What are the predictions for the 2019 Hurricane Season?
I follow hurricane forecaster Dr. Phil Klotzbach with Colorado State. This year he’s calling for a somewhat below normal season, because of El Nino and its influence on upper level winds blowing across the Caribbean. The windier conditions increase wind shear, which will normally knock down the total number of storms in the Atlantic Basin.
What does that mean for Louisiana?
Of course, there are major caveats to that. What it means for the Gulf of Mexico is absolutely zero. Whether it’s an El Nino year or not, historically, we have had equal the number of storms in the Gulf of Mexico. Dr. Klotzbach indicated that El Nino tends to reduce atmospheric shear in the Gulf, making it more receptive to tropical storms of hurricanes.
What are the odds that we will see a big storm this season?
The last couple of years we have had big storms in the Atlantic Basin. I don’t think we’re going to see that this year. Our long-term average is that a hurricane hits the Louisiana coast every 4 to 5 years. We haven’t had a hurricane hit Louisiana since Isaac in 2012. We’re over due. It’s not just the hurricanes, it’s the slow moving tropical storms. We average one tropical depression a year. We’re over due on that as well. Then when you look further at those statistics, four out of every 10 hurricanes that strike the coast is a category three or higher. Not only are we over due for a hurricane, we’re overdue for a bad one.
When do people need to start reacting like it is an emergency situation?
When we start talking about a storm stalling. I’ll take a category one hurricane moving at 15 mph any day over a tropical storm or depression that doesn’t move for two or three days. When we talk about systems stalling, there’s always a possibility for flooding. What we’ve seen in the last few years is these tropical systems stalling more often and producing more rainfall than we’ve ever witnessed in our lifetime. It’s not just being prepared for hurricanes and the winds they bring – it’s being prepared for all of the hazards like flooding.
To what can the recent flooding events be contributed?
The studies and data we’ve observed over the last 20-30 years show that the Gulf of Mexico has been running two degrees warmer for the latter part of the 21st century. The Gulf contains more heat and more heat equals more fuel for disturbances like Acadiana experienced in 2016 and in the case of Hurricane Harvey. It’s not just atmospheric – it’s how we build and how we drain.
How should we prepare for hurricane season?
Hurricane season starts on June 1, and we can see storms that early. Take Hurricane Audrey in 1957; that was a June 2 storm that hit landfall at a category 4. You don’t want to wait to have your hurricane plan together. You need to have supplies and your evacuation plan in place. If you don’t evacuate, we would once say that you could be prepared to be without power for three to five days. Now, it’s prudent to say at least one week.
I always tell people that if they’re in a flood zone or not, they should absolutely consider buying flood insurance. Flood insurance takes 30 days to kick in; so don’t wait until July to purchase it. I speak from experience, because my home flooded in 2016. Having flood insurance saved my family more than $100,000.
What role does technology play in preparedness?
Our best protection is information, right? You have to make sure you have the best ways to receive that information, and that’s through technology. It’s been proven that during a weather event, local news and local meteorologist are your best bet for finding out what going on. Through the KATC news app, we broadcast our information live. That’s a shameless plug, I know. But, I know that we will be providing wall-to-wall coverage during developing weather situations. You can also go directly to our Facebook page to get information there. It’s a high tech world, and you need to consider what to do if you don’t have WiFi, cable or power.
What is the main thing you want everyone to know about preparing for hurricane season?
Not that we want to scare people into taking action, but we have to let everyone know what the long term statistics are and that there is a threat year in and year out. It only takes one hurricane to land in your backyard to make it a very, very bad season.