Hurricane PreparednessMay 10, 2022 03:00PM ● By Candice Stewart
With a few weeks left until the start of the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane season, how prepared are you for the threat of the impact that the storms may may have? Since there are no ways to prevent a hurricane or its impact on our infrastructure and lives, the best we can do is to prepare for its occurrence in an attempt to reduce the impact.
Before getting into the tips, learning a bit about the weather phenomena is important.
What Is a Hurricane?
A hurricane is a type of storm known as a tropical cyclone, that forms over tropical or subtropical waters.
Before tropical cyclones are identified as hurricanes, based on their sustained winds, they may be identified as tropical disturbances, tropical depressions, or tropical storms.
When tropical cyclones’ sustained winds get to 74mph, they are referred to as hurricanes. These storms are classified according to categories based on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. The categories range between 1 and 5, with 5 being the strongest with a hurricane’s maximum sustained winds. So, the higher the category, the greater the chance of possible damage to property, infrastructure, and loss of life.
How Are Hurricanes Formed?
In basic terms, hurricanes are formed within the Atlantic basin (the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico. Sometimes, they form within the North Pacific Ocean,, and less frequently,, in the central North Pacific Ocean.
Storms are generally named when they get to the point of being a tropical storm. The names come from a six-year rotating list of names that gets maintained and updated by the World Meteorological Organization (WTO).
Learn more about Hurricanes :
Hurricanes and the Atlantic Hurricane Season
"A hurricane is a violent, warm-core tropical storm with a minimum wind speed of 119 km or (74 mph), rotating in a counter-clockwise spiral around a region of low pressure called “the center of the eye”
The Season and Preparing for it
The Hurricane Season starts on June 1 every year and lasts until November 30. Though there is a specified period for the season, storms are known to occur outside of this time frame.
As shared by The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 123 hurricanes have directly impacted the continental United States. This ranges from Texas to Maine. It is important to note that the risks extend beyond wind damage.
In actuality, about 90% of deaths associated with the impact of hurricanes and tropical cyclones involve water. This includes storm surges, inland flooding, rip currents, and rough surfs. Director of the National Hurricane Center, Ken Graham, in an address he gave in a 2021 hurricane preparedness safety video states,
“The first 7 days of May saw NOAA providing general tips to help people plan and prepare before the hurricane season actually starts. NOAA encourages people to “be prepared for [the] hurricane season. Today, you can determine your personal risk, find out if you live in a hurricane evacuation zone, and review/update insurance policies [where possible].”
Additionally, NOAA shares that “you can also make a list of items to replenish hurricane emergency supplies and start thinking about how you will prepare your home for the coming hurricane season. If you live in hurricane-prone areas, you are encouraged to complete these simple preparations before [the] hurricane season begins on June 1.”
The tips they’ve shared are:
Determine your risk
o Determining risk applies to everyone. Those who live on or near the coast and those who don’t are equally at risk from experiencing hurricane-related hazards. Hurricanes move across the land as much as they do across the water, and the wrath of damage they can leave behind is tremendous. So, consider how possible storm surges, rainfall and flooding, or strong winds may impact you.
Develop an evacuation plan
o This is an important tip to follow. The National Hurricane Center says it best – find out if you live in an evacuation zone, plan several escape routes, and have a to-go bag ready with supplies, important documents, medication, clothing and other important items. If you have pets – plan for them, and follow whatever evacuation orders that may be given. It is also important to identify the evacuation shelters nearest to you.
(Image Source: NOAA.gov)
Assemble disaster supplies
o Stock up on supplies for the season. So, ensure that you have enough food, water, and toiletries – (non-perishable food items are better to keep at this time), and ensure that you have cash on hand. Keep your gas tank full, and secure a working battery-operated radio, batteries, and phone chargers. Ensure as well that you have your medication ready. If you can, ensure that your prescriptions are filled in advance with contingencies in place.
Get an insurance checkup
o Become familiar with your policy and identify if it needs to be updated. In that same breath, consider getting flood insurance in the event of storm surges or inland flooding, and keep your documents with you at all times. Store them safely to prevent water damage or being lost. Keep in contact with your insurance agent to figure out the best approach to take.
Strengthen your home
o We see it every year. With the threat of a storm touching land and affecting particular communities or countries, hardware stores are inundated with folks rush-buying sheets of ply, or grocery stores are flooded with people rush-buying and clearing the shelves. Know what you need ahead of time. Some ways to strengthen your home include covering your windows, trimming overgrown trees, securing loose outdoor items, and moving your vehicle to a safe location among others.
Help your neighbor
o Be your neighbor’s keeper and help them with everything that you have planned to do for yourself. Help them to prepare, help them to evacuate if it comes to that, and when a storm passes, check on them, and help them to clean up.
Complete a written plan
o The National Hurricane Center encourages people to create a plan that will include an emergency contact list, ensuring that one of the contact persons is outside the impact area. The plan should essentially include aspects of the other tips – an evacuation plan, your escape routes, the evacuation centers in and around your community, etc. Importantly, share your plan with people.
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The Impact of Hurricanes and Their Hazards on the Black Community
Though it is all good and well to discuss and share information about hurricanes and the preparation for their inevitable occurrence and impact on our lives, we often do not explore how groups of people are impacted.
So, let’s highlight what happens within the Black community.
Hurricanes come with lots of wind and even more water – in the form of rain, storm surges, and flooding. All of these together can cause damage to homes, and infrastructure, and they can uproot lives and drain the pockets of the affected in terms of clean-up and preparation for future occurrences.
As reported in The Scientific American, in 2017, Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and the neighborhood that suffered the greatest loss in terms of flood damage was located in the South-West of Houston with a population that was 49% non-white. In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina devastated South-East Louisiana, the most extensive damage took place in African American neighborhoods. Further to that, 4 of the 7 zip codes that saw the most flood damage were at least 75% Black.
According to research published in January 2022 in the journal, Nature Climate Change, Black communities will be disproportionately saddled with billions of dollars of losses because of climate change – as flooding risks grow in the coming decades.
Oddly enough, The Scientific American expressed similar sentiments in a 2020 article entitled Flooding Disproportionately Harms Black Neighborhoods. They report that the concentration of flood damage in urban areas with large Black populations may contrast to images of hurricanes hitting affluent coastal areas and floods swamping rural, largely white communities.
As reported by NBC News, the 2022 published research reveals that the annual cost of flooding across the US will hit US$40 billion annually by 2050, compared to the current US$32 billion. The research put forward shows that while the statistics indicate that today, it is mostly white, poor constituencies who are on the fringe line, in the future predominantly Black communities will be the worst hit.
Environmental justice experts state that the research shows how climate risk is intimately linked to race within the US, and the trillion-dollar infrastructure bill contains little to address the underlying conditions that put poor people and people of color in harm’s way.
Coastal communities in the South where African Americans make up a large percentage of local populations are areas at the highest risk of sea-level rise. – Based on information from a 2017 paper in ScienceDirect.
As reported by EcoWURD about the media reporting of Hurricane Florence, though the storm hit “some of the highest concentrations of Black residents in the US”, media seemed to focus on non-Black communities that were affected, perhaps significantly less. This piece of work delves into the lack of reporting and under-reporting of the impact that hurricane devastation has on Black populations in the US. It also speaks to the lack of resources to help communities to prepare for and escape the harsh effects of a storm blowing through their communities.
At the end of it all, bear in mind that while people are made aware of what they should do to prepare for hurricanes, tropical storms, or any form of a tropical cyclone, there is a bigger picture. How are minority communities impacted by the after-effects of storms?
Seven safety tips to prepare for the hurricane season
National Hurricane Preparedness
Flooding Disproportionately Harms Black Neighborhoods
Black Neighborhoods at risk as climate change accelerates flooding
Hurricanes Always Hurt Black Folks the Most
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