SEVENSEAS Marine Conservation & Travel Issue 16, September 2016 - Page 133

et your one-gallon water jugs, battery powered flashlights, and digital movie

rentals ready, folks. The peak of Atlantic hurricane season has arrived!

Atlantic hurricane season spans from June 1 to November 30, the prime time for storms occurs from mid-August to mid-October. Around 78 percent of tropical storm days, 87 percent of hurricane days with storms of category 1 or category 2 strength, and 96 percent of major storm days with storms of category 3, 4, or 5 are accounted for during this eight-week period.

In 1992, Hurricane Andrew, a category 5 storm that killed 65 people and brought winds of 177 miles per hour to South Florida’s east coast, formed at the start of peak season on August 16, 1992 and dissipated by August 28, 1992. Hurricane Katrina, the costliest natural disaster in United States history, also formed during the earlier days of peak season, forming on August 23, 2005 and dissipating eight days later on August 31 after reaching category 5 status. Hurricane Sandy, the second costliest storm in United States history that wreaked havoc on America’s northeastern states, formed at the very end of peak season on October 22, 2012 and dissipated on November 2 after being classified a category 3 hurricane. Why is it that the most impactful storms occur during this timeframe and what can you do to stay prepared?

While tropical waves, the traveling low-pressure areas that can be precursors to a tropical storm or hurricane, form off of the coast of Africa every few days, conditions need to be just right for the wave to grow into something worth dedicating news coverage to. The conditions required for hurricane formation are wind factors and temperature. Wind shear, the factor that breaks tropical waves up before they can gather strength, is strong in May and tends to decrease in strength through the summer, reaching its weakest point in August. Lower wind shear paired with high ocean and air temperatures as well as the resulting increase of moisture in the air provides tropical waves with the fuel needed to become a named storm. By mid-October, wind shear starts to increase again as water and air temperatures begin to cool and the areas where storms can strengthen become more limited. Thanks to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration doing some tough mathematical calculations, we know that September 10 is the day a tropical cyclone is the most likely to be found somewhere in the Atlantic.

We remind all of our readers that the best way to protect yourself and those you care about from a hurricane is to be completely prepared ahead of time. Unlike earthquakes and tornados, hurricanes come with days of tracking and advance warning to allow for preparation and getting out of the storm’s path. Steps you can take include:

Gathering information such as knowing if you live in an evacuation zone, knowing your home’s vulnerability to wind and flooding, purchasing flood and homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, knowing where and how to get information on potential storms, having an evacuation plan, and knowing where your nearest hurricane shelter is in the event of a storm.

Preparing a supply kit containing purified water, non-perishable food, a first-aid kit, important documents like health insurance cards and passports, cash, any prescription medications, and a portable charger for electronics to name a few.

Having a plan in the event of a minor or major storm. Generally during a tropical storm or a lower-level hurricane, evacuations are optional. During more powerful storms, mandatory evacuations are just that—mandatory. By staying put, first responders are put in danger in the event that you need help in the middle of the storm if they can even respond at all. If you can’t leave, know what your options are instead. If you have pets, have a plan in place to get them to safety with you by finding a pet friendly hurricane shelter or by leaving yourself enough time to drive out of the storm’s path.

By knowing your options ahead of time and taking the time to adequately prepare, you will be ready to respond at any time, not just during the peak season. For more information about hurricane preparedness, be sure to visit the National Weather Center’s hurricane page at