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Hurricane season likes being ahead of schedule

As I write this week’s column, Tropical Storm Bertha is hurtling from the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean to the South Carolina coast, and here in North Carolina, I’m waiting for the rain to arrive. Bertha is the second named storm so far this year, after Arthur a week or so ago, and both popped up before hurricane season even officially began.

June 1 is the traditional start to the “season” so these two storms were just a little fashionably early this year. This is actually the sixth year in a row that a named storm has formed earlier than June, and I figure if this keeps up a few more years, the weather people might have to pick a new start date. Or maybe just consider “hurricane season” a year-round thing. Back in 2016, the first stormed popped up as early as January!

If things keep up like this, I’ll just stop being surprised by any sort of weather.

Most of us who’ve lived here a long time are used to hurricanes and all the havoc and disaster they bring with them. I think it can be easy to just shrug off the storms and go about our daily business. But with the storms seeming to become more and more powerful and destructive each year, I think we should definitely try to prepare ahead of time as much as possible.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released an article recently predicting an “above-normal” hurricane season this year and shared suggestions on how to take precautions to stay safe if a hurricane hits your area.

According to this year’s predictions, we could have somewhere between 13 to 19 named storms and as many as three to six major hurricanes. That’s potentially a lot of disruption to our already disrupted lives as we continue through this global pandemic.

It seems like this overactive season is a product of poor timing. NOAA points to several factors that could contribute to the development of hurricanes this year, including a lack of the “El Nino” conditions which usually suppress hurricane activity. There’s also the combination of warmer than average sea surface temperatures, weaker trade winds, and an enhanced west African monsoon.

It’d be nice if Mother Nature gave us a break from the hurricanes since we’re dealing with the pandemic right now, but that’s just how life goes, right?

I’ve seen the list of hurricane names for 2020 and I’m hoping at least we don’t manage to get to the end of the list. (The last name is Wilfred, by the way.)

But no one knows what the future will hold, however, so it’s good to be prepared. If you don’t already have an emergency kit put together, you might as well go ahead and start now instead of scrambling around the day before the next big hurricane hits.

A basic supply kit should include not only essentials like food and water, but also useful items such as a battery-powered radio, a flashlight with extra batteries, a first aid kit, a can opener, local maps, a change of clothes, personal hygiene items, copies of important documents in a waterproof container, and more.

And considering the current situation, your kit ought to include a face mask if it doesn’t already. If we’re still having to social distance when a hurricane hits, we’ll need to be prepared to do things differently in order to stay safe not only from the natural disaster, but the coronavirus as well.

To keep up to date with all the latest news on potential hurricanes brewing in the ocean, regardless of whether or not they’re in season, visit nhc.noaa.gov

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that NOAA’s prediction this year is a little on the high side and things will remain calm going forward. But there are never any guarantees when it comes to the weather, so we’ll all just have to watch and wait.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.