Never too early to get prepared for hurricane season

Published 4:41 pm Friday, May 17, 2024

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Hurricane season doesn’t officially begin until June 1, and the tropics look to be quiet at the moment. But it’s never too early to start getting prepared.

These massive storms can make quite a devastating impact on us each year. Sometimes we get lucky and the worst hurricanes pass us by, but other years, they wreak havoc on our lives.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), there’s usually an average of 12 tropical storms that form in the Atlantic Ocean each season, with half of those usually growing strong enough to meet hurricane qualifications. In a typical two-year period, the US coastline is hit by an average of three hurricanes, one of which is usually categorized as “major.”

Meteorologists at Colorado State University have already released their prediction for this season: 23 named storms, 11 of which may become hurricanes, and five of those may be Category 3 or higher. That’s a little more than we usually get, but warmer-than-usual ocean waters and “La Nina” will probably play a part in developing more storms this year.

Unless you’ve just moved here from another part of the country, you’re probably already familiar by now with the hazards that come with hurricanes, tropical storms, and tropical depressions. But even if we generally know what to expect, it can’t hurt to get prepared each year in case disaster strikes close to home.

National Hurricane Preparedness Week was May 5-11 this year, but in case you missed it, here are some important things you may need to know (or, at the very least, get a reminder about things you shouldn’t forget), courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Firstly, be aware of what risks you face in your local area. Flooding – caused by storm surge or heavy rains – almost always comes hand in hand with a hurricane. Strong winds can cause a lot of damage too. It’s good to know ahead of time if you’re in an area prone to flooding and if your home has any structural weaknesses that can be strengthened ahead of time. NOAA’s coastal flood exposure map shows that even people who don’t live right beside a river can still be at risk for flooding.

Even though evacuation for a hurricane is extremely rare in our part of the state, it’s a good idea to figure out ahead of time what your evacuation route will be and where you’ll go. You don’t always have to travel hundreds of miles away to safety. NOAA suggests identifying friends and relatives who live outside of flood-prone areas. You should also have multiple routes in mind and account for traveling with pets.

But no matter if you’re evacuating or riding out the storm at home, you should always be prepared with a basic supply kit.

Things to pack in your kit include water (one gallon per person per day), food (several-day supply of non-perishables), battery-powered radio, flashlight, first aid kit, extra batteries, dust mask, garbage bags and moist towelettes (for personal sanitation), manual can opener, local maps, and a cellphone with a backup battery.

Other useful items that you can include are medications, glasses, cash, copies of important documents, change of clothes, fire extinguisher, matches, personal hygiene supplies, paper plates, and plastic utensils.

It’s important to check your kit every year, especially to replace anything that’s no longer useable since the previous year. You should also make sure everyone in your family knows where the kit is and what the plan of action will be in an emergency.

This may all sound a bit like overkill, but it’s much easier, of course, to be prepared well ahead of when a disaster may strike instead of scrambling as you run out of time.

There are also a number of things you can do in advance to protect your home from potential hurricane damage. That includes trimming tree branches that are at risk of falling on your home, installing storm shutters, replacing old garage doors and tracks (to prevent wind damage), and sealing any outside wall openings (to prevent water damage).

If you’ve moved to a new home recently, it’s also a good idea to identify the safest place to be inside in case of a tornado or other similar dangerous storm activity.

When a hurricane is in the forecast, it’s important to stay informed by updates from the National Hurricane Center and the National Weather Service. Keep a check on alerts, watches, and warnings. Focus on potential impacts, regardless of storm size or category. Hurricanes span incredibly large distances, so you can still experience weather hazards even if you aren’t right in the middle of the forecast track.

When the storm itself hits, make sure to stay home (unless there are evacuation orders in place). Never drive through floodwaters. It only takes about a foot of water to sweep a car away, and even if the water isn’t moving, you have no way of knowing if the road underneath is still intact.

Once the storm passes, it’s still prudent to proceed with caution. Stay away from downed power lines, which can sometimes be hidden in water or dangling overhead. Don’t walk in floodwater which can contain harmful bacteria, chemicals, sharp objects, or other unseen hazards.

If you need to use a portable generator, never use it inside your home or garage because it can be a source of deadly carbon monoxide. Run your generator outside at least 20 feet away from doors and windows.

For more detailed information on how to get ready for the season (which lasts through November 30), visit

I know a lot of these tips here are common sense, but it’s always helpful to have reminders. In an emergency situation, you’re not always able to think as clearly as usual. So it never hurts to be prepared!

Let’s all try to be as safe as possible for hurricane season this year.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or 252-332-7206.