National Hurricane Awareness Week is a week-long nationwide effort in the first or second week of May.
All week long, the National Weather Service will be issuing informative messages to help you prepare for hurricane season.Each day will cover a different topic. For example, the forecast process or Hurricane Basics.
The primary mission of the National Weather Service and Tropical Prediction Center is to save lives and protect property by issuing watches, warnings, forecasts, and analyses of hazardous weather conditions in the tropics. The Tropical Predication Center is part of the National Hurricane Center, the Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch, and the Technical Support Branch. During hurricane season, the latter two provide support to the National Hurricane Center.
When forecasting and warning for hurricanes, the National Weather Service uses all the tools in the arsenal. Satellites, buoys, aircraft, and radar are all important tools used for hurricane tracking and prediction. While hurricanes are still far out in the ocean, indirect measurements of the storms’ intensity and behavior are made primarily via satellite, although ships and buoys provide some observations. Once the storms come within range of aircraft, more direct measurements are taken by reconnaissance aircraft, which drop radiosondes in the core of the storm. Within about 200 miles of the coast, radar provides important measurements of the storm. Computer models used to forecast storm intensity and movement require a great deal of data about the atmosphere, including all the observation data from satellites, aircraft, ships, and radar.
Computer models take all the various observations and perform millions of calculations to generate predictions of hurricane behavior. The atmosphere in which the hurricane is moving is very important to hurricane intensity and motion. The output from all of these computer models is packaged as guidance and evaluated by hurricane specialists at the National Hurricane Center as well as local National Weather Service forecast offices.
Hurricane forecasters must look at all of the model results, which frequently give widely different pictures of the future. When the models disagree, hurricane forecasters must use their experience and judgment to decide which model is performing the best under the current conditions. A good forecaster has an extensive education in the science of meteorology and considerable experience in tropical forecasting. Forecasters recognize that conditions can change quickly. This is why forecasts talk about “probabilities” and “margin of error”.
Once forecasts, watches, and warnings have been coordinated along the coast between the National Hurricane Center and local National Weather Service offices, the National Hurricane Center generates the hurricane forecast and warning products. Hurricane forecasts are issued four times a day (at 5 a.m., 11 a.m., 5 p.m., and 11 p.m.) when hurricanes are present in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, or the Gulf of Mexico.
All of this hurricane forecast and warning information is sent out to all media outlets for relay to everyone. Television, radio, the Internet, and NOAA weather radio are some of the best means to get the most up-to-date hurricane information. The internet can also be a good source of information. You can visit the Raleigh National Weather Service office at www.weather.gov/rah to get local forecasts and hurricane forecasts and warnings.
What is the Hurricane history of North Carolina?
North Carolina receives more than its share of tropical storms and hurricanes. Over the past years, North Carolina has seen presidentially declared disasters resulting from hurricanes in locations from the Outer Banks to the Blue Ridge Mountains. No part of our state has gone unaffected by these giant storms.
Ever since the first expeditions to Roanoke Island in 1586, hurricanes have been recorded to have caused expensive damage to the state. Reliable tracking and classifications of tropical systems did not begin until nearly 300 years later in 1886. Since that time over 1,000 tropical systems have formed in the Atlantic Ocean
And the Gulf of Mexico. Nearly 20 percent of all these tropical systems passed within at least 300 miles of North Carolina. Statically, the coast of North Carolina can expect to receive a direct hit from a land-falling tropical system once every 4 years. However, since 1995, direct landfalls on our coast have occurred about every 1 to 2 years. For the remainder of the state, every one and a half years on average a remnant tropical system has made landfall to our south and brought heavy rain, floods, and tornadoes.
Since records have been kept dating back to 1806, around 65 tropical systems have made direct landfall on the North Carolina coast. Even more disturbing is the fact around 100 tropical systems have moved through and affected the state without actually making landfall along our coast. North Carolina’s unique geography with respect to its protruding coastline makes the state a favorable target for hurricanes. Residents living in the eastern half of North Carolina from Raleigh to the coast stick out in the Atlantic Ocean along the same longitude as the Florida coast and the Bahamas. This geographical fact makes the coast from Wilmington to Cape Hatteras the most favorable location for hurricane and tropical storm landfalls.
The most active months for tropical systems in North Carolina are August and September. However, hurricanes have wreaked havoc as early as late June and as late as mid-November. The peak tropical activity usually occurs in a six-week period from mid-August to late September. During active cycles in hurricane activity, North Carolina can experience multiple hurricanes and tropical storms within weeks of each other. Years when North Carolina has been hit by more than
Hurricane Hazel remains the most powerful hurricane to ever make landfall in North Carolina. Hazel struck a category 4 hurricane with winds of 144 mph. Since that time, Hurricane Floyd in 1999 became the costliest hurricane in North Carolina history. Sixty-six counties were presidentially declared disaster areas following Floyd. Total storm losses exceeded six billion dollars. Hurricane
What are the Hurricane Basics?
Hurricanes need the right ingredients in order to form. These include warm tropical water, atmospheric moisture, and light winds aloft. When areas of disturbed weather in the atmosphere experience these ingredients, they can combine to produce tropical storms and hurricanes with violent winds, incredible waves, and torrential rains.
Each year, an average of ten tropical storms develop over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. Typically, about six of these storms will become hurricanes. In an average three-year period, the U.S. coastline from Texas to Maine will be struck by roughly five hurricanes. Of these hurricanes, at least two are usually major hurricanes with winds in excess of 110 mph, similar to Hurricanes Isabel, Fran, and Hazel.
A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone, which is a generic term for low-pressure systems that develop over the tropics. Tropical cyclones are classified as follows:
Tropical depressions: Depressions are organized areas of low pressure, resulting in a system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation. Tropical depressions are defined as having maximum sustained winds of 38 mph or less.
Tropical storms: Tropical storms are better-organized systems of strong thunderstorms with a defined area of low pressure and winds of 39-73 mph.
Hurricanes: Hurricanes are intense tropical systems with a well-defined surface circulation with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph or greater.
Hurricanes are categorized according to the strength of their winds. A category one storm has the lowest wind speeds, while a category five storm has the most extreme. These are relative terms because lower-category storms can sometimes inflict greater damage than higher-category storms, depending on where they strike and the particular hazards they bring. For example, Tropical Storm Allison, while only a tropical storm, caused over 6 billion dollars in damage due to flooding in east Texas. Allison was the costliest tropical storm in history. Hurricane Floyd, which was a stronger hurricane, caused similar damage in North Carolina on a much larger scale.
What are High Winds?
The intensity of a land falling hurricane is expressed in terms of categories that relate to wind speeds and potential damage. A category one hurricane, on the saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, has lighter wind when compared to higher category hurricanes. A category 4 hurricane, like Hurricanes Hazel and Hugo, contains winds between 131-155 mph and would be expected to cause 100 times more damage than a category 1 hurricane.
Even tropical storm force winds of less than 74 mph are capable of tossing around debris and causing damage similar to that seen from Hurricane Fran around the Raleigh area. For this reason, you need to seek shelter in a sturdy building as the hurricane moves inland and before the onset of tropical-storm-force winds. Tropical storm force winds usually hit hours ahead of the actual hurricane eye. For this reason, many emergency officials typically have evacuations completed and personnel sheltered before the onset of tropical-storm-force winds.
Hurricane-force winds can easily destroy poorly constructed buildings and mobile homes. Debris such as signs, roofing material, and items left outside become flying missiles in high wind. Falling trees cause extensive damage to power lines, towers, and underground water lines. This can cause extended disruptions of utility services. Damaging hurricane-force winds can be just as devastating as tornadoes.
The strongest winds in a hurricane usually occur on the right side of the eye wall. Wind speed usually decreases significantly 12 hours after landfall. Nonetheless, as seen in Hurricanes Hazel and Hugo, hurricane-force winds can extend far inland, so those living along and near the hurricane forecast path should take the threat of flying debris and falling trees very seriously.
Hurricane Hugo, made landfall near Charleston, S.C. before battering Charlotte 175 miles inland with nearly 100 mph gusts.
You can protect windows by installing hurricane shudders or preparing 5/8 plywood panels. This will not only protect your windows but also keeps the wind out of your house. If the wind is able to enter a house through a window or door, it becomes much easier for the wind to destroy a home or building. Garage doors are also very susceptible to high wind and fail frequently in tropical storms and hurricanes. Reinforcing garage doors with affordable braces significantly increases structural integrity.
Things you can do before a storm threatens to include assessing your home’s landscaping and assessing the threat of falling trees. Trim back any dead limbs as well as large overhanging limbs. Pick up all loose objects around the house, including lawn furniture, grills, and potted plants. Lastly, have a plan of where to go if the high wind threatens you. Talk with your family and let everyone know where your predetermined safe room is in your home. Again, interior hallways, closets, and bathrooms are the safest locations. Always stay away from windows and exterior doors
What is Inland Flooding?
Inland flooding is one of the most serious and deadly threats hurricanes bring to North Carolina. Most hurricane deaths over the past 30 years have been the result of inland flooding. During the past 30-year period, more than half (59 percent) of all U.S. tropical cyclone deaths have occurred from inland freshwater flooding.
Nearly 78 percent of all children killed by tropical cyclones drown in these floods. At least 23 percent of all flooding deaths have occurred in automobiles as people attempt to drive through flooded areas where water covers the road.
The tragic hurricane season of 2005 was no exception. Countless individuals drowned from Louisiana to Mississippi and Alabama. During Hurricane Floyd, of the 56 people who perished, 50 drowned due to inland flooding, and most in automobiles. The NWS safety campaign Turn Around, Don’t Drown is aimed at educating everyone about the dangers of driving into floodwaters.
Can Weak Hurricanes Still Produce Heavy Rainfall?
It is important to realize a hurricane’s rainfall intensity is not directly related to the intensity of the wind. Weak hurricanes and even tropical storms have caused disastrous floods throughout history.
Just last year, the remnants of Tropical Storm Alberto moved over central North Carolina, dropping 4 to 6 inches of rain from Sanford to Raleigh. This resulted in major flooding along numerous creeks, including Swift Creek in Apex and Crabtree Creek in Raleigh. In 2004, while the remnants of Hurricane Gaston spared North Carolina from heavy rain, only 12 hours after tracking over our state the system moved into central Virginia and inundated portions of Richmond, Va., under a foot of rain. This was some of the worst flooding to ever hit the Richmond area. Several people drowned, mostly in automobiles.
What can you do to protect yourself against inland flooding?
Anytime a hurricane or tropical storm threatens, think flooding. It is very important to determine if you live in an area at risk of flooding from heavy rainfall. If your yard or nearby road around your home floods during ordinary thunderstorms, you are at serious risk of flooding from torrential tropical rainfall. Those living near creeks, streams, and drainage ditches should also watch water levels closely. Remember, extreme rainfall events bring extreme flooding and during extreme events, even those areas which normally do not flood are at risk.
Always keep abreast of road conditions, making sure your escape route is not becoming flooded by heavy rain. Never attempt to cross-flowing water. As little as six inches of flowing water may force your car off the road and downstream into deadly conditions.
Never allow children to play near creeks, streams, or drainage ditches. As rainwater runs off, creeks, streams, and ditches fill with running water that can easily sweep a child away.
Lastly, have an emergency action plan and know your homeowners and flood insurance policies. Flood damage is not usually covered by homeowners’ insurance. DO NOT make assumptions. Check your policies.
Hurricane how to be prepared?
Preventing the loss of life and minimizing the damage to property from hurricanes are responsibilities that are shared by everyone.
If you are asked to evacuate, you should do so without delay. But unless you live in a coastal area, in a low-lying area, an area that floods frequently, or in manufactured housing, it is unlikely that you will be asked to evacuate. That means it is important for you and your family to HAVE A PLAN that makes you as safe as possible in your home. Disaster prevention includes modifying your home’s landscaping to limit the threat of falling trees and strengthening your home from within against storms. Preparedness also includes having the supplies on hand to weather the storm.
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Develop A Family Plan
Your family’s plan should be based on your vulnerability to hurricane hazards, including high wind, flooding, tornadoes, and falling trees. In a disaster, you should plan to be able to provide for yourself and your family for 5 days without utility services or outside aid. Share your plan with friends or family. Locate the safest areas in your home for each hurricane hazard. In certain circumstances, the safest area may not be your home, but within your community. Determine escape routes from your home and places to meet outside the home should you have to evacuate quickly. Have an out-of-state friend as a family contact who knows your plan and where you will go during a disaster, so all your family members have a single point of contact. Make a plan now for what to do with your pets if you need to evacuate. Check your insurance coverage — flood damage is not usually covered by homeowners’ insurance. Stock non-perishable emergency supplies and a Disaster Supply Kit.
Create A Disaster Supply Kit
There are certain items you need to have regardless of where you ride out a hurricane. Important items for your kit include:
- Water: at least 1 gallon daily per person for 3 to 7 days.
- Food: at least enough for 3 to 7 days of non-perishable packaged or canned food and juices. Include foods for infants or the elderly, as well as snack foods.
- Kitchen supplies: Non-electric can opener is a must along with cooking tools, fuel, paper plates, and plastic utensils.
- Blankets and Pillows
- Clothing: seasonal clothes along with rain gear and sturdy shoes.
- First Aid Kit: including Medicines and Prescription Drugs.
- Special Items for babies and the elderly.
- Toiletries and Hygiene items along with moisture and disinfectant wipes.
- Flashlights and Batteries.
- Radio: Battery operated and NOAA weather radio.
- Cash: primarily in the form of some small bills.
- Important documents kept in a waterproof container or watertight resealable plastic bag or box including insurance, medical records, bank account numbers, Social Security cards, and so on.
- Tools: keep a set with you during the storm.
- Vehicle fuel tanks filled.
- Pet care items include proper identification, immunization records, medications, an ample supply of food and water, and a carrier or cage.
Secure your home
There are things that you can do to make your home more secure and able to withstand stronger storms. Be sure to secure loose outdoor items around the house before the wind starts to blow. How well you and your family cope with a disaster will depend on how well you plan, prepare and react. Realize disasters occur everywhere in our state and hurricanes pose the greatest threat for large-scale disasters. Preparing for tomorrow’s storm today is the best thing you can do for yourself and your family.
If you are hurricane aware, you will be able to answer these questions:
- What are the hurricane hazards?
- What threats do wind and tornadoes pose to my home and family?
- Is inland flooding a serious issue?
- Do I live in an area prone to flooding and is my house surrounded by large trees?
- Am I seeking shelter in a strong, sturdy home?
- What actions should I take to be prepared?
- Do I have a Family Disaster Plan, Disaster Supply
- a place to evacuate to if necessary?
Taking action is as easy as 1 … 2 … 3
Before hurricane season, you should assemble your Disaster Supply Kit. These items are often scattered around your home and simply need to be brought together into one location. Also, develop your Family Disaster Plan. Discuss the possible hazards with your family. Determine if you are in an evacuation area and where you would go if you had to evacuate. Identify an out-of-town family contact.
When a Hurricane Watch is issued for the North Carolina coast, you should check your Disaster Supply Kit. Make sure nothing is missing. Determine if there is anything you need to supplement your kit and replenish your water. Then activate your Family Disaster Plan. Protective measures should be initiated, especially for those with coastal property, including houses and boats.
When a Hurricane Warning is issued, you should, ready your Disaster Supply Kit for use. If you need to evacuate, you should bring your Supply Kit with you. Use your Family Disaster Plan. Your family should be in the process of completing protective actions and deciding the safest location to be during the storm.