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AMU Emergency Management Original Public Safety

Spring Is the Perfect Time to Prepare for Severe Weather

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As we move further into spring, most people are thinking about warmer temperatures, sunnier days and a return to outdoor activities. However, if the recent past is any indicator — as the Rockies experienced over two feet of snow and devastating tornadoes ripped through the southern states — spring may take a while to fully emerge.

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These weather phenomena, coupled with an unprecedented winter storm in Oklahoma and Texas, left residents without power for up to two weeks. They make us more mindful of the need to prepare for severe weather, even in the spring.

Do You Trust a Groundhog’s Forecast?

Recent weather events have been nothing like the tranquil pictures we paint for this time of year. Maybe the groundhog was right after all when he predicted that winter would continue for an additional six weeks.

In contrast to Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction, science and data drive the real forecasts for the spring. In fact, the spring weather outlook is not exactly all sunshine and flowers. There are bleak forecasts of droughts from Louisiana to Oregon, a potential increase in wildfires for the southwest and warmer temperatures for the lower 48 states.

Is Spring a Good Time to Prepare for Hurricanes?

Meteorologists study the development, landfall and impact of hurricanes year-round in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30 and covers the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean. During the past six seasons, however, the trend has been for tropical storms in the spring and before the “normal” start of the hurricane season. 

Early predictions from two authoritative organizations, Colorado State University and Tropical Storm Risk (TSR), are calling for a 50% chance of an above-normal hurricane season. Initial indications are that the tropics will be just as favorable for storm development as they were last season.

Is Severe Weather the New Normal?

It’s hard to tell what is normal these days when it comes to severe weather, preparedness and hurricanes. The last Atlantic hurricane season was record-breaking in many ways.

The 2020 season ended with a record total of 30 named storms, 13 of which became hurricanes. Six of those storms were categorized as major hurricanes. Among other statistics:

  • Hurricane Iota intensified to a Category 5 storm, the most powerful category on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
  • One named storm (Laura) and two Greek-letter storms (Eta and Iota) were retired from the list of named storms because of the death and destruction they caused.
  • Twelve storms made landfall.
  • Two storms formed before June 1.
  • Two major hurricanes occurred in November.
  • Six hurricanes reached major hurricane intensity.

If those statistics don’t astound you, try this one: the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was the most active and the fifth costliest on record.

What’s in a Name for a Hurricane?

In 2020, the World Meteorological Organization’s 21-name rotating list for storms, which repeats every six years, was exhausted. So the Greek alphabet had to be used for only the second – and final time – since it was first employed in 2005. If the past is any indicator, it is likely that the entire 21-named storm list will be exhausted again in 2021.

The World Meteorological Organization’s Hurricane Committee has decided that the Greek alphabet will not be used in future because it is potentially confusing and creates a distraction in the communication of hazard and storm warnings. Committee members also agreed to create a supplemental list of names A-Z (excluding Q, U, X, Y, and Z on the Atlantic list) that would be used in lieu of the Greek alphabet when the standard list is exhausted.

Preparedness Is Key when It Comes to Severe Weather

So was an unprecedented 2020 hurricane season the start of a trend toward more intense and harmful severe weather events? Or can we expect a milder contrast to the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season?

Regardless of whether the 2021 season is severe or not, preparedness is the key. Moments save lives. Have an evacuation plan, remember Turn Around Don’t Drown, and follow guidelines of local, state, and national officials. Ready.gov is an excellent resource for hurricane safety and preparation. Here is a list of important tips:

1. Know Your Risk

Every area of the country is susceptible to some type of severe weather risk. Find out how rain, wind, drought, storms, heat, and floods could happen where you live, so you can start preparing now.

2. Make an Emergency Plan

Make sure everyone in your household knows and understands your hurricane plan. Discuss the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on COVID-19 and how it may affect your hurricane planning. Don’t forget a plan for the office, children’s daycare and anywhere else you frequent.

3. Gather Supplies

Have enough supplies for your household. Include medication, disinfectant supplies, cloth face coverings, and pet supplies in your go bag or car trunk.

4. Take Extra Care for Those with Disabilities

If you or anyone in your household is an individual with a disability, tell others if you may need additional help during an emergency.

5. Know Your Evacuation Zone

You may have to evacuate quickly due to a hurricane or other severe weather event. Learn your evacuation routes, practice with household pets and identify where you will stay.

6. Recognize Warnings and Alerts

Have several ways to receive alerts. Download the FEMA app to receive real-time alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five locations nationwide. Sign up for community alerts in your area and be aware of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA), which require no sign-up.

7. Review Important Documents

Make sure your insurance policies and personal documents like IDs, deeds, and medical prescriptions are up to date. Make copies and keep them in a secure, password-protected digital space.

8. Strengthen Your Home

Clean drains and gutters, bring in outside furniture, consider hurricane shutters and board up windows.

9. Get Tech Ready

Keep your cell phone charged when a hurricane is in the forecast.

10. Help Your Neighborhood

Check with neighbors, senior adults, or those who may need additional help with securing hurricane plans to see how you can be of assistance to others.

11. Prepare Your Business for Continuity

Make sure your business has a continuity plan to continue operating when disaster strikes.

Spring is definitely the time to prepare for severe weather. If you stay ready, you won’t have to get ready.

Dr. Kandis Y. Boyd Wyatt, PMP, CLTD, is an award-winning professor and has nearly 30 years of experience managing projects that specialize in project and supply chain management. A global speaker, STEAM advocate, and STEM communicator, she holds a B.S. in meteorology and an M.S. in meteorology and water resources from Iowa State University, as well as a D.P.A. in public administration from Nova Southeastern University.

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