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Preparing for the Near-Normal 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season and the Above-Normal Eastern Pacific and Central Pacific Storm Seasons

Category: Your Health & Wellness
Published: Jun, 05 2019 09:06:27

The 6-month 2019 Atlantic hurricane season started June 1st and forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predict a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season this year with a 70% chance of 9 to 15 named storms (as compared to the 2018 prediction of 10 to 16 named storms).  Named storms are storms with winds of 39 mph or higher.  Of the named storms, 4 to 8 storms could become hurricanes with winds of 74 mph or higher, and of these hurricanes, 2 to 4 storms could become major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5) with winds reaching 111 mph or higher.

So what is considered an "average" Atlantic Hurricane Season?

As noted by NOAA: "An average season produces 12 named storms of which 6 become hurricanes, including 3 major hurricanes."  (see: https://www.noaa.gov/ media-release/ noaa-predicts-near-normal- 2019-atlantic-hurricane-season)

History Lesson:  A Short Review of the last few NOAA Atlantic Hurricane Forecasts (2018, 2017, and 2016)

Looking back at 2018

The forecasters at NOAA predicted an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season in 2018 with a "70 percent likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms ..., of which 5 to 9 [storms] could become hurricanes ..., including 1 to 4 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher)."

And yes, NOAA's 2018 hurricane prediction was quite accurate: "Fifteen [15] named storms formed, of which eight [8] became hurricanes and two [2] became major hurricanes - category 3 or higher [Hurricanes Florence (140 mph max winds) and Michael (155 mph max winds)]. . .." (https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/text/ MIATWSAT.shtml)

Looking back at 2017

In May 2017, NOAA predicted an above-normal 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, with a "70 percent likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 5 to 9 [storms] could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 2 to 4 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher). [As a note: a]n average season produces 12 named storms of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes."

As you might know, the National Hurricane Center has rotating lists of names (organized in alphabetical order) used to identify tropical storms and hurricanes.  If a storm is especially "memorable," the hurricane name is retired from the lists.

Was the 2017 NOAA hurricane forecast accurate?  NOAA's 2017 hurricane prediction was not only accurate, but "[d]ue to the extensive damage caused in the United States and Caribbean [during 2017], the World Meteorological Organization’s Region IV Hurricane Committee has officially retired [the hurricane names "Harvey" (Cat. 4), "Irma" (Cat. 5), "Maria" (Cat. 5), and "Nate" (Cat. 1)]."

Looking back at 2016

In May 2016, NOAA predicted a near-normal 2016 Atlantic hurricane season, with a 70 percent chance of 10 to 16 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher).  Of these possible named storms, 4 to 8 storms could develop into hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher) and include 1 to 4 major hurricanes (with winds of 111 mph or higher).

In reality, the 2016 Hurricane season turned out to be "the most active since 2012, with 15 named storms, including 7 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes."  NOAA noted: "The strongest and longest-lived storm of the season was Matthew, which reached maximum sustained surface winds of 160 miles per hour and lasted as a major hurricane for eight days from Sept. 30 to Oct. 7.  Matthew was the first category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic basin since Felix in 2007."  In the United States, as the storm approached about 2 million people evacuated Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina - resulting in fairly massive traffic jams.  In the end, over 600 deaths resulted from Hurricane Matthew (mostly in the Caribbean) and, according to NOAA, the estimated financial loss attributed to Hurricane Matthew was around $10 billion dollars.

Bottom Line: Don't wait to see if the annual NOAA Hurricane Forecast is accurate, prepare now for the 2019 Hurricane season.

The 2019 Eastern (and Central) Pacific Hurricane Outlook

The Eastern Pacific hurricane season began on May 15th and, like the Atlantic hurricane season, also ends November 30th.  The forecast from NOAA is for a 70% chance of an above-normal season for the eastern Pacific hurricane and Central Pacific Hurricane basins.  Specifically, The eastern Pacific outlook also calls for a 70 percent probability of 15 to 20 named storms, of which 8 to 13 are expected to become hurricanes, including 4 to 8 major hurricanes. The central Pacific outlook calls for a 70 percent probability of 5 to 8 tropical cyclones, which includes tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes." (For the Eastern Pacific forecast see: http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/ products/Epac_hurr/ Epac_hurricane.html)

See also: "NOAA's 2019 Hurricane Season Outlooks" graphic for a summary of the Central Pacific, Eastern Pacific, and Atlantic Hurricane Seasons:  https://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/ products/Epac_hurr/ Slide1.JPG

Here are some common terms from Ready.gov that you might hear during the Hurricane Season

Hurricane Watch (hurricane conditions possible within the next 48 hrs).

Steps to take:
• Review your evacuation route(s) & listen to local officials.
• Review the items in your disaster supply kit; and add items to meet the household needs for children, parents, individuals with disabilities or other access and functional needs or pets.

Hurricane Warning
(hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hrs).
Steps to take:
• Follow evacuation orders from local officials, if given.
• Check-in with family and friends by texting or using social media.
• Follow the hurricane timeline preparedness checklist, depending on when the storm is anticipated to hit and the impact that is projected for your location.

What to do when a hurricane is 36 hours from arriving:

• Turn on your TV or radio in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
• Build or restock your emergency preparedness kit. Include a flashlight, batteries, cash, and first aid supplies.
• Plan how to communicate with family members if you lose power. For example, you can call, text, email or use social media. Remember that during disasters, sending text messages is usually reliable and faster than making phone calls because phone lines are often overloaded.
• Review your evacuation plan with your family. You may have to leave quickly so plan ahead.
• Keep your car in good working condition, and keep the gas tank full; stock your vehicle with emergency supplies and a change of clothes.

What to do when a hurricane is 18-36 hours from arriving:

• Bookmark your city or county website for quick access to storm updates and emergency instructions.
• Bring loose, lightweight objects inside that could become projectiles in high winds (e.g., patio furniture, garbage cans); anchor objects that would be unsafe to bring inside (e.g., propane tanks); and trim or remove trees close enough to fall on the building.
• Cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” exterior grade or marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install.

What to do when a hurricane is 6-18 hours from arriving:

• Turn on your TV/radio, or check your city/county website every 30 minutes in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
• Charge your cell phone now so you will have a full battery in case you lose power.

What to do when a hurricane is 6 hours from arriving:

• If you’re not in an area that is recommended for evacuation, plan to stay at home or where you are and let friends and family know where you are.
• Close storm shutters, and stay away from windows. Flying glass from broken windows could injure you.
• Turn your refrigerator or freezer to the coldest setting and open only when necessary. If you lose power, food will last longer. Keep a thermometer in the refrigerator to be able to check the food temperature when the power is restored.
• Turn on your TV/radio, or check your city/county website every 30 minutes in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.

What to do after a Hurricane:

• Listen to local officials for updates and instructions.
• Check-in with family and friends by texting or using social media.
• Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
• Watch out for debris and downed power lines.
• Avoid walking or driving through flood waters. Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and fast-moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
• Avoid flood water as it may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines and may hide dangerous debris or places where the ground is washed away.
• Photograph the damage to your property in order to assist in filing an insurance claim.
• Do what you can to prevent further damage to your property, (e.g., putting a tarp on a damaged roof), as insurance may not cover additional damage that occurs after the storm.

More Details about preparing for Hurricane Season

If you would like to learn how to prepare for the hurricane season, take a look at the suggestions provided on the NOAA Hurricane Preparedness site: https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/ prepare/ready.php and https://www.weather.gov/wrn/ hurricane-preparedness, and ready.gov.

Also, here are also a few tips from the Florida Disaster Preparedness Guide for Elders (found at: http://elderaffairs.state.fl.us/ doea/disaster.php): http://elderaffairs.state.fl.us/ doea/pubs/EU/EUdisaster2015/ Disaster_Guide_2015_English_Web.pdf
  • Educate yourself and know where you want to go:
    Learn about your community’s emergency plans, warning signals, evacuation routes, and location of emergency shelters.  For example, during Hurricane Matthew, many of the barriers islands along the eastern coast were evacuated and residents were required to show passes or car tags for readmission onto the islands. Check with your local authorities to see whether your community requires some form of pass or identification after an evacuation.
  • Be aware of potential home hazards:
    Be prepared to turn off electrical power when there is standing water or a fallen power line, or before you evacuate.  Turn off gas and water supplies before you evacuate.  Secure structurally unstable materials (building material, grills, and propane tanks).
  • Own a fire extinguisher - and know how to use it:
    Buy a fire extinguisher and make sure your family knows where to find it and how to use it.  If you have an older extinguisher (over a year old), be sure that it is still functional and inspected by a professional.
  • Secure important documents:
    Locate and secure your important papers, such as insurance policies, wills, licenses, and stock certificates.
  • Collect contact information:
    Post emergency phone numbers at every telephone or save the number in your mobile phone.  Some examples of important numbers include your insurance agent, local hospitals, local utilities, local law enforcement, and fire/rescue.
  • Do you or someone in the house have special needs?
    Inform local authorities if your household includes someone with special needs (such as, a person who is bed-ridden or disabled).
  • Prepare a disaster supply kit:
    Stock your home, car, and workplace with supplies that may be needed during the emergency period (such as, food, water, prescriptions, and non-prescription medications). You should stock food and water for a minimum of a three-day period.  If you are diabetic, be sure to have a means to keep your medications cool while traveling or during a power outage (such as a well-insulated mini-cooler).  If you have a pet, look now for a pet-friendly shelter and have pet supplies ready.  Do not forget to have some cash on hand as ATM and credit card readers may not be functional if there is no electricity.  The government's site (https://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit) provides some additional information.

    FEMA's Basic Disaster Supply Kit includes: 

    • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation

    • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food

    • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both

    • Flashlight and extra batteries

    • First aid kit

    • Whistle to signal for help

    • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place

    • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation

    • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities

    • Manual can opener for food supplies

    • Local maps

    • Cell phone with chargers, automobile power inverters / adapters or solar charger

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