Federal Hurricane Awareness Tour Gets Cities Ready for 2019 Cyclone Season

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After last year’s blockbuster hurricane disasters, NOAA is sending their Hurricane Hunters aircraft fleet on tour to five cities ahead of the 2019 hurricane season to increase hurricane awareness.

In the air and on the ground, officials will do all they can this spring to prepare citizens for the upcoming season of tropical cyclones by spreading the word on the dangers of being caught without a personal hurricane plan and raising awareness of the impact of these destructive storms.

Hurricane Hunters

In May, hurricane experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will visit five East Coast airports, arriving aboard aircraft that flies directly into the cores of tropical storms to gather data about a tropical cyclone’s intensity and landfall.

Watch them in Ocean Today’s action promo:

The 2019 Hurricane Awareness Tour will land in Quonset, Rhode Island, (May 6); Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, (May 7); Roanoke, Virginia, (May 8); Charlotte, North Carolina, (May 9) and Brunswick, Georgia, (May 10).

During the visits, the public is invited to:

  • Tour Hurricane Hunter aircraft NOAA P-3 and USAF WC-130J
  • Meet their pilots and flight crew
  • Speak with hurricane forecasters
  • Hear from local National Weather Service meteorologists and emergency managers
  • Learn about weather and safety preparedness
Hurricanes Florence and Michael Headlined 2018

According to NOAA, the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season will be remembered most for hurricanes Florence and Michael, which caused significant damage in the southeastern U.S. In total, the season produced 15 named storms, including eight hurricanes of which two were “major” (Category 3, 4 or 5). An average season has 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

Hurricane Florence made landfall as a Category 2 storm Sept. 14 near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, and doused the state with more than 30 inches of rain. The rainfall, along with the storm surge, caused widespread flooding that damaged tens of thousands of homes and other buildings, causing $17 billion in damage to the Tar Heel State, according to the Insurance Journal.

Online Guides Can Help Communities Increase Hurricane Awareness

Morehead City Port, integral to the local economy and shipping, closed for 11 days due to Michael. The city, as with other municipalities in the hurricane-rich region, publishes an online guide with steps for hurricane-preparedness and staying safe during a storm.

“If you are under a hurricane warning, find safe shelter right away,” the guide reads, followed by critical advice to stay alive:

  • Determine how best to protect yourself from high winds and flooding.
  • Evacuate if told to do so. Take refuge in a designated storm shelter, or an interior room for high winds.
  • Listen for emergency information and alerts.
  • Use generators only outdoors and away from windows.
  • Turn Around, Don’t Drown! Do not walk, swim, or drive through flood waters.
Advice from Lessons Learned

Hurricane Michael, which made landfall on the Florida Panhandle on Oct. 10, was recently upgraded to rare Category 5 status. Michael was directly responsible for 16 deaths and about $25 billion in damage in the U.S., according to the Associated Press.

Mexico Beach and nearby Panama City, which both are still recovering from Michael’s destruction more than six months later, each have their own web pages dedicated to hurricane preparedness.

Panama City’s page lists important steps to take before, during and after a hurricane, including advice on preparation:

  • Listen for local radio or television weather forecasts (Editor’s Note: know the difference between a hurricane watch or hurricane warning). Purchase a NOAA Weather Radio with a warning alarm tone and battery back-up.
  • Ask your local emergency management office about community evacuation plans and whether your neighborhood would be told to evacuate. Learn evacuation routes. Determine where you would go and how you would get there if you needed to evacuate.
  • Talk to your family about hurricanes. Plan a place to meet your family in case you are separated from one another in a disaster. Choose an out-of-state contact for everyone to call to say they are okay.
  • Determine the needs of family members who may live elsewhere but need your help in a hurricane. Consider the special needs of neighbors.
  • Prepare to survive on your own for at least three days. Assemble a disaster supplies kit (and Go Bag). Include a battery-powered radio, flashlights, extra batteries, a first-aid kit, blankets, clothing and food and water.
  • Make plans to protect your property. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8-inch marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.
  • Know how to shut off utilities. Know where gas pilots are located and how the heating and air conditioning system works.
  • Have your home inspected for compliance with local building codes. Many of the roofs destroyed by hurricanes were destroyed because they were not constructed according to building codes.
  • Consider flood insurance. Purchase insurance well in advance. There is normally a five-day waiting period before flood insurance takes effect.
  • Make a record of your personal property. Take photographs of or videotape your belongings

Mexico Beach’s page adds advice on evacuation:

  • Follow your community’s guidelines to protect your health and the environment during and after the storm.
  • Review the FEMA Evacuation Guidelines to allow for enough time to pack and inform family and friends if you need to leave your home. FOLLOW instructions issued by local officials. Leave immediately if ordered.

Consider your protection options to decide whether to stay or evacuate your home if you are not ordered to evacuate.

Access Ocean Today’s Hurricane Safe collection of videos.

Learn more about government efforts to develop hurricane awareness and response:

43 Government Agencies Training for Hurricane Response

Hurricane Matthew: Using GIS Technology During Disaster Response

The 5 Rs of Disaster Response for Emergency Shelters

Access shareable preparedness resources for hurricanes and other disasters:

Emergency Public Information Kit

About the author

Larry Claflin, Jr.

Larry Claflin, Jr.

Columnist Larry Claflin, Jr., is a freelance writer based in New England and co-founder and former executive director of the non-profit Salem Jazz and Soul Festival. He is fascinated with the mechanics of city government and cultural development in cities.