Don’t be fooled by the size

Published 4:10 pm Friday, June 16, 2017

It’s supposed to be an especially active hurricane season.

There are reasons: warmer ocean temperatures; weak El Niños that won’t do much to suppress development of tropical cyclones in the Atlantic.

There’s no correlation between how many named storms there in a single season and how many make landfall — a season of only five named storms, with all five making landfall, could be far more devastating than a season of 14 named storms that all stay out to sea. For example, one of the most devastating hurricanes in U.S. history, category 5 Hurricane Andrew in 1992, wreaked havoc on South Florida during a season with only six named storms. And 2010 saw 19 named storms, 12 of which were hurricanes, but not a single one made landfall in the U.S.

While four major entities predict 11 to 17 storms will be named this season (most come in at 14 mark), one never knows what that means until a storm is headed in their direction — and just when it seems the coast is clear, and the impact will be minimal, even predicted storms have a way of acting unpredictably.

That’s why the beginning of hurricane season is the time to prepare. Unlike many other natural disasters, with regard to hurricanes, eastern North Carolina residents have plenty of time to prepare, shopping for the essentials as a storm plows up the coast.

But when it comes to major storms, most eastern North Carolinians are optimists. Having survived the likes of hurricanes Irene, Fran, Hazel and the one-two punch of Tropical Storm Dennis and Hurricane Floyd in 1999, a category 1 storm might not inspire preparation beyond the essentials.

But Beaufort County residents, and many others in surrounding counties, were taught a hard lesson last year. Hurricane Matthew, a category 1 nuisance, was not supposed to have much of an impact. Up until the night it hit, forecasters thought it would simply brush the coast and head on out to sea. Matthew, however, had a mind, and a path of its own, and had a far greater impact in days and weeks after the storm.

How many people were caught off guard? How many never expected they would be without electricity for two, five or even seven days? How many were prepared for no heat when the temperature dropped after the storm? How many had no way to prepare a hot meal? Or take a warm shower?

Many — that’s how many. A small storm that was supposed to simply be an annoyance did a lot of damage, especially to the ability of people to take care of the needs of daily living.

There’s a quote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Let Matthew be a reminder this hurricane season. Let that lesson inform exactly what needs to happen before any storm, whether it’s a tropical one or a category 4 monster.

Be prepared this hurricane season.