CENTREVILLE — As the remnants of tropical storm Cristobal entered Canada Wednesday, June 10, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration continued to warn of an above normal 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.
The season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, has already proved active, and an estimated 13 to 19 named storms, six to 10 hurricanes, and three to six major hurricanes were forecasted in a report released Thursday, May 21.
According to NOAA, “the 2020 outlook calls for a 70 percent probability for each of the ranges of activity.”
The seasonal activity is expected to fall within these ranges in 70 percent of seasons with similar climate conditions. These ranges do not represent the totals possible in past similar years.
“The forecast is a result of warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and weaker Atlantic trade winds and an increased African monsoon,” said Kristopher Durham, Public Health Emergency planner for Talbot County. “Storm surges caused can extend for dozens of miles inland filling buildings quickly and making roads impassible. Water places so much pressure on buildings and destroys them if they aren’t designed for it.”
Durham also noted that rising ocean levels due to climate change also represent additional dangers to vulnerable locations along the Eastern seaboard including Maryland.
Supplies required to adequately prepare for storms include necessary medication, disinfectant supplies, face coverings, non-perishable food and at least one gallon of water per person for at least three days, battery powered or hand-cranked radios, flashlights, a first aid kit, a whistle to call for help, plastic sheets and duct tape, garbage bags, a wrench to turn off utilities, additional batteries, and cash since electronic means of payment may be down.
Having saved copies of important legal and insurance documents is also paramount.
“The local emergency management and law enforcement agencies will continue to put out information through the media and social media platforms,” Durham said. “Some of the reasons why people don’t evacuate during major storms include having disabilities or other medical reasons, they’re not aware evacuation is necessary, they may fear their home will be damaged or looted, or they think they it’s not that bad.”
According to Durham, choosing to stay in your home despite your ability to evacuate ahead of an incoming tropical storm or hurricane “puts a strain on first responders due to them needing to be in harm’s way to get someone.”
There is also no guarantee, Durham said, that a first responder is able to arrive if weather conditions are too severe.
The process of tracking a tropical storm or hurricane begins five days prior to any landfall to monitor if it turns toward Florida or other states along the East coast. Generally, upon its arrival to North and South Carolina, it can either continue up the coast or head back out to sea.
Locally, the Emergency Operations Center convenes and starts strategically placing assets with all community stakeholders at the table, and establishing shelter locations if necessary.
For its part, the Queen Anne’s County Department of Emergency Services has also adapted its response plan to account for the coronavirus pandemic.
“We all need to take a closer look at our hurricane preparedness because of COVID-19,” said Scott Haas, director of Emergency Services. “It is more important than ever to make sure you have a family emergency plan and to be ready to follow the directions of local emergency officials.”
Haas said residents should allow extra time to evacuate due to shelters being further away. Since a hurricane evacuation shelter is a refuge of last resort, one is better off sheltering with family or friends outside the expected danger zone or staying at an accommodation of their choice.
State, local and nonprofit partners will still provide shelter options.
Even those not in one of the evacuation zones could still feel the affects of hurricanes and other hazards. Hurricanes can spawn flash floods, severe thunderstorms, and tornadoes many miles away from the eye of the storm and 100 miles or more inland.
Lori Morris, assistant chief of Special Operations for the Queen Anne’s County Department of Emergency Services, echoed that damage from flooding could occur quickly.
“It is vital that our citizens stay alert during hurricane season and having a plan is the first step,” Morris said. “It is often better to have an early exit strategy then to wait and risk our bridges being closed or an evacuation route being covered. Tropical Storm Isabel in 2003 is a great example of the flooding possibilities in our area.”
Morris added that storm surges on the Eastern Shore present a unique problem for residents as water can cover roadways and wash out bridges. These roadways can often be the only evacuation routes for individuals living in coastal areas.
The Know your Zone campaign started last year in the state of Maryland, and Queen Anne’s County was up front pushing information to citizens. DES also urges citizens to follow them on social media to get the most up to date information.
“Residents can sign up to receive notifications on our website at https://www.qac.org/325/Emergency-Services by clicking on the Citizen Alerts icon,” Morris said. “This will give you the best up to date information on any local emergency including weather. We also ask that our citizens follow us on social media to get the most up to date information.”