What’s in a name?
The question comes from a soliloquy in Shakespeare’s lyrical tale of doomed “star-cross’d” lovers in ‘‘Romeo and Juliet.’’ Essentially, Juliet is telling Romeo that a name is an artificial and meaningless convention.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about potential tropical weather systems in the Atlantic Basin. Those weather systems are given a name by the National Hurricane Center in Miami when they intensify into a tropical storm with winds of at least 39 mph. When that happens, they’re known as Tropical Storm (fill in the blank) or Hurricane (fill in the blank).
But when a storm becomes so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate for obvious reasons of sensitivity, the hurricane reference is dropped.
Katrina, Rita, Ike and Harvey all fit that bill. And all of them have wreaked havoc across Texas in the last 15 years.
This year’s hurricane season officially began June 1 and runs through Nov. 30. Meteorologists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center are forecasting a near-normal hurricane season for 2019. Forecasters are predicting the likelihood of nine to 15 named storms. Four to eight of those storms will develop into hurricanes, while two to four will become major storms. The peak of the season is from mid-August to late October. However, deadly hurricanes can occur anytime during the hurricane season.
NOAA said the ongoing El Niño is expected to persist, which would suppress the development and intensity of Atlantic hurricanes. However, they also see warmer-than-average sea-surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea and an “enhanced west African monsoon,” which could result in increased hurricane activity.
With each passing day, it becomes easier to forget the damage a hurricane, regardless of its category or strength, can wreak on a community. And while we may think we’re safely nestled in the pineywoods of East Texas, Katrina, Rita, Ike and Harvey each proved the folly of those beliefs. Mother Nature does not abide by any schedule, so it’s never too early to prepare for hurricane season.
According to the National Hurricane Center, the two key factors in safely weathering a hurricane are advance preparation and planning, and executing the plan when alerted by emergency officials. Once a storm is on the radar, the time for preparations has passed.
While every hurricane is different, it’s best to be prepared for the worst. The American Red Cross offers the following suggestions to help prepare for a hurricane:
■ Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio for critical information from the National Weather Service.
■ Create a hurricane evacuation plan with members of the household. Planning and practicing an evacuation plan minimizes confusion and fear during the event.
■ Find out about the community’s hurricane response plan. Plan routes to local shelters, register family members with special medical needs and make plans for pets to be cared for.
■ Check disaster supplies. Replace or restock as needed should evacuation be required.
■ Bring in anything that can be picked up by the wind.
■ Close windows, doors and hurricane shutters. If you do not have hurricane shutters, close and board up all windows and doors with plywood.
■ Turn the refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting. Keep them closed as much as possible so that food will last longer if the power goes out.
■ Turn off the propane tank.
■ Unplug small appliances.
■ Fill the car’s gas tank.
■ Obey evacuation orders. Avoid flooded roads and washed-out bridges.
The storms of the past few years have taught us that it’s important to have an emergency supply kit on hand, as well. Your kit should include a flashlight, extra batteries, extra eyeglasses, bottled water, non-perishable food, dry clothes, bedding, insurance information, important documents, medications, and copies of prescriptions, as well as any special products for babies, the elderly and medically fragile family members. Keep water and other supplies fresh.
Information about hurricane preparedness also is available at the Texas Division of Emergency Management’s website (txdps.state.tx.us/dem).