Take time to be prepared

Published 8:33 pm Wednesday, August 9, 2017

With Tropical Storm Franklin churning in the Gulf of Mexico, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has amended its forecast for the Atlantic hurricane season.

As we move into mid-August, the height of the hurricane season is still ahead of us, but NOAA already has assigned names to six tropical storms during the course of just nine weeks. Forecasters warned on Wednesday that the unusual level of activity is a harbinger of a season that will likely bring even more Atlantic storms.

In fact, NOAA forecasters are now saying there is a 60-percent chance of an above-normal season, elevated from a 45-percent chance that was predicted in May. And they now expect 14 to 19 named storms (compared to a range of 11-17, predicted in May) and two to five major hurricanes (compared to 2-4).

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A forecast is not a storm, of course, and the weather will do what the weather will do, with no regard for even the most studious of predictions.

Nonetheless, NOAA’s forecasters are the closest thing we have to an actual window into the future, and their weather predictions should not be taken lightly. If NOAA says we’re going to have what would be the busiest hurricane season since 2010, then perhaps we should take heed and do whatever we can to minimize the risk. And since we cannot change the weather, reducing our hurricane-related risk means changing our own behavior, modifying both the way we prepare for hurricanes and the way we respond to them when they hit.

“Today’s updated outlook underscores the need for everyone to know their true vulnerabilities to storms and storm surge,” said FEMA Administrator Brock Long. “As we enter the height of hurricane season, it’s important for everyone to know who issues evacuation orders in their community, heed the warnings, update their insurance and have a preparedness plan.”

That’s good advice, and it’s advice that seems pretty obvious. Unfortunately, for too many people — even for many of those who live in hurricane-prone areas like Hampton Roads — it’s advice that sometimes goes unheeded. Years without a hurricane tend to encourage an unfortunate complacency.

Don’t be complacent. Take the warnings seriously. Pay attention to the forecasts. And, most important, make plans for how you will protect your life, your family’s lives and your property.

A good place to start is vaemergency.gov, where you can find checklists for preparing emergency supplies kits, suggestions for family communications, evacuation plans and other valuable information that will help you prepare for any disaster, not just hurricanes.

Take the time to be prepared.