By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice
Hurricane season typically begins on June 1 and continues until the end of November. Currently, there have been six consecutive years of above-average hurricane seasons, and a Colorado State University team predicts that 2022 will have an above-average hurricane season with 19 named storms, nine hurricanes, and four major hurricanes.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there were 21 named storms in 2021. Seven of those named storms were hurricanes (winds reaching 74 miles per hour or higher) and there were four major hurricanes (winds of 111 mph or higher).
Winds of more than 55 mph can cause property damage, including downed trees and the loss of roof shingles. Similarly, winds above 75 mph can cause catastrophic damage to buildings and even flip over vehicles.
For Hurricanes, There Is Usually Some Advance Warning
Unlike a tornado that occurs with little warning, a hurricane typically involves advanced warning from weather forecasters. The National Hurricane Center, for instance, issues weather forecasts for tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic and Northeast Pacific regions.
When there is a risk of people being in the path of a hurricane, the National Hurricane Center is essential. It provides frequent forecasts that identify the predicted path of a hurricane, its potential strength, and the expected rainfall and storm surge created by the hurricane.
Tropical Storms Are Closely Monitored
When a tropical storm develops, the National Hurricane Center monitors it to see if it will grow into a hurricane and provides forecasts as needed. The forecasted track of a hurricane is influenced by various atmospheric and weather factors.
For example, some weather conditions can strengthen a hurricane and other weather conditions – such as wind shear – reduce the power of a hurricane. Since weather is always changing, it can be difficult to predict exactly where a hurricane will make landfall. But once this type of storm makes landfall, it typically loses its strength.
The Danger of a Storm Surge
Storm surge occurs when rain and strong wind threaten to raise local water levels higher than normal. Storm surge can be as dangerous as a hurricane itself, because it causes substantial and life-threatening flooding that can take lives or destroy buildings.
Hurricane Katrina in 2005, for instance, created a storm surge that overtook the levee system in New Orleans. As a result, high water flooded the Lower 9th Ward, took over 1,800 lives and caused billions of dollars in flood damage.
For Military Families in Coastal Areas, Preparation for Hurricane Season Is Vital
For military families who live in coastal areas subject to hurricanes, preparation before hurricane season is extremely important. The first step is to form a plan, which should be created near the beginning of hurricane season.
The plan should outline how to protect a home, such as securing loose objects and protecting windows with shutters or wood panels. The plan should also include an evacuation route and the items needed for an emergency evacuation kit before the hurricane makes landfall.
Depending on the military servicemember’s branch, the servicemember’s command personnel may provide evacuation guidance regarding when and where servicemembers and their families should go. For servicemembers who are in critical roles and are required to remain on base when a hurricane comes, it is especially important to have a written evacuation plan for their family members.
Another vital consideration for military families is the damage a hurricane leaves behind. For instance, the power supply may be out for 2-3 weeks or more, so it is useful to stock up on bottled water, fuel, and non-perishable food well in advance of the storm. Having access to a generator is also important.
Having a place to live is equally essential if your home is damaged or destroyed. Hurricane shelters are typically available to allow people to ride out the storm, but they are not suitable for long-term living. These hurricane shelters are commonly schools and other government buildings built to withstand hurricanes.
Acting Quickly and Preparing for Hurricanes in Advance Is Crucial
In 2017, Hurricane Irma struck my home state of Florida, and it caused statewide panic. I remember that gas stations ran out of fuel, and there were some gas stations where hundreds of vehicles were lined up for the next delivery of fuel prior to the storm’s arrival.
Many residents waited to the last minute to evacuate. For many people, there was no fuel left, and roads and highways were packed with vehicles driven by people seeking to escape the hurricane. I was impacted by several hurricanes while I was in the military, and my family and I have experienced several challenges before, during, and after hurricane season. We have lived without power for weeks at a time and repaired the substantial damage to our home from past hurricanes. But I have found that acting quickly, gathering supplies, fortressing my home and utilizing an evacuation plan has been essential in surviving the worst of hurricane season.