Hurricane season officially lasts from June 1st through November 30th, and 2017 has already seen four systems reach tropical storm strength. However, most activity typically occurs during August through October – the peak months of the season. August 24th will mark the 25th Anniversary of Hurricane Andrew. Andrew was one of only three hurricanes known to have made landfall in the United States at Category 5 intensity, was the most destructive hurricane in Florida’s history, and up until 2005, was the costliest storm in U.S. history.
Most people want to know if their home or community will be impacted during this hurricane season. Although the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and others issue outlooks for each season’s overall activity, no prediction can say with any level of certainty if a particular region will be impacted in any given year. Therefore, every individual and community should be prepared every year. It is the responsibility of the National Hurricane Center (NHC) to issue up to 5-day operational track and intensity forecasts for each storm and to provide watches and warnings to geographic areas that may be affected.
Basin-wide hurricane activity varies greatly from year-to-year – both in the number and intensity of storms and in the regions where the storms make landfall. Since 1995, the North Atlantic Hurricane basin (which includes the North Atlantic, Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico) has experienced generally heightened levels of hurricane activity compared to the levels experienced during the period 1971-1994. This heightened activity has been attributed to natural climate fluctuations. It is not known when this heightened activity will end.
Although the North Atlantic basin hurricane activity has been above average during most of the years since 1995, there have been some years with average or even below-average activity. Keep in mind, however, that even “average” years can produce devastating storms (1960 with Donna, 1979 with David and Frederic, 1985 with Elena & Gloria, etc.). Hurricane Andrew was an example that even a below-average year like 1992 can create a devastating hurricane! It only takes one tropical storm or hurricane to cause a disaster. No matter what the seasonal outlook is, every region needs to be prepared.
This is the time to check your preparedness for your home, family and business. You can always be better prepared. There are many excellent resources online. Now is the time to make a plan and get supplies early. If you want to do any construction to improve your structure’s resistance to hurricane damage, don’t wait until a storm is approaching. When you do these improvements, be sure to contact your home insurance agent (and have an inspector come to check the house) to see if you qualify for additional discounts in your premium.
5 P’s of Preparedness
A good way of focusing on overall preparedness is to check off these five P’s of Preparedness:
1) Protect: The highest priority should be to protect life and property.
2) Provisions: Make sure you have emergency provisions on hand. Don’t wait until a storm is approaching and have to stand in long lines at the stores. Get the non-perishable products now. And don’t forget any special needs provisions such as baby (and pet) food, diapers, medicines, etc. As for water, simply stock up on clean, empty bottles and fill them with tap water if you are placed under a watch or warning.
3) Plans: Decide now what you will do if a storm approaches. Are you in an evacuation area? Where would you go? When will you put up shutters, etc.? If you are in a mobile home, or other non-hurricane code housing, plan to go to a shelter or friend’s house. Make the plan and share it with your family.
4) Predictions: Follow the predictions of NHC directly from their website (hurricanes.gov) or through various media outlets. Always remember every forecast has uncertainties, but please take the warnings seriously.
5) PRAY: The first time I shared the “4” P’s of preparedness, someone in the audience added this one. I have kept it on the list ever since. Pray! Pray for your family and friends. Pray for wisdom. Pray for the officials handling the approaching hurricane (NHC forecasters, FEMA, those flying into the storms to collect data, etc.)
Matthew 7:24-27 is appropriate for hurricane preparedness: “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash” (NLT).
Let’s be people who “build their house upon a rock” – those that hear wise words to prepare and do it! As an old Russian proverb states: Hope for the best: Prepare for the worst!
For operational hurricane forecasts, preparedness tips, historical data and other hurricane information, go to NHC’s website: hurricanes.gov
Stanley Goldenberg is a federal hurricane research meteorologist who published scientific articles and has flown on numerous hurricane missions. He and his family experienced the maximum winds of Hurricane Andrew just 12 hours after the birth of their fourth child (Pearl) and were in their house when it was blown apart. His story can be seen in many TV hurricane specials such as National Geographic’s CYCLONE special at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JxqoVsUUY7Y