Dale C. S. Destin |
The 2016 Atlantic hurricane season starts in 17 days – June 1, and runs until November 30. The season is forecast to have near normal activity – 13 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.
Regardless of the forecast, the same detailed preparations are required to protect life, property and livelihoods. As we say in the meteorological community, it only takes one to change your life and community. Recall, notwithstanding last year’s hurricane season being quiet, Erika caused catastrophic damage to Dominica.
May 15-21 is designated hurricane preparedness week in the U.S. – the time to prepare for potential tropical cyclones (tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes) over the upcoming six months. We have no such week here, but we have a shared enemy; hence, we need to prepare similarly. The following are the seven actions required now to become “hurricane strong” i.e. resilient to tropical cyclones.
Determine your risk from tropical cyclones. Disaster risk is inversely proportional to knowledge – meaning the more knowledge you have on the subject the lower your risk is likely to be. Depressions, storms and hurricanes are not just about high winds, other associated hazards are inland flooding, storm surge, rip currents and tornadoes. Know the potential hazards that could affect your location and prepare to mitigate them. Local knowledge could be crucial in this regard, so seek it, especially with respect to flooding (See our tropical cyclone climatology).
All the named storms to have affected Antigua – 1851-2014. Credit NOAA
Develop an evacuation plan if you live in an area that will need to be evacuated or if your home is deemed unsafe to ride out a tropical cyclone. Public shelters should be a last resort, so try to arrange to have the home of a friend or relative as your evacuation destination, if need be.
Secure an insurance check-up to ascertain that you have adequate coverage for your home and content. You especially need to ensure that you have coverage for wind and flood damage – the two main destructive hazards of depressions, storms and hurricanes.
Assemble disaster supplies now so as to avoid long lines and potential scarcity before and after a tropical cyclone. This is one of the most important elements of being “hurricane strong”. Supplies should be enough to last for at least one week after the event and should include things such as non-perishable food items, water, portable radio and batteries.
Strengthen your home, if possible, to be able to withstand, at least, a Category 3 hurricane. The best place to ride out a storm is in your own home. So, if you have questions about its strength, get a qualified professional to evaluate it, and if it can be retrofitted, do it. In the long run, it will be far cheaper than going to a shelter and leaving your property to be blown away.
Identify your trusted sources of information for a hurricane event. Your national meteorological service is your most trusted source – in the Antigua and Barbuda context, it’s the Antigua and Barbuda Meteorological Service through its website and hotline: 4634638.
Trusted information can also be had from the following social media accounts:
Your disaster management agency, in our case – the National Office of Disaster Service (NODS) will provide disaster management services to reduce the risk of the inclement weather.
Both your met office and disaster management agency will partner with a number of media outlets to get the information out. For us, the Antigua and Broadcasting Service (ABS) will be foremost partner.
Complete your written hurricane plan now, before the hurricane season starts. The time to write your plan is not when you are steering down the barrel of a hurricane. Under such conditions, you are likely to forget crucial things or make the wrong decisions. Your written plan should include where you are going to ride out the storm and a communication strategy.
Start preparing for the hurricane season today and become “hurricane strong”. Follow us via social media for the latest updates.