Know your zone? How to prepare if hurricane hits Massachusetts

BOSTON — It has been 25 years since a hurricane made landfall in New England, but Massachusetts leaders are preparing for the next possible strike.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, or MEMA, said hurricane evacuation zones and the “Know Your Zone” campaign were only created in Massachusetts in the last three years.

“People that are on Cape Cod understand, to some degree, that they could be impacted by a hurricane. People that are in Boston and Cambridge probably less so," said MEMA director Kurt Schwartz.


Half of the deaths from tropical storms and hurricanes come from storm surge.

According to MEMA, storm surge is an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm, over and above the predicted astronomical tide.

MEMA created an interactive map on the state’s three evacuation zones.

Tap here to see your community

Zone A in red is the first to flood and the first to evacuate. Although it includes the entire coastline, the storm surge could reach some houses nearly 10 miles inland.

Yellow Zone B is next to evacuate.

Finally, the green zone C is for additional flooding by a west moving storm like Hurricane Sandy.

New this year, the National Hurricane Center created a Storm Surge Warning, separate from a Hurricane Warning, to highlight coastal communities at risk of flooding.

Preparing on Cape Cod

Mick Dunning is remodeling his house on the Cape.

"This was built in 50. Downstairs was built in '15," he said of his family’s house in Sandwich.

But after working on the Jersey coast when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, he's worried about what would happen here.

"They've never seen anything like that down here," he recalled. "If we ever get that around here with a 10 foot (storm surge) my parent's house is just around the corner. They'd be flooded."

Evacuation Order

MEMA says it could take hours to days to evacuate everyone, depending on the time of year, weather and traffic conditions -- especially Cape Cod where there are only two bridges out.

"We may need 48 hours to really evacuate the people that are going to want to leave or need to leave," said Schwartz

That’s 12 hours to position police, signs, tow trucks, gas trucks and shelters before a single car hits the road. Add another 36 hours of bumper to bumper traffic to get everyone out.

In addition, when winds reach 70mph, the bridges off the Cape have to close.

“All traffic will on the roads will be directed to Joint Base Cape Cod,” said Schwartz. “People will move into bunks and be cared for with food, water, all their services to ride out the storm."

Still outside the Cape, there are 100s of people in the greater Boston area that may need to evacuate.

"When you look at the road network it's not like the people that want to evacuate Revere can get in their car and know that in an hour or two they're going to be on safe ground," Schwartz said. "And it's not just Revere. It's Hull, Winthrop, Boston."

And when the storm arrives, it may be too late to leave.

FOX25 Stormtracker meteorologist Shiri Spear got a first-hand look of the problem from a boat with the Sandwich fire department.

Mike Harrington pointed out a neighborhood that they can’t reach when there’s water on the road because of the tide.

“If they don't evacuate, you're going to ride the storm out.  And if something happens, you're on your own" he said.

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