Sunday, May 09, 2021

National Hurricane Preparedness Week: Day 1 - Determine Your Risk

Find out today what types of wind and water hazards could happen where you live, and then start preparing how to handle them. Hurricanes are not just a coastal problem. Their impacts can be felt hundreds of miles inland, and significant impacts can occur without it being a major hurricane. - CREDIT NOAA.


Although I can still (barely) count the number of pandemics I've lived through on the fingers of one hand (1957, 1968, 2009, 2020) - as a native Floridian well into his seventh decade of life - I've lost count of the number of hurricanes and tropical storms I've ridden through.  

Most, luckily, were fairly forgettable. A lot of rain, wind, and hype.  But a few left indelible marks, either due to their intensity, or where I happened to be when it arrived (several times living aboard a sailboat).  

Today marks the beginning of 2021s National Hurricane Preparedness week, and the early forecasts (see Colorado State University, Pennsylvania State University ESSC, Tropical Storm Risk Ceneter) are all calling for an above average year, although none envision another record setting season like we saw in 2020. 

We'll get the official NOAA prediction later this month, but a month ago, they increased - based on recent historical activity - what they consider to be an `average' hurricane season, from 12 named storms to 14. 

While this increase may be due to a warming planet, hurricane activity also follows a 20-40 year cycle called the AMO (Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation) where we see decades of high activity followed by decades of less activity.).

During the 1950's and 1960's, hurricane activity was high. Here are the storm tracks of the hurricanes that crossed Florida during my youth, in the years between 1954-1972.

By contrast, the next map shows the hurricanes that past through Florida between 1973 and 1994, a two-decade period of lower hurricane activity.


Even during the `low activity' period depicted above, one of the worst hurricanes on record - Andrew in 1992 - struck South Florida.  A reminder that it only takes one bad storm to make a historic season. 

We are back in a period of high hurricane activity, and while no one can predict where this year's hurricanes will impact, anyone living in or near hurricane country should take preparedness seriously.

NOAA makes a Historical Hurricane Track tool available which allows you to input any location, and it will provide a list (and the tracks) of hurricanes that have affected that area. It is worth tinkering with, even if you don't live on or near the Gulf of Atlantic coasts.

Perhaps the most infamous example came in 1972, when a lackluster Cat 1 Hurricane Agnes made landfall in the Florida Panhandle in mid-June, and then meandered north as a tropical depression.

Odds are, no one sitting at home in New York state or Pennsylvania on the night of June 19th, 1972 gave much thought to a marginal hurricane that was making landfall more than a thousand miles to their south.

But of the 122 deaths associated with this storm, only 9 occurred in Florida where Agnes made landfall. The rest - 113 deaths - were due to inland freshwater flooding, with New York and Pennsylvania suffering the highest loses.
Meaning you don't have to live on the coast to be severely impacted by a hurricane or tropical storm. 
Over the next 7 days - and as warranted during the upcoming Atlantic Hurricane Season (June 1st-Nov 30th) we'll be looking at hurricane preparedness.  Today's emphasis is on knowing your risk, and that not only includes where you live and work, but the safety of the structure you live and work in. 

Even if you live outside of the reasonable reach of a hurricane's wrath, you almost certainly have other risks to considered. Earthquakes, tornadoes, Derechos, wildfires, floods, and other disasters can be every bit as devastating as a hurricane. 
While we look at hurricane preparedness specifically this week, there are plenty of reasons for everyone to prepare as well. In September we'll be participating in National Preparedness Month, where we look at far more than just hurricane preparedness.
Although the immediate crisis from a disaster may last only 12 to 24 hours, the aftermath – where power may be out, businesses may be closed, and services may curtailed -  can drag on for weeks.
Reasons why every home should have no less than a 72-hour supply of emergency food and water, a good first aid kit, emergency lighting (not candles!), a battery operated radio, and a disaster plan.
Having preps for two weeks is not unreasonable. 

 Basic kit : NWS radio, First Aid Kit, Lanterns, Water & Food & cash

If you and your family aren't already prepared for a week or two disruption in power, water, food or medicine distribution - or any other extended disaster - you should seriously consider doing so.

A good place to get started is by visiting

Disasters can strike anywhere and at anytime. While being prepared doesn't guarantee you and your loved ones will come away unscathed, it does increase your chances of a good outcome.