Hurricane Season


The news is full of hurricane info these days. Hurricane season began officially last Saturday and the seminars, updates and predictions have been flowing for weeks now.

Most everyone knows the basics: Hurricane Season officially runs from June 1 to November 30. At 39 mph sustained winds, a storm is declared a Tropical Storm and given a name. A Category 1 storm has winds 74 – 95 mph; Cat 2, 96 -110 mph; Cat 3, 111 – 129 mph; Cat 4, 130-156 mph and Cat 5 over 157 mph.

Lots of numbers to pay attention to for newcomers, but once you’ve gone through a storm or two, it’s much easier to remember.

The predictions are out: NOAA predicts 9-15 named storms with 4-8 Hurricanes and 2-4 Major Hurricanes (Cat 3 and above). That’s near normal. The Colorado State University predictions are for 13 named storms, 5 Hurricanes and 2 Major Hurricanes. The predictions will be revised later this summer as we approach the heart of the season in September.

For all the science involved, predictions aren’t very useful. It all comes down to whether a storm hits your community. In 2018 most forecasts called for a below-average season, and “only” two major hurricanes occurred.

Those who live in the Panhandle and are still recovering from Cat 5 Hurricane Michael might disagree that it was a “below-average” hurricane season.

Each storm we experience improves our response and knowledge for the next one, but only if we use the knowledge gained. Our public safety agencies used the hard-won knowledge gained during and after 2017’s Hurricane Irma and are ready now for the season. Are you?

This year, we’re hearing that instead of the usual 3-days-worth of supplies, you should have 5 or even 7-days-worth. That’s not a random recommendation, it’s based on what people actually needed after Irma.

Most people don’t do much prepping for a storm until it’s named and aimed at our area. By then the grocery store shelves are bare, the batteries are gone, gas lines are long and generators are in short supply.

It might be “cool” to talk about how you prep for a storm by buying more beer, but when that wind cranks up and the rain is blowing sideways and the trees start to fall, you’re gonna want more than a cold beer. We’re not averse to cold beer at all, just don’t substitute it for real storm prep.

The Sand Paper will be sharing hurricane preparation tips with our readers over the next few weeks. We hope our readers will take seriously the call to prepare early for storms.

Remember, living on a barrier island brings the threat of storm surge. Take it seriously and evacuate when told. Wind and rain probably won’t kill you, but a 15-20 foot storm surge will. A drive through what’s left of Mexico Beach, that took a 20’ storm and tide surge, would convince anyone of a storm’s danger. As awful as the physical damage was in that town, the loss of life of those who did not evacuate is heartbreaking.


Missy Layfield