By Jim Stefkovich, Meteorologist, Alabama Emergency Management Agency
CLANTON – Tuesday, 11 am May 28, 2019
This blog is intended to dispel myths some folks have about tropical weather. Tomorrow I’ll go over some National Hurricane Center (NHC) products and safety tips to help you become better prepared.
The first myth is that activity doesn’t start until June 1st. Wrong! Tropical storms and hurricanes don’t care about arbitrary “official” season dates. Just last year, Tropical Storm Alberto formed on May 21st, moved northward through the Gulf of Mexico and into Alabama on May 29th.
What is known is the Gulf of Mexico is the favored region for tropical storm and hurricane development during May – June and continuing into the fall.
The second myth is many people say, “It’s only a Category 1”. The category of a hurricane and the actual impacts are significantly different.
To explain, Tropical Storms and Category 1-5 Hurricanes are defined by wind speeds only. However, there are many other impacts such as storm surge near the coast with both flooding and tornadoes that can occur well inland affecting anyone in Alabama.
Since 2010, for Category 1 Hurricanes alone, there have been 175 direct deaths and $103 billion in damages. Ken Graham, NHC Director, recently stated that from 1963 – 2012, water not wind accounted for almost 90% of direct deaths. Wind produces approximately 8% of the fatalities with 3% from tornadoes. From 2016-2018, 79% of fatalities were from inland flooding, with more than half being vehicle related.
Another myth is, “I went through ‘X’ and was just fine. I’ll be fine this time”. “X” being the storm/hurricane that a person remembers. Each storm is different and should not be compared to one that happened in the past. Again, it’s about the impacts, not the category.
When a tropical system is going to affect Alabama, the best thing you can do is to go to the National Weather Service (NWS) at https://weather.gov and click on the area of the state you live. You will be directed to the office that serves you and they will provide specific impact and safety information.
Finally, here are a number of common risk perceptions gathered from people over the years:
“My house is elevated, I thought we would be just fine”
“It’s never flooded here before”
“They always turn”
“I thought these floods come once in 100 years”
“It’s just a tropical storm”
“I live a hundred miles from the coast, I didn’t expect this”
“This didn’t happen last time”
“I didn’t know it would be this bad, I’ll never stay again”
“This wasn’t that bad, I’ll never leave again”
I hope you’ll check back tomorrow with how to properly use tropical products and learn about safety.