If it’s mid- to late August, then we’re heading into the busiest time of the hurricane season. Coastal residents are urged to stay alert from now until at least the end of the season on Nov. 30.
“There had been some notable adjustments that have been made by some of the lead forecasters in our circles,” says Meteorologist Jeff Huffman at the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network – FPREN. That includes NOAA – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“[NOAA] increased their probability of an above-average season,” Huffman said. “Colorado State [University] scientist Dr. Phil Klotzbach says that conditions appear to be a little more favorable for development, but he wanted to stress that there’s a high amount of uncertainty in the Atlantic.”
According to Klotzbach, the last time no named storms showed up in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico between mid-July and mid-August was in 1982. Huffman says right now, there are mixed signals out there when it comes to the factors contributing to, or prohibiting storm development.
“We have some cooler waters in areas where hurricanes normally form, far out in the eastern Atlantic; we have a whole lot of the Atlantic that is warmer than normal,” Huffman says. “We also had an El Nino that recently dissipated. El Nino, as you may be aware, can suppress hurricane activity in the Atlantic. The fact that it’s now dissipating may make conditions more favorable.”
Meanwhile, agencies and utilities are continuing to prepare in case a named storm hits the Panhandle. At Gulf Power, spokeswoman Sarah Gatewood says that involves working with their new parent firm, Florida Power and Light.
“We have even more resources right here in the state of Florida should we need that, and vice versa – they can call on us should a hurricane hit down further south and not up here,” said Gatewood. “We can supplement each other and have even bigger crews to help either company.”
A good rule of thumb in getting out information after a storm, says Gatewood, is what’s called the “first week of recovery,” depending on the storm. Case in point: Hurricane Michael last October.
“Michael was about a 13-day restoration total; those first hours and days are the most critical because we are trying to assess the damage and find out where we need help the most,” said Gatewood. “And also trying to take care of things that could harm people – downed power lines, or poles in roads.”
Gatewood adds that the period before landfall is just as important, if not more so.
“We start communicating, particularly when a storm is approaching,” Gatewood said. “We want people to know, first of all, that they need to be prepared. “We’re prepared, we’re bringing in resources; if we need to we’re making sure that our crews are ready to go to start restoring power as soon as it’s safe to do so.”
Electrical outages are pretty much a given during and after a hurricane, so residents need to be prepared in advance – starting now – in case the lights go out until the electricity is back on.
“Making sure you have enough food and water; that you have medications on hand, and that you’ve thought about your pets,” says Gatewood. “If you have family members that are dependent on medically-essential equipment that is powered by electricity, make sure you have a plan in place for them.”
Information on the 2019 hurricane season can be found at various places on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. You can also visit www.gulfpower.com, and the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network at www.wuft.org/fpren/.