Yes, its that time of year – June 1 marks the start of the Atlantic Hurricane season, as well as the beginning of meteorological summer. The projections for the season are to be slightly more active than normal. Interestingly enough, there has already been one named tropical storm – Arlene, which formed well outside the season in April. Fortunately, it was in them middle of the Atlantic, with no threat to land. According to the National Weather Service, we could expect another 10 to 16 more tropical storms, of which 5 to 9 could become hurricanes and between 2 and 4 of them may strengthen to Category 3 or higher.
Does the prospect of the “more active” season incent you to be more vigilant if your live along the coast or have made a vacation plan there? I know its a trite saying, but it is true – “It only takes one storm to leave a lasting memory”. Having lived along the Texas Gulf coast more than half my life, I know what a hassle it can be to prepare, waiting for a threat that might not materialize. I’ve also seen the destruction tropical systems can bring and the impacts it has on those who chose not to be proactive.
A common misconception when it comes to tropical storms and hurricanes is that they only affect those living along the coast. Last year, residents well inland in North and South Carolina dealt with torrential rain and deadly flooding from Matthew. Reportedly, some let their guard down after the storm didn’t make an expected Florida landfall and was downgraded after swiping the sunshine state.
The multi-faceted nature of these systems goes far beyond the simplistic categorization of the Saffir-Simpson scale. While this measure is helpful for determining the possible danger of a given storm, it is not all-encompassing. Keep in mind that this scale largely relates to the maximum wind speed of a storm. That’s only a small part of the picture. For example, a category 1 hurricane with maximum winds of 80 mph that extend a hundred miles from the center, creeping along a coastline can cause more damage than a compact fast-moving category three storm aimed at one spot. It really is true – size does matter!
A tropical storm or hurricane really represents a multi-faceted weather threat. High winds can knock down trees and power lines over a large region. Torrential rains can lead to flash flooding, a threat that can occur scores of miles from where a storm makes landfall. The rapid increase of water along the coast – the storm surge, can create coastal flooding sometimes well in advance of rainfall. Sudden tornadoes can even occur, especially as the storm makes landfall.
In fact, that very thing happened last September around Savannah, Georgia as Hurricane Hermine move through the area. After being the first hurricane to strike Florida since Wilma in 2005, the storm had weakened to a tropical storm around Labor Day. That downgrade prompted some to think the danger was over because a “tropical storm” doesn’t sound as manacling as “hurricane”. One of our Enterprise clients, a manager at an assisted living community in Savannah received a WeatherCall letting them know they were under a tornado watch. She recalls, “that was my cue to head there and make sure we were ready.” A few hours later, around 3 in the morning, she received another WeatherCall, letting her know the community was in a tornado warning. “We were able to get everyone to our safe place quickly because of the call.”
So as you get ready for hurricane season, make sure WeatherCall is a part of your emergency kit, along with water, flashlights, non-perishable food, generator, etc. Because it really is true – it only takes one! So far, on this first day – all is clear in the Atlantic.