Hurricane Season is approaching and emergency management officials are encouraging residents to gear up as part of Hurricane Preparedness Week – which started on Monday.
Early, unofficial predictions indicate a less than active season along the Atlantic Basin but experts still warn that’s no reason to feel complacent.
Chris Thomas has more.
If you want a reliable preview of the year’s Atlantic Coast hurricane season, look no further than…Fort Collins, Colorado.
Specifically Colorado State University and its Department of Atmospheric Science.
“They’re usually quite accurate. They’ve been doing it for many decades so they’ve had a lot of practice in making these forecasts.”
Hal Austin is a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.
The university’s 2017 preview was released last month and 11 named storms are predicted. That would make it the least active season in three years when there were only eight named storms in the Atlantic.
“The average is 12 so just a little bit below normal. Of those named storms…four hurricanes and two storms of category three or higher.”
We also may be in for another round of El Nino – a system that causes warmer-than-average temperatures in the Pacific Ocean and weakens trade winds in the Atlantic Ocean. That system tends to stabilize conditions along the Atlantic Coast and minimize the chances of hurricane conditions.
“There’s about a 50-50 chance of an El Nino developing toward the beginning of hurricane season, so we’ll just have to watch that and see.”
And a relatively inactive hurricane season doesn’t necessarily mean a hurricane free season. As already mentioned, the Atlantic Coast only had eight named storms in 2014 but one of them was Hurricane Arthur on Independence Day – the earliest recorded hurricane to make landfall in North Carolina.
1992 was also a relatively inactive year on the Atlantic Coast with seven named storms and one major hurricane.
That storm was named Andrew and it was one of the most devastating, Gulf Coast hurricanes on record. Though it may reduce the chances of a catastrophic event, Austin says all it takes is one storm to do a world of damage – even if it isn’t a hurricane.
“Whether we have an El Nino or a La Nina season, all it takes is one hurricane one slow moving hurricane or tropical storm to dump a lot of rain.”
Hurricane Matthew was a Category 1 storm by the time it reached the North Carolina coast and had a “moderate storm surge” according to the National Weather Service. But it was the flooding it left in its wake – which put communities along the Neuse and Tar Rivers underwater for weeks – that left the biggest impact.
The storm caused more than a billion dollars in damage statewide – though it seems the state will only receive about $6 million of support from the federal government.
This is Hurricane Preparedness Week and North Carolina Emergency Services is asking individuals, families, and communities to get ahead of the game and start putting an emergency kit together.
Items like battery powered radios, candles, and cash are staples of these kits.
“Always keep your car filled with gas, have extra medicine, non-perishable food on hand, be sure to watch after your pets – have extra pet food – know where to go in case you have to evacuate. Know what…highways to take. Some of those things.
To avoid physical or property damage, Austin also suggests tending to trees that may pose a danger in case of over saturation.
“If you have any dead or dying trees, go ahead and have them taken down and disposed of if you can. Any shallow rooted trees that might be blown over in a hurricane you should shore them up or remove them to make sure they don’t fall on your house or your vehicle.”
Atlantic Hurricane Season officially begins June 1 and the National Weather Service will release their official storm prediction toward the end of May. No definite release date has been announced but it should be expected by Memorial Day weekend.
I’m Chris Thomas.