PITTSBORO — June 1 marked the quiet beginning of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season, which continues through the end of November, and while the season began unremarkably and forecasters …
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PITTSBORO — June 1 marked the quiet beginning of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season, which continues through the end of November, and while the season began unremarkably and forecasters predict “normal” storm activity this year, state officials are urging residents to be ready and Chatham County emergency officials are working to ensure they’re prepared for whatever comes.
Such preparations at the county level, according to Chatham County emergency management director Steve Newton, continue throughout the year. Staff trains not only for hurricane preparedness but for other natural disasters or situations that may require their action on behalf of public safety.
“I think we’re at a good place now,” Newton said, “but we’re never going to let our guard down.”
Newton noted that some effects of last year’s saturating hurricane season have continued to require attention. The N.C. Dept. of Transportation, for instance, is still working to remove trees and debris from around bridges throughout the area.
And residents in northeastern Chatham County off Jeremiah Drive, which has had a long history of flooding, are getting some relief as the DOT crews work to raise the road level to above flood levels. That work is continuing now.
But beyond those ongoing efforts to address storm-related concerns, Newton said county emergency officials train throughout the year. Recently, they participated in a regional exercise with emergency management officials from Lee and Harnett counties at Harris Nuclear Plant in New Hill. And last week, Chatham emergency management officials participated in a two-day training exercise with state officials.
“We regularly get the band together and practice,” Newton said. “We make sure we don’t get rusty.”
Newton said he and his staff continually learn from experience, including last year’s Hurricane Florence response. After last year’s storms, county officials are working to improve local shelters, including budgeting for additional back-up power sources.
According to researchers at N.C. State in Raleigh, the 2019 season should see 13 to 16 named storms forming in the Atlantic basin, which includes the entire Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.
This is slightly higher than the long-term (1950 to 2018) average of 11 named storms, but the 2019 forecast is in line with the recent (1995 to 2018) average of 14, researches in Raleigh said. Of those named storms, five to seven may grow strong enough to become hurricanes. The historical average is six, N.C. State researchers said, adding that two to three of those storms could become major hurricanes.
N.C. State researchers evaluated more than 100 years of historical data on Atlantic Ocean hurricane positions and intensity and other variables including weather patterns and sea-surface temperatures to predict how many storms will form this year in each ocean basin.
While this year’s season is just beginning, two back-to-back years of intense hurricane activity, including last year’s day’s-long soaking from Hurricane Florence, remain a vivid memory for those who experienced it.
State officials say now, in the relative calm of late spring and early summer, is the best time for residents to ensure they are prepared for bad weather that may strike later in the season.
“North Carolina has been hit by two huge storms in two years, and we know from experience that any storm should be taken seriously,” said N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper, who proclaimed a week last month as Hurricane Preparedness Week . “We hope and pray that North Carolina will be spared this hurricane season, but we must do everything we can to be prepared.”
Here’s what state emergency officials recommend we do:
• Prepare an emergency supply kit, which should contain enough supplies not just to get through a storm, but for a potentially lengthy aftermath. Make sure to have include enough non-perishable food and water to last each family member three to seven days.
Kits should also include:
• Copies of insurance papers and identification sealed in a watertight plastic bag
• First-aid kit
• Weather radio and batteries
• Needed prescription medicines
• Sleeping bag or blankets
• Changes of clothes
• Hygiene items such as toothbrush, toothpaste, soap and deodorant
• Pet supplies including food, water, leashes, bedding, muzzle and vaccination records.
“It’s critical that people prepare themselves and their families now for emergencies,” said N.C. Public Safety Secretary Erik A. Hooks. “Prepare not just for the storm itself but for the days to follow, as with the larger storms it sometimes takes a few days for essential services to be restored.”
Hooks reiterated that the most dangerous threat from hurricanes and tropical storms is flooding and storm surge. The storm doesn’t even have to be classified as a tropical system to cause serious damage, said Hooks.
Other steps state officials recommend to take now:
• Know your evacuation routes and plan how you would get to safer ground if needed.
• Consider flood insurance, especially if you live near a body of water or in an area that has ever experienced flooding.
• Sign up for flood alerts from FIMAN, the N.C. Flood Inundation Mapping and Alert Network, to get up-to-the-minute warnings on potential flooding.
This week, N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler issued a plea for farmers to prepare for hurricane season.
“So many of us are still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Florence,” said Troxler. “This storm has been a disastrous reminder of just how important it is to have an emergency plan for your farm, food company or agribusiness. Take precautions, think through your plan now and discuss it with your employees and family.”
Planning, Troxler said, helps farmers protect their families, workers, equipment and buildings. “Livestock operations should maintain emergency plans that address power needs and on-site feed capabilities,” he said. “Also, identify places to relocate animals from low-lying areas. We need farmers to take these precautions to reduce animal losses from the storm.”
The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has a website, www.ncagr.gov/disaster, with links and resources for different types of agribusinesses to plan and recover from a disaster. A Farm Emergency Plan Template is available on the site to help organize information that is needed after a disaster.
Additional information on hurricanes and how to prepare can be found on the ReadyNC mobile app and online at www.ReadyNC.org.
Randall Rigsbee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.