Hurricane season starts Thursday, and forecasters expect it to be a busy season. Here are some ways you can prepare for any coming storms.
Last week, forecasters said the Atlantic’s 2017 hurricane season likely will be above normal, with 11 to 17 named storms, between five and nine hurricanes and two to four major hurricanes. Hurricane season runs through the end of November.
Forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration based their prediction on the likelihood of warm ocean temperatures in the Atlantic continuing through the summer and the lack of an El Niño weather pattern in the Pacific, which can tamp down storms, said acting NOAA administrator Ben Friedman. While the forecast covers a range that includes a normal season, forecasters put the certainty of the busy season at 45 percent, he said.
There is “the potential for a lot of Atlantic storm activity this year,” he said. “We cannot stop hurricanes. But again we can prepare for them.”
This season also will be one of the longest seasons on record, following last year’s season that forecasters expected to be normal, but that brought one of the most devastating storms in state history to North Carolina – Hurricane Matthew. Some victims of Matthew still aren’t back to normal months after the storm passed. State Farm insurance received 12,500 homeowner claims and nearly 3,000 auto claims from Matthew in North Carolina.
How to prepare
“As hurricane season approaches, it is important for community members to prepare for the possibility of severe weather,” said Barry Porter, regional CEO of the Red Cross in Eastern North Carolina. “Knowledge and preparation are some of the key elements to ensure your personal safety and to help protect your family and property.”
▪ Have a portable radio, cellphone, TV or NOAA weather radio on hand to monitor weather conditions. Make sure you have chargers, spare batteries or rechargeable battery packs for devices.
▪ Know your evacuation route and have a plan to move to another location in case of evacuation or extended power outages.
▪ Put gas in your car before the storm begins.
▪ Build an emergency kit with a supply of water (one gallon per person per day); non-perishable, easy to prepare food; first aid-kit; battery-powered or hand-crank radio; flashlights and batteries; multipurpose tool; sanitation and personal hygiene items; extra clothes; copies of important documents in a zip-top bag; cellphones and chargers; extra cash; emergency contact information; blankets or sleeping bags; and a map.
▪ If you have pets, make sure you have a supply of water and pet food and prepare collars, leashes and carries for transport. Make sure you have rabies vaccination documents or tags and have your pet wear an ID tag, if possible.
▪ Homeowners who depend on well water should draw an emergency water supply in case power to electric water pumps is interrupted.
▪ Bring inside anything that could become a projectile in high winds. Anchor anything too big to bring inside.
▪ Find an interior room on the lower level of the building or home to wait out the storm unless directed to evacuate.
State Farm Insurance also recommended that people talk to their insurance agent about replacement cost coverage, flood insurance and deductibles ahead of a storm.
Officials also asked that people create an emergency plan ahead of storms, including: how to contact or find each other; setting two meeting places (one near home and another outside the neighborhood); what evacuation routes to take; pet-friendly motels and animal shelters along the route; and planning alternative routes in case roads are blocked or washed out.
Members of every household also should know the difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning to be able to plan how and when to respond.
▪ A hurricane watch is when conditions are a threat within 48 hours. It’s time to review your hurricane plans. Get ready to act if a warning is issued and stay informed.
▪ A hurricane warning is when conditions are expected within 36 hours. It’s time to complete your storm preparedness and leave the area if directed to do so by authorities.
▪ Tropical storm watches and warnings: Take these alerts seriously. Although tropical storms have lower wind speeds than hurricanes, they often bring life-threatening flooding and dangerous winds.
To follow National Weather Service reports in the Triangle, go to www.weather.gov/rah or follow your local weather service office on social media. For the National Hurricane Center, go to www.nhc.noaa.gov or find the center on social media.
Download the Red Cross Emergency App or the ReadyNC app for weather alerts, preparation tips and important local information. For more North Carolina emergency information, go to www.nc.gov/agency/emergency-management or follow N.C. Emergency Management on social media.
More accurate forecasts
This season, forecasters will be better armed at making more accurate predictions thanks to the launch of a powerful new satellite that dramatically improves the quality of pictures taken from space and the speed at which they’re delivered. The satellite, the GOES 16, has not yet become operational but will provide images this season, Friedman said.
The National Hurricane Center is also replacing a forecast model used for the last 22 years with a new model that improves predicting a storm’s intensity by 5 to 10 percent, said National Weather Service deputy director Mary Erickson. Forecasting intensity remains a vexing problem for forecasters, who last year failed to fully anticipate Matthew’s rapid intensification in the Caribbean before leaving a path of devastation through the United States. But forecasters have dramatically improved their track forecast, shrinking their margin of error by 65 percent since 1992.
Jenny Staletovich contributed to this report.