May 25, 2021

The new normal is more hurricanes—here’s how to handle them

Peter Piotrowski

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If you live in a coastal area, nobody needs to tell you that increased hurricane activity is the new normal. The government, nonetheless, has done the math. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)  recently declared that an “average” hurricane season in the North Atlantic now will be defined as one with 14 named storms, up from 12. (If you were wondering, a storm gets an official name when its wind speeds exceed 39 MPH.) Of those hypothetical named storms in the average year, seven will be hurricanes, up from six. The average number of major hurricanes (Category 3 and up) remains at three.

Despite this now, tougher grading curve, experts nonetheless expect the 2021 season—which starts June 1—to be above average. Forecasters predict between 15 and 19 named storms, 7-9 hurricanes, and 3-4 major hurricanes.  For those with short memories, that’s still better than last year, when there were 30 named storms and 14 hurricanes.  

On May 20, the NOAA predicted that this season has about a 60% chance of above-average activity.  (Contributing factors: high sea temperatures, weak Atlantic trade winds, and an enhanced west African monsoon.) But if the agency doesn’t expect record-setting activity akin to that in 2020, it predicted with 70% certainty that there would be 13-20 named storms, 6-10 hurricanes and 3-5 major hurricanes.

For homeowners in areas at risk of hurricanes, one prediction can be made with 100% certainty: you, your family, and your property will be much better off if you prepare now for the possibility of a serious storm between June 1 and November 30 (i.e., official hurricane season). 

Smart preparation involves four steps:

  1. Make a detailed plan for what you will do if a storm is coming.
  2. Prepare an emergency kit with the essentials you may need if you have to evacuate or are without power.
  3. Learn the key safety rules for how to stay safe in a storm.
  4. Be prepared to deal with any property damage that may occur.

To help with each of these steps, Vault has created a two-page guide with straightforward checklists for each aspect of hurricane preparation. Download it here. Keep a paper copy with your emergency kit and email the PDF to yourself so you can have access to an electronic copy if needed. You can also get up-to-date forecasts and more preparation information from the NOAA’s National Hurricane Center.

If you are only just starting on your preparations, be reassured in the knowledge that 75% of the days with tropical storm activity and 95% of the days with major hurricanes occur between mid-August and the end of September. Still, it’s not safe to count on averages. In recent years, we’ve seen storms before and after official hurricane season.  And many homes are flooded or damaged by wind from storms that never earn official names.

In other words, the new normal means you have to be ready for anything. 

 

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