Sunday, August 9, 2009

Hurricane Season Begins

Just yesterday, I took a look back at hurricane seasons for the past 30 years, courtesy of Unisys Weather. I already knew that, in recent years, we'd had a named storm or two or nine by this time in August. I had to go back to 1992 to find the first named storm of the season forming in the 8th month -- that was Andrew, which turned into the Cat 5 monster that devastated south Florida. Here's a few more examples of late-starting seasons:

T.S. AlbertoAugust 5, 1988tropical stormCanada
Hurricane ArleneAugust 8, 1987Cat 1Carolinas
T.S. ArthurAugust 28, 1984 tropical storm none
Hurricane AliciaAugust 15, 1983Cat 3Texas

This morning, the National Hurricane Center is watching a tropical wave off the coast of Africa. Conditions are fairly good that this will develop. Early computer models available on Crown Weather and Weather Underground (see my links to the right) suggest that the system will move west northwest. Maybe it won't turn into a named storm. Maybe it will stay out in the Atlantic. If it does make landfall, it could strike anywhere along the eastern seaboard from Florida to Canada. If it makes a southerly turn, it could threaten Caribbean islands or any location around the Gulf of Mexico.

Yes, that's a lot of ifs, but if you have made no preparations for a hurricane and you live anywhere along the Atlantic or Gulf Coasts in North America, now is your chance to make a few moves.

  • Buy a few extra gallons of water and some food that doesn't require refrigeration.
  • Make sure you have a battery-operated radio and flashlights AND fresh batteries.
  • Check your medicine cabinet or first aid kit to make sure you have Band-Aids, antibacterial wipes, rubbing alcohol, aspirin or acetaminophen.
  • Think about how you'll prepare your home and family if the storm comes your way.
Be aware of what's happening. Check the National Hurricane Center website at least once a day, so you'll know if this area of low pressure strengthens or if another storm forms. Download and print a disaster supply list from one of the websites listed to the right. Look it over and see what you already have and consider what you'll need to buy.

Some people do nothing before a storm and rely on the government or other agencies to help them if they need it. Some people wait until the last minute, then run willy-nilly through the grocery store, throwing $200 worth of water, juices boxes, crackers, bread, and canned goods into their carts.

Think calmly and rationally now, when you're not under an immediate threat. One gallon of water per person per day is a good plan, because it'll be hot and you may be exerting yourself physically to clean up damage.

If you have a lot of food in your freezer, do you have a way of keeping it cool (generator) or of cooking it (gas stove, grill)? If so, you may not need to worry about having three days worth of canned goods.

Look at what you have in your pantry. Can you make breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a couple of daily snacks for your family for three days without electricity? If so, you won't have to spend a lot of money on food.

Think ahead now to special needs -- do you rely on prescription medication, oxygen, or home health aides? If so, talk to your providers and understand what will happen if electricity is out or roads are impassable. Is there a special needs shelter? Should you go there? Can you get on a list of "first response" at your power company? These are questions to ask now, not when you have a storm bearing down, offices are closing, phone lines are jammed.

Don't wait until the storm is at your doorstep to make plans.

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