By definition, a hurricane is a powerful tropical storm in which wind speeds exceed 74 miles per hour for an extended period of time. These storms start and gain their momentum over warm ocean waters, but they frequently venture from their watery birthplaces onto dry land. When a hurricane hits land, it can have devastating effects. There are many things that people who are unlucky enough to find their homes in the path of a hurricane can do to prepare for the storm. Cracking windows open isn't one of them.
Leaving your home's windows slightly open when preparing for the arrival of a hurricane is not a good idea. It can do more harm than good.
Don't Open the Windows
For years it has often been stated that people should open their windows when preparing for the arrival of a hurricane to prevent damage to their houses. The well-meaning people who give this advice tell homeowners that cracking their windows will allow the pressure to equalize and minimize the damage to the house. This advice, however, has long proven to be unwise. Well-respected agencies such as the National Weather Service advise homeowners to keep their windows firmly shut. Authorities on the subject now agree that leaving windows slightly open can actually do more harm than good.
Hurricane-force winds are never predictable. They constantly vary in intensity and direction. Cracking your windows can allow even more air pressure to build within your home as the winds whip through your residence. This trapped air will have to escape and can severely damage your home while finding an exit route. Also, opening your windows can allow more debris to enter your home and damage your property. Currently, scientists agree that it's a bad idea to crack your windows in preparation for the arrival of a hurricane — that you'll be following outdated advice that can actually lead to more destruction.
What to Do Instead
Instead of opening windows before the storm hits, you should protect your windows by shuttering them or boarding them up to help shield your home from the high winds and flying debris that frequently accompany a hurricane. If you live in a hurricane-prone area, you can get special hurricane-resistant shutters that are made to stand up to the strong hurricane winds. There are several types of hurricane shutter materials, including aluminum, plywood, high-strength fabric and polycarbonate plastic. Available styles include Bahama-style and roll-down shutters.
Another option for the conscientious homeowner is the installation of impact-resistant windows. These windows, which look the same as traditional windows, are more able to withstand wind and flying debris. To prevent damage to your home as far as possible during a hurricane, your aim should be to close up your house, not invite the wind inside by opening windows.
Other Precautions and Resources
There's a lot involved in preparing for coming hurricanes, and there are good resources offering valuable preparedness information. The website of the National Center for Environmental Health — part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — outlines steps to take when you learn of an impending storm. Their site can be used as a checklist and includes information on basic steps, gathering emergency supplies and how to create a family emergency plan. In addition, you'll find suggestions on protecting older adults and pets, evacuation and guidelines for staying safe after the hurricane.
Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.