(TNS) - Get ready.
That’s the message, as it is every year. Forecasters predict a near- or above-normal Atlantic hurricane season this year with a 70-percent likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms with winds of 39 mph or higher.
They predict there could be up to four major hurricanes this season with winds of 111 mph or higher.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s outlook was announced Thursday at a Florida conference. There is a 35 percent chance of an above-normal season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.
Gerry Bell, lead hurricane season forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said they certainly expect storms to strike this year, but it’s too early to predict exactly when and where.
“It’s time to start getting ready again,” he said. “In some of these areas, I know they might not be fully recovered, but they need to work with local emergency management and do what they can to get prepared.”
A weak El Nino developing, along with near-average sea-surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic ocean and Caribbean Sea, are two of the factors driving this outlook. These factors are set upon a backdrop of atmospheric and oceanic conditions that are conducive to hurricane development and have been producing stronger hurricane seasons in the Atlantic since 1995.
NOAA has upgraded its technology to predict storms with greater accuracy knowing that 80 million people live in areas that could potentially be affected by a hurricane.
As Victoria residents experienced last summer, they don’t have to live directly on the coast to find themselves in harm’s way.
Dan Kaniewski, acting deputy administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, urges residents to download the FEMA app, create a communications and evacuation plan for the family and be financially prepared to cover out-of-pocket expenses during an emergency.
“And check on your insurance coverage,” he added.
Crossroads officials agree that it only takes one hurricane.
“Mother Nature has a way of sending us these reminders,” said Stan Upton, who has served as the emergency management coordinator for the past 11 years in Refugio County.
Upton said while it’s still fresh in our minds, residents should do their best to learn from last summer’s Hurricane Harvey.
“We were very fortunate we didn’t have any deaths directly related to the storm,” he said.
Being prepared for a disaster is something the county officials practice every year, he said, but residents must also focus on doing what they can to help themselves such as having a plan for an evacuation.
“Have a plan, period,” he said.
Victoria’s top emergency official, Rick McBrayer, said knowing there’s a possibility of having a more active season means he’ll be diligently watching for storm formations and leaning on the professionals at the National Weather Service in Corpus Christi for guidance.
McBrayer said this is a good time for residents to make sure they keep a supply of basic essentials because a disaster inevitably means the loss of utilities for several hours to potentially several days and weeks.
He advises stocking seven days’ worth of supplies, such as nonperishable foods, water, a battery-operated radio, a manual can opener and prescription medications.
Some Victoria residents were without power and drinking water for more than a week after the Category 4 storm in August.
McBrayer said people should also make sure children, the elderly and pets have what they need.
“We just need to make sure we have our plan, and we practice it and that we are prepared,” he said.
Laura Garcia reports on health and nonprofits for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at email@example.com or 361-580-6585.
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