Be prepared, officials warn, as season starts

Published 5:00 pm Thursday, June 15, 2023

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National weather experts are expecting a near normal hurricane season for 2023, but residents should still prepare in case of emergencies and flooding.

The mid-Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June 1 until Nov. 30, and forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are predicting a range of 12 to 17 named storms, with five to nine potentially becoming hurricanes. Of those, one to four could become major hurricanes — those reaching at least a Category 3 with winds 111 mph or higher.

Although the upcoming season is expected to be less active than previous years, experts are urging mid-Atlantic residents to remain vigilant, and start preparing now.

“As we saw with Hurricane Ian, it only takes one hurricane to cause widespread devastation and upend lives,” said FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell. “Regardless of the number of storms predicted this season, it is critical that everyone understand their risk, and heed the warnings of state and local officials.”

Residents should have hurricane evacuation and family communication plans in place. Keep an emergency kit with flashlights; a battery-powered radio; personal items like prescription medications, cash and credit cards; and a 3- to 5-day supply of food and water. Ensure you also plan for any pets, as emergency shelters may not take them.

For personal property, “remove dead or leaning trees, especially those that could damage your home, fences and outbuildings,” advised Laurie Gannon, vice president of claims for Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. “Move outdoor property like patio furniture, grills and trampolines to a secure location, as they can become flying objects during a strong storm.”

Gannon also advised speaking with your insurance agent about policy coverages in the event of a storm loss.

“You may find that you can endorse your policy with additional coverages that would give you peace of mind in the event of a storm.”

Finally, while coastal areas typically face storm surges, areas farther inland are at risk for significant rainfall and flooding. According to NOAA, flooding from tropical storm rainfall has been the single deadliest hazard in the last 10 years.

Residents can plan for flooding by clearing gutters and downspouts to minimize water damage, and moving furniture and valuables to an attic or the highest floor if flooding is imminent. Take photos and videos of major household items and valuables, and save copies of important documents like birth certificates, passports, medical records and insurance papers in a safe, dry place — keep originals in a watertight safe deposit box.

But above all, personal safety should be the priority, Gannon said.

“Things can be replaced, but loved ones cannot.”