The Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be “active or extremely active”, according to NOAA – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The season begins this Saturday (1 June) and lasts six months. Normally on average we see six hurricanes a season. This year though NOAA is predicting seven to 11 hurricanes and of those, three to six may be major hurricanes. A major hurricane would be a Category 3 – 5 storm. To put that in perspective, Hurricane Katrina was a strong category 3 when she made land in 2005. Hurricane Sandy, last year, was also rated a category 3.
“With the devastation of Sandy fresh in our minds, and another active season predicted, everyone at NOAA is committed to providing life-saving forecasts in the face of these storms and ensuring that Americans are prepared and ready ahead of time.” said Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., NOAA acting administrator. “As we saw first-hand with Sandy, it’s important to remember that tropical storm and hurricane impacts are not limited to the coastline. Strong winds, torrential rain, flooding, and tornadoes often threaten inland areas far from where the storm first makes landfall.”
“This year, oceanic and atmospheric conditions in the Atlantic basin are expected to produce more and stronger hurricanes,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
The deadliest and most destructive hurricane to touch land in the States was on 8 September 1900. A hurricane struck Galveston, Texas, claiming over 8,000 lives. A hurricane however does not have to be a “major” storm to cause financial and deadly damage. In 1972 Hurricane Agnes struck the East Coast. She was a little category 1 storm and yet her effects are still felt today in some places. She was also the first Category 1 storm to have her name retired.
Before a hurricane is the time to prepare.
If you do not already have one, now is the time to make a family emergency plan. If you do have one, review it and update it if needed. Include communications as part of your family plan. If you have children, do they know what to do if you are at work or they are at school when a disaster hits? Know your surroundings. Know where the creeks and waterways are that may flood quickly. How will they affect your plan and, if needed, your evacuation plan? Before a hurricane makes landfall, you should have a plan as to how to protect your home and belongings. This may mean purchasing boards to board up your beautiful big glass door to the porch or it may mean reinforcing your garage door. If you have outdoor patio, bring it in or otherwise secure it if your area receives a hurricane warning. This may take some planning ahead of time if you live in an apartment. Do you have a need for a generator? If someone has a medical need that requires a generator, price them periodically year round. Then you can purchase one at a reasonable price. Review your home owners or renters’ insurance. Is flood damage covered? Not all policies cover floods. Consider building a safe room if you live in an area prone to hurricanes.
Be safe during a hurricane.
Hurricanes can be a deadly destructive mix of high winds and torrential rains. During a hurricane, listen to your weather radio or local television for updates. Be sure to secure your home, closing windows and, if need be, boarding them up. Be prepared for electrical outages. If instructed by local authorities, turn off your utilities and propane tanks. Conserve your cell phone in case you loose power. Be sure to power it up before the power does go out. Know ahead of time how to keep your food safe during a power outage. One way to keep food cold is to fill empty gallon jugs with tap water beforehand and fill up the bottom of your freezer with those jugs. The frozen water in the jugs will keep the food cold for a period of time. Stay inside during a hurricane. Do not go driving around unless told to evacuate. If you do have to evacuate, do NOT drive through standing water.
Assess, clean up and conduct a ‘lessons learned’ session after the hurricane.
After the danger of the hurricane has passed, assess your situation and your property. Take note – and photos – of any damage. Continue to listen to the weather station. There may be flooding afterward even if you escaped the hurricane itself, if you live down river. If you smell gas, call your utility company from either a neighbor’s or use your cell phone away from the house. Do not use your land line if you smell gas. Drink your bottled water instead of tap water. Check your food to ensure nothing went bad. Wear gloves and protective masks while cleaning up. Keep an eye on your pets as well. Call your insurance company before making any major repairs. Every company has its own quirks and procedures and you do not want to miss being reimbursed because of procedures. Once you have cleaned up and got back to a normal state, hold a lessons learned session with the family. Compare notes as to what worked and what did not. What was helpful and what would have been helpful? If changes are to be made, update your family emergency plan then.
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