NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, reports that tropical storm activity matched what was predicted for this year’s hurricane season. Bill Read is director of the National Hurricane Center. He used to live in
Houston and knows all about the hurricane threat here. He describes this season’s activity as “lots of storms, with the exception of Irene, relatively little impact.”
“We had 19 named storms, actually 18 were named. 19 puts it in one of the more active, just by the sheer number of years on record.”
Irene was the lone hurricane to hit the U.S., and the first one to do so since Ike struck southeast Texas in 2008. And Irene was also the most significant storm to strike the Northeast since Hurricane Bob in 1991. With the impact she left in terms of lives lost and damage done, Read says that’s unfortunately the message, that it’s not the number, but the one that makes impact that causes the season to be memorable.
“I’ve been doing this almost 40 years, and nothing’s really changed on that. Maybe a lot of the science and the way they deliver the information is, but if you live along a coastline of the United States, Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic, or anywhere in the Caribbean, every year you’re exposed to at least some risk, that a very strong hurricane could impact your location.”
Irene broke the “hurricane amnesia” that can develop when so much time lapses between landfalling storms. This is Harris County Judge Ed Emmett:
“I wish I could tell you that part of our plan was to keep hurricanes away and take credit for that, but obviously, that’s not the case.”
Emmett is also director of Harris County’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management:
“Our plan that’s put trogether by the Office of Emergency Mangement, assumes that we’re going to be hit by a storm every year. And obviously there are improvements in evacuations and there are improvements in notifications, but our staff at OEM, that’s what they do. They plan for disasters. And if we don’t have one, all the better.”
He says complacency is one of our biggest problems, and that’s why every Spring people are told like it’s the first time, that you have to assume that you’re going to be hit by a hurricane.
“Our Office of Emergency Mangement this past year, while they didn’t deal with hurricanes, did have to get involved obviously with drought and wildfires. So they’re out there all the time, and huricanes are their main focus, and they’re prepared, so we need the public to be prepared too.”
For more information on building an emergency preparedness kit, visit www.ready.gov.