Experts are forecasting another active hurricane season, and they’re warning Virginia residents to prepare for the dangerous cyclones now.
Hurricane season begins June 1, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Prediction Center says there is a 75 percent chance the Atlantic hurricane season will be either around normal or more active than usual.
The 2017 season was among the busiest on record, with powerful hurricanes destroying parts of Texas, Puerto Rico and Florida.
While Virginia missed the worst of the 2017 season, the state isn’t out of harm’s way.
“Preparing ahead of a disaster is the responsibility of all levels of government, the private sector and the public,” said acting FEMA Deputy Administrator Daniel Kaniewski. “It only takes one storm to devastate a community, so now is the time to prepare.”
Virginia residents can take steps now to help prepare themselves, their families and their homes for any hurricanes that may make landfall over the commonwealth.
Residents can begin by knowing their zone. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management launched the “Know Your Zone” program in spring 2017 to streamline evacuation efforts in the event of a powerful hurricane passing over Hampton Roads.
Twenty-three localities participate in the program. The areas are split into four zones based on their vulnerability to the impacts of hurricanes, including storms surge and flooding.
Residents of individual zones may be directed by local emergency managers to evacuate along a predetermined path ahead of a storm’s landfall. By knowing one’s zone before a storm approaches, residents can be prepared when the evacuation order is given.
Families should develop emergency plans and sign up for emergency alerts now, experts said.
Those who do not live in an evacuation zone should be ready to shelter in place. That means making a disaster supply kit that has enough supplies for those in the storm’s path to live without power or running water for three days.
Supplies include nonperishable food, bottled water, medicine, a flashlight and batteries, a radio, hygiene supplies and a first-aid kit. Parents should have enough diapers and baby formula for their infants and food for pets.
Evacuees should also carry a supply kit in their vehicles that includes critical documents such as Social Security cards, passports, copies of prescriptions and insurance forms. Bringing a list of family contacts is also a good idea in case the power is knocked out and cellphone batteries die.
Whether staying or going, carrying cash is a good idea as well. If the region loses power, credit cards and ATMs may not work for days after a storm.
In advance of a storm, experts said property owners should take a lap around their homes and look for anything that could be downed by hurricane-force winds.
Homeowners are also advised to secure rain spouts and gutters, and reinforce the roof, windows and doors. Patio furniture and garbage cans should be brought inside so they aren’t blown away.
Homeowners may also consider getting flood insurance if they live in low-lying areas.
What’s in store
The breakdown of the NOAA prediction is a 35 percent chance of a more active than normal season and 40 percent chance of a normally active season. Hurricane season does not end until after Thanksgiving.
Forecasters also predict a 70 percent chance of between 10 and 16 named storms during the 2018 season, of which five to nine are expected to become hurricanes. There were 17 named storms and 10 hurricanes in the Atlantic in 2017, including Harvey, Irma and Maria.
Between one and four of the predicted hurricanes are expected to reach category three or higher.
In an average hurricane season, 12 storms are named and six become hurricanes, of which three reach at least category three.
“The ability of NOAA scientists to both predict the path of storms and warn Americans who may find themselves in harm’s way is unprecedented,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “The devastating hurricane season of 2017 demonstrated the necessity for prompt and accurate hurricane forecasts.”