Hurricane Season Churns Busily Onward

Hurricane Ernesto (NOAA Photo)

This year’s Atlantic hurricane season got off to a busy start, with six named storms to date, and there may be a busy second half, according to the updated hurricane season outlook issued by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service.

The updated outlook still indicates a 50 percent chance of a near-normal season, but increases the chance of an above-normal season to 35 percent and decreases the chance of a below-normal season to only 15 percent from the initial outlook issued in May.

Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the season – June 1 to Nov. 30 – NOAA’s updated seasonal outlook projects a total (which includes the activity-to-date of tropical storms Alberto, Beryl, Debbie, Florence and hurricanes Chris and Ernesto) of:

  • 12 to 17 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), including:
  • 5 to 8 hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher), of which:
  • 2 to 3 could be major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph)

Peak hurricane season roils from mid-August to late October, and the tropical cyclones can throw a wet blanket on your travel plans. It is only August, and it has already spawned two hurricanes and four tropical storms in the Atlantic basin.

Anyone living in a hurricane-prone area, along the coastlines or planning to travel during peak hurricane season should be prepared, advises AAA Travel. As always, “some people have concerns about the possible impact a hurricane could have on a planned vacation,” travel and tourism experts, including AAA, explain. However, they should recall a major hurricane is still an extremely rare event.

Tips for homeowners

There are several simple steps you can take now to be better prepared for a hurricane.

  • Make sure your that your emergency supply kitis fully stocked with supplies for at least three days per family member.
  • Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed so they are more wind resistant.
  • Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Reinforce your garage doors; if wind enters a garage it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage.
  • Install a generator for emergencies.

You’ll also want to make a family emergency plan, choose an out-of-town contact for you and your family to call in the event of an emergency. And don’t forget to sign up for emergency alerts from the Community Emergency Alert Network (CEAN).

Tips for travelers

“Late summer and early fall can be a wonderful time to travel even with the risk of bad weather,” said Carrie A. Norman, Senior Travel Agent, AAA Mid-Atlantic Travel. “It is simply a matter of knowing how to handle bad weather before and even during a trip.”

Traditional travel insurance policies are valuable for a variety of travel situations, however, they do not cover acts of God in all situations and are often, therefore, little or no help for travelers facing storm related delays according to AAA.  If a cruise or tour is cancelled or a hotel is uninhabitable, however, then insurance will cover the cost of the trip in most scenarios.

Delays of less than 24 hours or the fact that the trip will be less desirable due to bad weather are not scenarios which are generally covered by travel insurance. Clients who are no longer interested in the trip or do not wish to change their destination or dates will likely lose some or all of their money.

It is important for travelers to understand what choices they may face if a storm impacts their vacation, however, it is equally important for them to also realize that travel vendors want their business and want them to book again, thus they are often very flexible, offering attractive alternative destinations for clients or allowing them to reschedule. It is rare for travelers to be completely out of luck, but it can happen.

AAA offers the following reminders for travelers:

  • Stay abreast of local forecasts both at your departure city and your destination.
  • Check your airline flight status before leaving for the airport
  • Check with your hotel for local updates on the storm’s impact.
  • Monitor weather conditions on a regular basis as things can change quickly.
  • Travel with only a carry-on bag when flying to give you greater flexibility if your schedule changes and so that you will have your luggage with you if delayed.
  • Pack “emergency” creature comforts with you like snacks, rain coats, and extra clothing, etc. A flashlight with extra batteries, radio and extra water are a good idea if going to a beach house.
  • Heed all evacuation advisories and/or orders.
  • Carry enough medication for two to three times the length of your trip – If flying, always keep medication in carry-on luggage.
  • Arrange emergency back-up child and/or pet care as applicable – Carry all applicable contact information on your person and not in checked luggage.
  • Leave a house key with a trusted friend or relative and carry their telephone number with you – This person can take care of any home care essentials, mail, and/or access information you may need.
  • Have emergency funds available for hotel stays, food, and basic necessities – check all credit card available credit limits and expiration dates.
  • Take care of critical items/bills which are due immediately upon your return BEFORE YOU GO – examples: mortgage payments, tuition bills, school registrations, college applications, legal documents, etc.
  • Carry important numbers with you for any one you might need to contact to advise your delay – examples: Jury duty, court appearance, etc.
  • International travelers are advised not to travel with a passport which expires within a short period after your return- Delayed travelers will find it very difficult to re-enter their home country with an expired passport.

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Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.