Editorial | August means it’s time to take hurricane season seriously

August 8, 2013 

The following editorial appeared Thursday in The (Hilton Head) Island Packet:

Some advice bears repeating, including this:

It’s hurricane season; be prepared to evacuate and be prepared to return to a storm-damaged area.

More specifically, we are now heading into the potentially busiest part of the hurricane season. If you haven’t been paying attention to the National Hurricane Center, its storm tracks and Africa’s Cape Verde, where many major storms start, do so now.

Even though the Atlantic storm season starts June 1, the next two months historically have been the months to watch out for. In 2012, 10 of 19 named storms occurred in August and September. That included seven hurricanes. In October, there were three tropical storms and two hurricanes, including Sandy. In 2011, 13 of 19 named storms came in August and September.

On Friday, the Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University updated its forecast, continuing to predict an active season, with 18 named storms. (We’ve seen four tropical storms to date.) But it now forecasts eight hurricanes, with three developing into major storms of Category 3 or higher, down from June’s forecast of nine hurricanes, with four reaching major status. The lower numbers are attributed to cooler waters in the eastern Atlantic basin.

The National Hurricane Center’s forecast calls for 13 to 20 named storms, with seven to 11 becoming hurricanes and three to six becoming major storms.

In some good news, AccuWeather reports that the National Weather Service’s supercomputers got a major upgrade this year, more than doubling their computing capacity. This makes processing computer models twice as fast and will allow the Weather Service to provide more accurate forecasts further out. With improved forecasts expected, it has decreased the size of its forecast cone for tropical systems, resulting in more specific tracks for storms.

Even tropical storms can prove damaging. This year, many parts of the Lowcountry are already fairly well saturated, and more rain than normal is predicted for the state’s coastal areas, The (Charleston) Post and Courier reports. That means it won’t take a lot of rain in some areas to flood roadways and topple trees, especially if there are heavy winds.

“Any time the ground is so saturated, the roots don’t hold,” Russell Hubright, S.C. Forestry Commission forestry management director, told the newspaper.

And so we repeat this advice: All of us along the coast should prepare for a storm. We should have a hurricane plan. Know where we will go should an evacuation order come. Evacuate early if we can. Know what we will take with us. Know what we need to do to protect our property. Make an inventory of our possessions. Know how to get information about returning to the area. Stock up on supplies to ride out even a relatively minor storm that could knock out power or block roads with downed limbs and trees.

And one more thing: It only takes one storm to have a bad season.

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