International Forecaster Weekly

It Has Begun

What about if a storm is predicted to bear down on your town? What do you do in the few days ahead? Well let me say it like this, if it’s Sandy size or Katrina size, none of this is going to matter much.

Bob Rinear | June 21, 2017

No Trump, no Syria, no Russians, no politics today. Today we take a break from that stuff and swing over to something very important…your safety. So let me start by saying I’m writing this Tuesday afternoon, and there’s a storm brewing.

June starts “hurricane” season and it is starting off with a bang. Tropical storm warnings have been posted along the Louisiana coast for a developing system now in the Gulf of Mexico.

The system is labeled “Potential Tropical Cyclone Three” , which is a new designation from the National Hurricane Center for systems that have not developed yet, but that will likely bring tropical storm impacts soon.

If the system's sustained winds reach 39 mph, it will be named Tropical Storm Cindy and that could happen today. (Tuesday) The system is "expected to produce total rain accumulations of 4 to 8 inches with isolated maximum amounts of 10 inches over southeastern Louisiana, southern Mississippi southern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle through Thursday morning," the hurricane center said.

I have a feeling this is going to be a fairly heavy Hurricane Season. Think about it, if this storm gets named, it’s going to be “Cindy”. Why in the “C’s” already? Because we’ve already had two named storms and interestingly ‘Bret” was the earliest named storm to form in this part of the Atlantic since official records were kept in 1851. So yes, this year is already off to the races.

I certainly have a history of living in weird weather places. From atop a mountain in the Pocono’s of PA, to the Jersey shore, and of course the Florida gulf coast, all of these areas have a penchant for some rough weather at times. On top of Mt. Pohopoco in PA, we often had horrendous ice storms, wicked cold of zero and below for days, and of course snow, snow snow.

On the Jersey shore you could always expect the occasional “nor Easter” that would bash my docks, toss my boats around, and flood the streets. But then of course came “Sandy” and she put “weather” into a whole new category. It’s one thing when you’re house is battered around in a storm, it’s something completely different when every house on your street is…gone. Literally.

While anthropologists suggest we humans evolved out of the African plains, and have theories as to why we stand erect, squint, etc…I don’t believe it. I think we were “littoral” people. ( which means where the water meets the shore, bays, rivers, beaches) I think we evolved at the shorelines. I also think that is why so much of the population decides to live within a few miles of the coasts. It’s like going “home” ancestrally.

I think we learned to stand because we did an awful lot of wading in the shallow waters. I think we developed the ability to “squint” because if you’ve ever looked out across the water on a bright day, you have no choice but to shield your eyes a bit, it’s brilliantly, glaringly bright. I think we’re not covered in body hair because it isn’t very good for swimming, diving, or most anything connected to the shoreline.

(How did I branch of on all this?! Don’t worry I’ll come full circle) Did you know there’s only ONE “sport” in which females dominate males? Yes indeed, long distance swimming. If you look at channel crossings, Cuba to Florida, etc, it’s always the gals. That would make sense too if we were littoral creatures and the Missus needed to get away from some nasty males.

Anyway, whether I’m right or I’m full of baloney, the FACT is we swarm the beaches, rivers, inlets etc, and we build on every square inch of the waterfront. For what ever reason you want to think we’re drawn to the water, it doesn’t much matter, but indeed we are. And unfortunately, that’s where hurricanes happen to end up.

When Katrina hit New Orleans so many years back, you could watch the horror on TV and feel sympathy for the people. But until you’ve lived through it, you really cannot relate. I like so many had seen the blow by blow event unroll on TV and sat glued to the TV for days watching the horror of it all and feeling so helpless for those folks. But as far as the actual personal affect on lives, I couldn’t possibly relate. Until Sandy.

When Sandy hit is when I understood the shock, the sadness, the despair of something that destructive. Walking hand in hand days later with my neighbor lady, as she cried at the destruction. Her house, gone. Not damaged, gone. And the next neighbor and the next and the next. The town had run bulldozers up and down the streets, piling up untold parts of houses, furniture, heirlooms, etc. It cannot be explained.

So, it’s that time of the year again and it’s starting off with a bang. I pray that the forecasters are wrong, but I think they’re probably close. Here’s what they’re thinking…

NOAA expects 11 to 17 named storms this season, this is more than the 30-year average for the Atlantic Basin.

Eleven to 17 named storms – including April's Tropical Storm Arlene.

Five to nine of which would become hurricanes

Two to four of which would become major hurricanes.

I hope they’re terribly wrong. But what if they’re right? Well for those of you who live in an area that 1) can be hit with tide surge, or 2) in lower areas where huge rains can flood you out…. LEAVE. I’m not kidding even a little bit. I have personal proof that they downplayed the amount of DEAD during Sandy in my little area. Many people with no place to go tried to stick it out. They were never found.

But there are things to do before the hurricane season really gets crazy. So let’s look at some ideas for things to do NOW while it’s still calm…

  1. Keep your trees trimmed, removing all overgrowth and dead branches.
  2. Make or buy shutters for all your doors and windows NOW, not in the days before a hurricane hits.
  3. Impact-resistant windows and manufactured shutters are the preferred ways to protect your home.
  4. If pre-made shutters aren't an option, use plywood that's at least 3/4 of an inch thick.
  5. If you own a concrete block home, install anchoring devices for the roof.
  6. Don't forget about your garage door. This can be the most vulnerable area of your home when a hurricane hits. If possible, work with a professional garage door installer to retrofit your door to meet current hurricane codes. Most home supply stores sell garage door bracing kits.
  7. Buy plastic tarps that you can use after the storm if you have roof damage.
  8. Stock up on batteries for radios, flashlights and portable lights.
  9. Keep in mind, many stores will sell out of the materials you need to protect your home when the area is under a hurricane watch or warning. Everything you can do BEFORE the storm will give you more time to get ready and more peace of mind.
  10. stock up on bottled water, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, etc.
  11. have an alternative way to cook some food. Propane grill, camping stove, etc.
  12. If you’ve always wanted a generator, nows the time to get it.
  13. Consider an inverter that you can hook to a 12V batter that will give you 120 Volts of AC for small appliances.

Okay, so that’s the longer term stuff to do while you’ve got weekends and time. What about if a storm is predicted to bear down on your town? What do you do in the few days ahead? Well let me say it like this, if it’s Sandy size or Katrina size, none of this is going to matter much. But your run of the mill cat. 2 or 3 can be dealt with most of the time.

  1. Pick up everything around your home that could become airborne and bring it inside. That includes all outdoor furniture, potted plants, yard tools, garbage cans, etc.
  2. Clear your home's gutters to handle the heavy rain.
  3. Protect your insurance and other important documents in sealable, plastic bags.
  4. Charge your cell phone batteries.
  5. Fill up your car with gas and portable gas cans if you own a generator
  6. Get those shutters up, or plywood, etc.
  7. Go get more non-perishable food, prescriptions, first aid kit, and cash. Basically anything and everything you'll need to survive in the days after the storm when electricity will be out and finding supplies will be a challenge.

 If you’ve decided to hunker down in place, here’s a few tips…

Choose an interior room in your home that can serve as your safe room.

Have a battery powered radio.

Have flashlights and battery powered lights ready.

Make sure the storm has passed before you go outside and it's not the eye of the hurricane.

Remember that many injuries happen AFTER the storm during the clean up process.

That’s just the basics folks. I could write a 40 page book about this topic. But even if you simply do the things I’ve listed there, you’re going to be well ahead of about 90% of everyone else.

Good luck this season and I pray that none of those horrible monsters ever makes it to our coasts. But I’m a realist and I know some will. Do your best for your family.