Make those preparations

Published 7:04 pm Saturday, June 2, 2012

Glenn Williams (left) of Washington boards up one of his windows Aug. 26, 2011, with help from Jim Helms as Hurricane Irene headed toward North Carolina. Irene’s winds and floodwaters caused massive damage, some of which still lingers. (WDN File Photo)

Hurricane season returns for 2012

For those of you who missed it, the 2012 Atlantic Ocean hurricane season is under way.

That season officially began Friday and ends Nov. 30.

The appearances of tropical storms Alberto and Beryl at the end of May provided disaster-response agencies and the news media plenty of opportunities to remind North Carolina residents and others about the hurricane season and preparing for it.

As of late Saturday afternoon, there were no tropical depressions, tropical storms or tropical cyclones — also known as hurricanes — in the Atlantic.

With a new hurricane season comes a new director of the National Hurricane Center. Rick Knabb returns to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration after working at The Weather Channel as its on-air tropical-weather expert for about two years.

“I’m ready to reunite with the talented staff at the National Hurricane Center and to work with all of our partners to prepare everyone for the next hurricane,” said Knabb. “Personal preparedness will be critically important, including for my own family and home.”

Doug Hoell, director of the state’s Division of Emergency Management, also weighed in on the new hurricane season.

“Last year, Hurricane Irene was a sober reminder just how destructive hurricanes and tropical systems can be for our families, businesses and communities. While Hurricane Irene struck North Carolina’s coast as a Category 1 — the weakest level hurricane — the system caused the worst flooding that many of the Inner Banks counties have seen in decades. Flood levels ranged from two feet above ground level in Aurora to more than five feet above ground in Stonewall and Mesic,” Hoell said. “In fact, more than one third of our state was impacted by Irene, and many fellow North Carolinians are still recovering from that powerful storm.

“Well, hurricane season is upon us again and now is the perfect time to ensure your family is ready. Making preparations now can save you time and money, and give you peace of mind.”

In late May, weather forecasters predicted this year’s hurricane season would produce a normal number of about nine to 15 tropical storms, with as many as four to eight of those becoming hurricanes.

That outlook was issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the six-month storm season. One to three storms could become major hurricanes with top winds of 111 mph or higher, according to NOAA’s prediction.

Workshops, seminars and other events related to preparing for hurricanes before, during and after they affect the region have been abundant this spring. So have tips on how to prepare an emergency-supplies kit for use in the event a hurricane or other major storm strikes the area.

In a presentation last spring at the N.C. Estuarium, Greg “Rudi” Rudolph, shore protection manager for Carteret County, said when it comes to hurricanes, area residents should keep one factor in mind: location, location, location.

During his Tropical Cyclones 101 presentation (a hurricane is a tropical cyclone), Rudolph said key factors to keep in mind when keeping an eye on a hurricane are intensity, duration, approach (location), surge and tide. With those factors in mind, the worst-case scenario for Washington and nearby areas would be a major hurricane (Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale) that’s slow-moving, approaches from the south or southwest, has major storm surge associated with it and strikes at high tide.

Because the strongest area of a hurricane (which rotates in a counter-clockwise direction) is its northeast quadrant, the northeast quadrant of hurricanes passing east of Washington miss the city, he said. A hurricane coming from the south or southwest of Washington means that northeast quadrant will be the storm’s leading punch when it strikes the city, he noted.

“A couple or 10 miles can make a big difference,” Rudolph said about the effects of a hurricane on an area.

“The moral of the story here is that if it’s a tropical storm coming straight for Little Washington — panic. If it’s a category 3, 4 or 5 — really panic. You know — evacuate,” Rudolph said.

Rudolph said whether a hurricane season is more active than usual, average or less active than usual, “it only takes one to make or break your season.”

Some of the most damaging hurricanes came during seasons when hurricane activity was average or below average, he said.

Over the past 50 years, each hurricane season has averaged 10 named storms, six of which will be hurricanes, and two or three of the hurricanes will be classified as major hurricanes, he said.

“If you get it, it was a bad year. If you don’t get hit — no offense — who cares?” Rudolph said.

Rudolph said area residents should prepare for each and every hurricane season, regardless if that season is an active one or not.

For information on how to prepare for a hurricane, visit the following websites:

Contributing writer Betty Mitchell Gray contributed to this article.

Understanding the terminology

A tropical cyclone is a rotating, organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that originates over tropical or subtropical waters and has a closed low-level circulation. Tropical cyclones rotate counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere.
They are classified as follows:

  • Tropical Depression — A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 38 mph (33 knots) or less.
  • Tropical Storm — A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph (34 to 63 knots).
  • Hurricane — A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher. In the western North Pacific, hurricanes are called typhoons; similar storms in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean are called cyclones.
  • Major Hurricane — A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 111 mph (96 knots) or higher, corresponding to a Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

Hurricane-preparedness kit


  • Water — 1 gallon per person per day (a week’s supply of water is preferable)
  • Water purification kit or bleach
  • First-aid kit and first aid book
  • Precooked, nonperishable foods, such as canned meats, granola bars, instant soup & cereals, etc.
  • Baby supplies: formula, bottle, pacifier, soap, baby powder, clothing, blankets, baby wipes, disposable diapers, canned food and juices
  • Nonelectric can opener
  • Anti-bacterial hand wipes or gel
  • Blanket or sleeping bag per person
  • Portable radio or portable TV and extra batteries
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Essential medications
  • Extra pair of eyeglasses
  • Extra house keys and car keys
  • Fire extinguisher — ABC-type
  • Food, water, leash and carrier for pets
  • Cash and change
  • Seasonal change of clothing, including sturdy shoes

Sanitation supplies

  • Large plastic trash bags for waste, tarps and rain ponchos
  • Large trash cans
  • Bar soap and liquid detergent
  • Shampoo
  • Toothpaste and toothbrushes
  • Feminine hygiene supplies
  • Toilet paper
  • Household bleach
  • Rubber gloves

What to do before a hurricane makes landfall

  • Listen to a NOAAWeather Radio for critical information from the National Weather Service.
  • Check your disaster supplies and replace or restock as needed.
  • Bring in anything that can be picked up by the wind (bicycles, lawn furniture).
  • Close windows, doors and hurricane shutters. If you do not have hurricane shutters, close and board up all windows and doors with plywood.
  • Turn the refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting and keep them closed as much as possible so that food will last longer if the power goes out.
  • Turn off propane tanks and unplug small appliances.
  • Fill your car’s gas tank.
  • Talk with members of your household and create an evacuation plan. Planning and practicing your evacuation plan minimizes confusion and fear during the event.
  • Learn about your community’s hurricane response plan. Plan routes to local shelters, register family members with special medical needs as required and make plans for your pets to be cared for.
  • Evacuate if advised by authorities. Be careful to avoid flooded roads and washed-out bridges.
  • Because standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding, it’s important to have protection from the floods associated with hurricanes, tropical storms, heavy rains and other conditions that impact the U.S. For more information on flood insurance, visit the National Flood Insurance Program website at

What to do and not to do after a hurricane or major storm

  • Continue listening to a NOAAWeather Radio or the local news for the latest updates.
  • Stay alert for extended rainfall and subsequent flooding even after the hurricane or tropical storm has ended.
  • If you evacuated, return home only when officials say it is safe.
  • Drive only if necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed-out bridges.
  • Keep away from loose or dangling power lines and report them immediately to the power company.
  • Stay out of any building that has water around it.
  • Inspect your home for damage. Take pictures of damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance purposes.
  • Use flashlights in the dark. Do not use candles.
  • Avoid drinking or preparing food with tap water until you are sure it’s not contaminated.
  • Check refrigerated food for spoilage. If in doubt, throw it out.
  • Wear protective clothing and be cautious when cleaning up to avoid injury.
  • Watch animals closely and keep them under your direct control.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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