Get ready

Published 9:22 pm Friday, August 12, 2016

Get ready

Just in time for back-to-school, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has given folks a reason to remember that hurricane season is far from over.

On Thursday, NOAA announced that, with half the hurricane season gone for the year, its forecasters were actually raising the stakes on their annual tropical storm forecast. They increased the number of tropical storms forecast before the end of the season on Nov. 30 and reduced their already slim expectations of a lighter-than-normal hurricane season.

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Forecasters now expect a 70-percent chance of 12–17 named storms, of which five to eight are expected to become hurricanes, including two to four major hurricanes. The initial outlook called for 10–16 named storms, four to eight hurricanes, and one to four major hurricanes. The seasonal averages are 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

This is expected to be the most active tropical storm season in the Atlantic since 2012, when there were 19 named tropical storms and 10 hurricanes, including one superstorm, Sandy, that devastated large areas of the Northeast.

Hurricane Sandy was particularly instructive in that it was a late-season hurricane — it passed a few hundred miles southeast of North Carolina on Oct. 28 — whose strength was boosted by its passage over the warm waters of the gulf stream. Even so, it was, meteorologically speaking, a minimal and weakening hurricane by the time it made landfall in New Jersey.

But the size of that storm — and, more importantly, the storm surge it brought — proved devastating to parts of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. According to a post-storm analysis by NOAA, storm surges in the boroughs of New York City were as much as six to nine feet above ground level. The damage was significant.

The lesson for Virginia is one that old-timers still remember from some of the great storms that have carved and created the coastline here. Storm surge can be deadly, even in a minimal hurricane. The lesson that is sometimes lost from one generation to the next is that preparation is key to survival.

NOAA suggests a series of steps to get ready for the remainder of the season:

  • Determine your risk: Understand the hazards your home faces, whether from wind or flooding, and start planning for how to prepare for them
  • Develop an evacuation plan: Especially if you live in an area susceptible to storm surge (visit www.nws.noaa.gov to find out), figure out how you will get out of danger if and when you’re advised to do so.
  • Secure an insurance checkup: Nothing is worse than finding out your home isn’t sufficiently covered after a storm has wrecked it.
  • Assemble disaster supplies: Hurricane Isabel in 2003 reminded us that storms can leave the area without power and water for days or weeks. Visit www.ready.gov/make-a-plan for tips.
  • Strengthen your home: Have the proper plywood, steel or aluminum panels to board up the windows and doors.
  • Complete your written hurricane plan: When the storm is bearing down is not a good time to be figuring out the details of survival.

Suffolk has had a long run without a hurricane that brought substantial widespread damage. Take advantage of this lull to get ready.