Types of severe weather we see in spring and summer include thunderstorms,  hurricanes or tropical storms, and tornadoes. These extreme weather events bring heavy rain, lightning, hail, damaging high wind, and flooding. This can lead to personal injury, property damage, transportation to be shut down, and power outages.

Be ready for what Mother Nature may bring and what to do if your affected by severe storms.

Stay Informed

  • Severe weather can develop quickly. Sign up to get real time weather updates direct from the National Weather Service though the City’s mass notification system, ReadyPhiladelphia. Important information is sent to your phone or inbox and text or email, free of charge.
  • Know the difference between weather Advisories, Watches, and Warnings. The National Weather Service will publish information, alerting you the possibility or reality of severe weather. Advisory: Be Aware. Watch: Be Prepared. Warning: Take Action.
  • Follow City social media accounts for information; @PhiladelphiaGov, @PhilaOEM, @Philly311, @PhilaStreets, @PhillyPolice, and @PhillyFireDept.


  • Prior to a storm approaching, learn the safest route from your home to high ground in case you have to evacuate.
    • Think of where you’d go and how you’d get there if told to evacuate. This should be part of your Family Emergency Plan. Account for all members of your family, including those more vulnerable or with access and functional needs.
    • Be sure to account for your pets, never leave them behind. Identify family or friends who can take them in the event of an evacuation. Animals are welcome at all City of Philadelphia evacuation shelters, reception centers, and on SEPTA evacuation transport vehicles.
  • Understand the difference between a flood watch and a flood warning.
    • Each designation represents a different level of action to be taken. Flood or flash flood watch means flooding may occur. Stay alert and watch rivers and streams.  Flood or flash flood warning is more serious and means there is actual flooding.
  • You will need supplies that are found in a shelter-in-place kit to not only get through the storm, but for the aftermath as well. Utilities such as electricity and water may be out for a prolonged period, so have enough non-perishable food, water and medicine to last each person in your family a minimum of one week.
  • The National Weather Service says more deaths occur yearly due to flooding than from any other thunderstorm related hazard.
    • Center for Disease Control (CDC) statistics show that over half of all flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood water. This is followed closely by flood-related deaths due to walking into or near flood waters.
    • Six inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. 12 inches of rushing water can carry away a small car.  Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles.
    • If you encounter flood waters on a roadway, Turn Around, Don’t Drown. Please do not drive around barricades.
  • Severe storms that produce heavy rain cause flooding, which is more prevalent in urban areas like Philadelphia that have less green space. The Philadelphia Water Department has information to help you be informed on flooding, how it affects different neighborhoods, and what you can do to mitigate damage in your home or business.
  • You can check flood stages from your laptop or phone. The National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, also known as their flood-stage monitoring site, takes data from flood gauges placed at certain waterways throughout our area and give you real time water levels along with flood stages and timing.

High Wind

  • High winds can cause hazardous conditions. L&I wants both property owners and those on construction sites to be aware of dangers associated with high winds. Secure loose objects, including; trashcans, recycling containers, patio furniture, and outdoor signage at business properties or construction sites. When sustained winds reach 40 MPH, a High Wind Warning is issued by the National Weather Service. A cause for concern is that objects are propelled into people or property and also become a danger to vehicular or bike traffic.
  • Construction sites. During high wind events, L&I urges construction sites to use extreme caution and secure loose materials, especially those on the upper floors of buildings under construction. Temporary fencing, signage and tarps at constructions sites must be lashed or otherwise secured.

Power Outages

  • High winds and ice build up cause power outages. Trees topple, their limbs fall or ice weighs down lines.  Know what to have in your head, your hands, and in your home if the lights go dim. This includes having you shelter-in-place kit stocked and ready to go.
  • Reporting power outages and downed trees. Philadelphia’s power utility company PECO has ways to help before, during, and after a storm, including; preventing outagesstorm readinessstorm restoration processreporting outages online, and tracking current outages.
  • Street light outage? Call Philadelphia’s non-emergency number 3-1-1. Street lights in the city of Philadelphia are owned and maintained by the city.
  • Have a tree emergency? Philadelphia Parks and Recreation says if a tree falls during a storm and it’s blocking a road, or it has fallen on a house, car or other property, call 911. For non-emergency tree requests, please submit a request through Philly311. In the event that a tree has fallen on electrical wires, please call PECO’s emergency line: 1-800-841-4141. Do not approach.
  • The Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management recommends having a flashlight, a battery operated AM/FM radio, and spare batteries found in a Shelter-in-Place kit for easy access. Keeping your cell phone fully charged is a smart preparedness idea as well. Other beneficial knowledge includes:
    • Use flashlights for emergency lighting. Candles become a fire hazard.
    • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed tight as most food requiring refrigeration can be kept safely for several hours. An unopened fridge can keep food at the proper temperature for about 4 hours.
    • If it’s hot out, find a location to stay cool. The Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management may open a Cooling Center if warranted. Wear light colored, lightweight clothing and keep hydrated with water, even if you’re not feeling that thirsty.
    • If it’s cold out, wear layers of clothing. Do not burn charcoal indoors nor use your over as a source of heating. If the power may be out for a prolonged period, plan to go to another location, like a relative or friends house. OEM may open up a Warming Center if there is a need.
    • Turn off or disconnect appliances and other equipment in case of a momentary power “surge” that can damage computers and other devices. Consider adding surge protectors.
    • If you are considering purchasing a generator for your home, consult an electrician or engineer before purchasing and installing.

Be Insured

  • Ask your insurance company for a check-up.  The cost of flood insurance can be a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of flood damage.
    • Make sure you have enough homeowners or renter’s insurance for your residence.  Standard homeowners insurance does not cover flooding. Whether you’re a homeowner or renter, you’ll need a separate policy for it, and it’s available through your company, agent or the National Flood Insurance Program.
    • Flood insurance requires a 30-day wait period, so act before the storm. Not all insurance policies are the same.
    • Coverage amounts, deductibles, and payment caps can vary significantly. Talk with your insurance provider to find what fits you best.
  • Are you a business owner? Whether you are Main Street mom-and-pop or Broad Street hi-rise, having a business continuity plan is imperative.
    • Federal statistics say up to 40% of businesses never recover after a major disaster. Be Ready. Stay Open.


Follow Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management on Twitter. Like us on  Facebook