Severe Weather and Natural Disaster Preparedness

Hurricane Season

  • Severe weather can happen at any time and may affect travel conditions for pilots and passengers;
  • It is the largest cause of flight delays in the U.S.;
  • During severe weather events, high winds, flooding, heavy downpour, power outages, damages to property and other challenges may occur;
  • Severe weather conditions include thunderstorms, tornadoes, snow storms, and massive storms, such as hurricanes.

At the FAA, we prepare all year for natural disasters so we can sustain air navigation systems, and maintain airspace safety.

Our mission is to protect the National Airspace System and ensure that anyone operating in and around a natural disaster is able to do so safely. It is vital to understand what you can do to prepare when a severe weather event will potentially impact your area with surges, flooding, and wind.

Safety Tips

Travelers

illustration of a plane landing during a thunderstormDuring a natural disaster, airports often close to the public, flight paths are rerouted, and flights can be affected around the entire country. If you plan to fly, check the status of your flight with your airline carrier. The FAA does not cancel flights. Find real-time information about airport delays at nasstatus.faa.gov.

If you do fly, for either evacuation or relief missions, check with your airline and our website for safe packing guidance before traveling with potentially dangerous goods such as fuel, lithium batteries, dry ice, certain cleaning supplies and other items that require special handling. 

Commercial & General Aviation Pilots

During a natural disaster, it's vital that you are aware of active Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) and updates to Notices to Air Missions (NOTAMs). These can change rapidly during emergency response efforts. We strongly recommend that you receive real-time flight updates through your electronic flight planning tools (EFP) or use VFR Flight Following.

In addition to following TFRs and NOTAMs, use these tips for flying relief missions:

  • Operate with two pilots
  • Operate your aircraft with traffic avoidance systems
  • Do not depend on fuel in disaster impact areas
  • Prepare for potential mechanical problems ahead of your mission
  • Prepare for uncertain ground circumstances
  • Avoid unnecessary flights and recognize the end of your mission
  • Avoid additional risk to the aircraft when carrying dangerous goods
  • Do not allow damaged batteries or power banks on your aircraft

Drone Pilots

During a natural disaster, do not fly your drone in or around emergency response efforts. There are low flying aircraft as part of the storm response — mostly in low visibility areas. If you fly, emergency response operations cannot.

To provide emergency relief with expedited approval through the Special Governmental Interest (SGI) process, submit an Emergency Operation Request Form (MS Word) with your existing Remote Pilot Certificate or Certification of Authorization (COA) – and send to the FAA's System Operations Support Center (SOSC) at 9-ator-hq-sosc@faa.gov.

If flying with your drone on commercial aircraft for either evacuation or emergency response, know that parts of your drone, such as lithium batteries, fuel cells, and components of certain parachute systems, can be classified as dangerous goods and have special packing restrictions. Learn more at www.faa.gov/packsafe

Pilots: Before You Fly

  • Check your NOTAMs and TFRs.
  • Never interfere with emergency response activities, including aircraft operations.
  • Maintain increased awareness for low altitude storm response flight activity if you are flying and navigating in the impact area.

Additional Resources

Last updated: Friday, September 8, 2023