An ounce of prevention

Published 8:20 pm Saturday, May 18, 2013

We all know what they say about an ounce of prevention, but with hurricane season just around the corner, it’s a good time to roll out the old adage once again and consider what it means to us here in southeastern Virginia.

Modern weather forecasting tools mean the days are gone when a big, destructive hurricane could sneak up the U.S. coast and catch entire communities unawares. Meteorologists today can use satellite and radar imagery to track storms from the time the hot winds blow west from the Saharan desert and become squalls and tropical depressions in the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Those storms are watched closely, and forecasters track them as they become tropical depressions, warning people all along their potential paths as they transition into tropical storms and then hurricanes.

It’s still impossible to know everything about a storm’s path and severity, but last year’s Hurricane Sandy was a good example of just how accurately meteorologists can predict some weather systems. Today, they can tell folks with a reasonable degree of certainty the severity of the coming storms, the estimated time of arrival, the likelihood and expected degree of flooding and the even the expected strength of the winds.

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In short, there’s no good reason that folks along America’s coasts should be taken by surprise during hurricane season.

Yet every year there are many stories of people who were caught off guard by some hurricane or another. While there’s no way to plan for every eventuality — and some storms still surprise forecasters with their path or their ferocity — there are plenty of things area residents can do to make sure they’re ready for hurricane season.

A good place to start is at www.vaemergency.gov/readyvirginia, where the commonwealth has a wealth of resources available to help folks plan for emergencies. From setting up disaster kits to learning about flood-prone areas to mapping out evacuation routes, the site is a great resource for those who want to make sure they know how to be one step ahead of disaster.

An ounce of prevention will not turn a hurricane from its path, but it will help ensure you are not left entirely helpless in the wake of the storm, and that counts for a lot in the long run.