were required to have hurricane shutters for windows and glass doors.

In 2010, the codes were made stricter for the shutters, to take in consideration the negative air pressure that builds up in a structure when windows become broken. The pressure can cause roofs to collapse.

Go to my page about tips on Hurricane Shutters to find out what I've learned about them and also what I recommend.

Wilma, a category 3 hurricane hit in 2005. The eye of the storm went over Marco Island, winds were clocked at 125mph, and several homes burned to the ground in Cape Coral.

We moved to Cape Coral the end of 2006 and there haven't been any significant storms since we've been here. We had a threat in 2008, but Hurricane Gustav pooped out by the time it got here and we only had a minor storm.

tropical storms in florida

In 2012, Tropical Storm Isaac was not much of a problem either.

For more tracking information about hurricanes and tropical storms, go to Wunderground.

tropical storm isaac 2012

Related Pages to About Hurricanes

Water Twisters
Brush Fires

Red Tides
Hurricane Shutters

Return to Cape Coral Weather

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