Slow start gives time to prepare

Published 8:32 pm Friday, July 24, 2009

News reports this week talked of the slow start to the 2009 Atlantic Hurricane season, blaming the condition on weather conditions in the Pacific and the developing El Nino. But just as they reported that information, weather experts were just as quickly encouraging residents in threatened areas not to get too comfortable yet.

According to an Associated Press report, experts blame the slow start on a “maturing El Nino in the Pacific Ocean, which tends to depress storm activity.” The same report said the weather condition, which had not been in effect since 2004, traditionally prevents an active hurricane season in the Atlantic, but also noted that in that same year the first storm of the season – Hurricane Alex – didn’t develop until July 31.

In an area all too familiar with tropical systems such as tropical storms and hurricanes, we often keep one eye on the local weather with the other firmly planted on the tropics. While the hurricane season has been slower than expected, it still can be tremendously dangerous.

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Take in to account that each of the tropical systems that have hit or affected the Virginia coast since 2000 made landfall after August 3. And of the 34 systems that impacted Virginia in the 20th Century, 27 of them made landfall in the month of August or later.

In preparing for the annual hurricane season, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and other state agencies encouraged everyone to be prepared for the season. And, thanks to the slow start to this season, we’ve been given another chance to make sure we are truly prepared.

The El Nino effect may reduce the numbers of storms we and others along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts may see this season, but it in no way erases the danger each and every developing system presents.