Today marks the beginning of hurricane season in Louisiana. It’s time to get ready.
This year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a 40% chance of a “near-normal” hurricane season.
That’s not exactly a comforting prediction. “Normal” has a whole new meaning in the age of climate change.
In more precise numerical terms, NOAA forecasts 12 to 17 named storms (those with winds 39 mph or higher), five to nine hurricanes (with winds 74 mph or higher) and up to four “major” hurricanes packing winds 111 mph or higher.
The good news, according to hurricane techies, is that NOAA scientists have some new tools to predict hurricane paths and intensity with greater accuracy. New forecast models also will extend the “tropical cyclone outlook” from five to seven days, which will give emergency managers and citizens more time to prepare — and evacuate.
One of the new tools is the Hurricane Analysis and Forecast System, scheduled to become operational later this month and be 10% to 15% better at forecasting hurricane tracks than the current system.
NOAA also has upgraded its storm surge forecasting abilities with a new model that allows forecasters to simulate the effects of two storms simultaneously. More importantly, it calculates the probability of various flooding scenarios, which will help communities prepare for what’s coming.
All that new technology is nice, but it won’t protect us if we don’t get out of a powerful storm’s way in time to get to safer environs. To that end, remember these tried-and-true evacuation preps:
- Plan now — not the day before a storm hits — where you’ll go and who you’ll bring.
- Keep at least half a tank of gas in your car at all times till December.
- Stock at least a week’s worth of medications, baby supplies, pet supplies and cash, and keep devices as well as backup power sources charged.
- Put important documents (insurance policies, medical and pet vaccination records, and family photos) in a waterproof container.
If you can’t leave or choose to stay, store at least a week's worth of water — a gallon per person, per day — and a corresponding amount of ready-to-eat food. Stock up on flashlights, batteries and chargers; get an emergency rechargeable or battery-powered radio, basic first aid kit and tools to make emergency repairs.
If you have a whole-home generator, learn how to check the oil level and how to add oil as needed. If you have a portable generator, keep it away from open windows and give it a rest every few hours.
Experience has taught us that it only takes one storm to create havoc. Get ready now.