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That time of year again for early hurricane preparations

Time is a slippery thing. Sometimes it drags on like you’re watching a pot of water and waiting for it to boil. Sometimes it zips by so fast you can barely register what just happened.

Personally, I can’t believe we’ve already arrived at June this year! My brain feels like it’s stuck somewhere back in March, give or take a few weeks. I blinked twice and six months flew by. Who knows how fast or how slow the rest of the year will go? Like Einstein once said: “time is relative.”

But speaking of the arrival of June, this month also brings the official arrival of hurricane season. Unlike last year, we haven’t been affected locally by early storms this time, which is a good thing. Currently “Ana” is the first and only name crossed off the Atlantic storm name list this year, and that one didn’t bother North Carolina (except for maybe a few more rip currents along our coast than usual). But Tropical Storm Ana did mean that this is the seventh year in a row the storms got started earlier than June 1. (Eventually, meteorologists are going to have to start the season earlier in general, aren’t they?)

Last year’s hurricane season, which annually concludes at the end of November, was a bit of a record breaker. We had 30 named storms—so many that they had to resort to using several letters of the Greek alphabet—and 12 of those storms managed to hit parts of the United States.

This year, however, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) will be retiring the Greek alphabet because it was deemed too confusing for people and too difficult to translate to other languages. Instead, they put together a separate supplemental list to keep on hand if they reach the end of the usual 21-name list. (For the record, the supplemental list looks just as untranslatable to me as the Greek alphabet was. It includes names such as Jacobus, Caridad, Lucio, and Ronin.)

But the odds of having to dip into the supplemental name list are hopefully a bit lower this year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting another busy Atlantic hurricane season, but not as ridiculously active as 2020. (I mean, hopefully Mother Nature isn’t planning to top last year’s craziness. We have had enough!)

The 2021 season is likely to see a range of 13-20 named storms, and 6-10 of those could become hurricanes. Of those hurricanes, 3-5 are predicted to become major hurricanes (which is category 3 and above). Forecasters say that warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures, weaker tropical trade winds, and an enhanced west African monsoon all factor in to this year’s storm activity.

Luckily for us, NOAA and NHC continue to improve their forecasting technology so people can be better prepared ahead of an incoming storm.

It would be nice if we had the ability to shoo away bad storms by just standing in our yards and gesturing “go away” to the clouds in the sky. But nature doesn’t work like that, so the best thing to do is to make as many preparations and plans ahead of time.

Now is the time to get your emergency kit together instead of scrambling the day before a hurricane arrives on your doorstep.

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 anything else that may be useful during an emergency situation.

It might be a good idea to keep packing a mask too, just in case. We are unfortunately still in the midst of a pandemic this year as well.

Another thing to consider: if you’ve recently moved, it’s a good idea to figure out the best spot in your new place to be in case of a tornado or other dangerous storm activity. And you should probably make sure you know where to evacuate if that becomes necessary.

Our area has been hit hard several times in the past by powerful hurricanes that left their mark here. Even last year, a tornado from Hurricane Isaias ripped through several homes and claimed lives in Bertie County. The community really came together to help those people out through a devastating time.

It’s a bit reassuring to know that we can all work together when something terrible happens.

To stay up to date with all the latest news on hurricanes brewing in the ocean this year, visit nhc.noaa.gov

I’m hoping for an uneventful hurricane season this year, but there are never any guarantees when it comes to the weather. So we’ll just have to wait and see what happens, and hope we’re prepared enough to weather the storm if it comes.

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