01 June 2013

Atlantic Hurricane Season opens in US

Today is the official opening of hurricane season in the US, at least for Atlantic hurricanes.  NOAA's seasonal outlook (note that the term is 'outlook', not 'forecast') is for more hurricanes than usual.  But do read down in to the discussion of the science behind the outlook.

Also, of course be prepared if you live anywhere in the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico (east or west coast), Gulf Coast, or US East Coast.  As folks got reminded last fall with Sandy, this means all the way up the coast, not just southerly places.

Do read through the full information there, and follow up for more information.  If you've got kids, perhaps ready.gov/kids will be helpful.

Granted you've all heard the advice before, and some (like my sister in Florida) could give seminars on preparedness and preparing your kids.  Still, I've been caught unprepared myself, mostly because I made bad assumptions (obviously bad -- in retrospect). 

One of my bad assumptions was that I didn't need to do my web browsing now, and printing out information now.  After all "You can always pull it up from the web".  Not true when the storm takes down the cell tower, or your phone lines, or your power is out and your smart phone needs recharging. 

Related print out is phone numbers.  One of my sons (not in hurricane country) has observed that if he loses his phone, he'll never be able to talk to people again -- the numbers exist only on his phone.  In hurricane country, your phone may run out and you can't recharge -- long before you've finished calling the people you need to.  Can you call them on someone else's phone?

Hurricanes are hard for me to think around.  I grew up in tornado alley, and did the school safety drills, seen the damage they can do, and cleaned up after one.  But tornadoes are very small, and short-lived.  They can and do certainly wipe out power grids and above-ground phone lines, and the like.  Throw debris all over the roads making them impassable until a crew can get out to make things safe again.  Being small and short-lived, however, means that a) your friends 10 miles away probably didn't get hit by it b) the repair process can proceed much faster c) you don't have to think much about what to do _during_ a tornado -- get as low as you can, with as many walls around you as you can.  When it is past, start your recovery.

Hurricanes can give days, not minutes, of strong effects (wind speeds in hurricanes can be comparable to tornadoes), including not just the winds, but rains that produce flooding, and storm surge as the hurricane plows water onshore ahead of it.  Planning needs to be for days, so what to do for your kids becomes serious question.  Plus what you're all going to do with perhaps several days of no electricity, water, etc..

Hurricanes are also huge (compared to the tornadoes I was accustomed to).  While tornadoes are large (for tornadoes) at 1 mile across, hurricanes aren't particularly large even at 100 miles across.  One thing this means is, if your home is hit by a hurricane, your friends 10 miles away probably _also_ got hit by the same hurricane.  Pretty good chance that your friend 100 miles away was, too.  You can improve your chances of finding an unaffected friend if you go inland rather than along the coast.  For me, near Washington, DC, this means to not consider so much Baltimore and Richmond friends -- they're also pretty near-shore so probably going to be affected same as I was -- but folks in, say, West Virginia, western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio.

A bit of more specialized advice is: don't run in lightning storms

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