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Above–Average Hurricane Season Requires Above–Average Readiness Approach

Along with New Dual Disaster FEMA Guidelines

This is the second article in an exclusive four-part series on preparing for the 2020 Florida hurricane season amid COVID-19. Look for the third article in next week's issue.

With Colorado State University hurricane researchers predicting an above-average 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, sound, proactive measures are critical, particularly in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. FEMA is responding to this potential dual disaster by crafting new guidelines combining storm and COVID-19 procedures. Pete Gaynor, FEMA administrator, spoke with media outlets recently about the agency’s whole-of-America response to COVID-19 and how it will operate during the upcoming hurricane season and current COVID-19 pandemic.

The whole-of-America response to COVID-19 references how the pandemic prompted a major disaster declaration for every state, the five territories and Washington, D.C., for the first time in U.S. history. “This is an historic response,” Gaynor said during a Nexstar Media interview. Gaynor also said that FEMA has a huge footprint across the country and territories in response to the COVID-19 pandemic adding, “This thing [coronavirus] is so immense that it takes the whole of America, whole of community to do this.”

“Typically, in a hurricane, we would move people from their homes that are at risk to a shelter,” he said. “But now we have to take that into consideration. How much space do we need in a shelter? What are all the conditions that have to be there, to make sure that we are socially distancing and that we have good hygiene in shelters?,” Gaynor said.

Gaynor stated that FEMA is preparing some planning guidance for states on how to operate during hurricane season and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bracing for the Big Surge of Atlantic Activity

Citing the likely absence of El Niño as a primary factor, Colorado State University (CSU) hurricane researchers are predicting 16 named storms during the Atlantic hurricane season, spanning from June 1 to November 30. Of the storms, researchers expect eight to become hurricanes with four reaching major hurricane strength. Providing a reference, the team predicts that 2020 hurricane activity will be about 140 percent of the average season with 2019’s hurricane activity at about 120 percent of the average season.

2020 marks the 37th year the CSU hurricane research team has issued an Atlantic basin seasonal hurricane forecast intended to provide a best estimate of activity in the Atlantic during the upcoming season, and not an exact measure.

According to an article issued by the CSU, tropical and subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are currently warmer than their long-term average values and are consequently also considered a factor favoring an active 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.

Below is a look at landfalling probability included in the CSU report addressing the likelihood of major hurricanes making landfall:

  • 69 percent for the entire U.S. coastline (average for the last century is 52 percent)

  • 45 percent for the U.S. East Coast including the Florida peninsula (average for the last century is 31 percent)

  • 44 percent for the Gulf Coast from the Florida panhandle westward to Brownsville (average for the last century is 30 percent)

  • 58 percent for the Caribbean (average for the last century is 42 percent)

The CSU team will issue forecast updates on June 4, July 7 and August 6.

Building the Framework for Safe Shelter

Along with FloridaDisaster.org and Ready.gov, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at https://www.weather.gov/wrn/hurricane-preparedness offers a comprehensive resource for hurricane readiness with its Weather-Ready Nation program. The site features material on weather hazards, safety campaigns, education, news and events and more.

The Hurricane Safety Tips and Resource page includes links to in-depth information on hurricane safety, watches and warnings, planning and a post-hurricane action plan.

Also on the NOAA website is information on The National Weather Service (NWS) StormReady®program, a grassroots method of helping communities develop a plan to handle all types of extreme weather. Designed to be a proactive approach to improving local hazardous weather operations, a StormReady® community must:

  • Establish a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center

  • Have more than one way to receive severe weather warnings and forecasts and to alert the public

  • Create a system that monitors weather conditions locally

  • Promote the importance of public readiness through community seminars

  • Develop a formal hazardous weather plan, which includes training severe weather spotters and holding emergency exercises.

Additionally, the site has a link to the National Hurricane Center featuring a page dedicated to the Atlantic basin, a glossary of NHC terms, data and tools with access to real-time satellite imagery, and analyses and forecasts.

For more information on hurricane preparedness best practices, such as reviewing your current homeowners’ insurance policy, contact HL Law Group at (855) 713-1212 or email us at info@hllawgroup.com.

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