Time to think hurricane preparedness once again
Andrea and Barry have come and gone.
Chantal made her visit short and uneventful.
On the way, however, are her friends Dorian, Erin, Fernando, Gabrielle, Imelda, Jerry, Karen, Lorenzo, Melissa, Nestor, Olga, Pablo, Rebekah, Sebastien, Tanya, Van and Wendy. Let’s hope that some, if not all of them, will decide to cancel and not show up at all.
At least a few of them are likely to arrive and we had best be prepared for at least a little company during the next couple of months.
The peak of hurricane season is here. The season officially began June 1 and runs through the end of November. It seems, however, that these storms prefer to blow in and wreak havoc in September and October.
It was just last year that Hurricane Florence rolled into town. She arrived and swept through the Pee Dee on Sept. 15, leaving power outages, flooding, downed trees, and wind damage in her wake. Florence was only a Category 1 storm by the time she made it to the Pee Dee, but she was huge and slow.
In her wake loomed Michael, a Category 4 monster. Michael slammed the panhandle of Florida on a Wednesday, Oct. 10. For the next two days, the Carolinas and the Pee Dee were hammered with more wind and more rain.
When it was all said and done, most residents breathed a sigh of relief. There was extensive wind and rain damage across the region, but it could have been much worse. Other parts of the state received the brunt of the damage.
Each year brings a different hurricane story. Some are not too terribly bad, but others are agonizingly tragic.
What have we learned over the years from the storms? Jimmy Buffett is correct when he sings that there is no reasoning with hurricane season. The storms are decidedly unpredictable. Ask anyone who remembers Hurricane Hugo from 1989 and they will gladly confirm the unpredictability of hurricanes.
A report posted in May on the National Hurricane Center’s website predicted up to 15 named storms with winds of 39 miles per hour or higher for 2019. Of those 15, the report said four to eight could become hurricanes, with winds of 74 mph or higher. Two to four of those could reach category 3, 4 or 5, which are considered major hurricanes producing winds of 111 mph or higher.
Gerry Bell, the NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center lead hurricane forecaster, said he saw no reason for serious concern regarding the forecast, but emphasized that communities should take the hurricane season seriously because, as 2018 showed, even an average number of storms can cause significant damage.
“We’re expecting a near-normal season but regardless, that’s a lot of activity, and we need to get ready,” Bell said. NOAA believes its hurricane season forecasts to be about 70 percent accurate.
As of Monday, forecasters were tracking three tropical systems, including a new development that's moving toward the Caribbean Sea. Another system near Florida is expected to develop into a tropical depression.
Now is the time to think hurricane preparedness.
The South Carolina State Guard is already preparing. Earlier this month, the Guard held a statewide hurricane preparedness drill at The Olympia Armory in Columbia.
In June, the S.C. Emergency Management Division began issuing its 2019 Hurricane Preparedness Guide. The guide is available at all South Carolina Welcome Centers, at any Walgreens store statewide and at SCDMV offices. It is also available at the division’s web site, www.scemd.org.
It also created a phone app, S.C. Emergency Manager, which offers plenty of preparedness tips and allows you to stay abreast of the latest information
The latest hurricane forecast released Monday shows a quiet pattern for tropical storm and hurricane development for September. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by reports that no major storms are forecasted. Take time to be prepared just in case. Review family emergency plans, develop a disaster supply kit, review insurance policies, and talk with your family about what could happen during a disaster. All these things can prove to be invaluable and potentially life-saving in the event of a major hurricane.
Recent years are ample proof of the need for preparedness.
While we are always hopeful the storms will remain at sea and spare our coast, our city and our region, counting on luck is not the way to go.