While many Houston residents are just now paying attention to the latest developing system in the Gulf, hurricane forecasters and emergency officials have been eyeing it for some time.
Impact Weather Lead Hurricane Meteorologist Chris Hebert says advances in technology mean forecasters can predict storms well before they’ve developed.
“In fact with this particular system, we were looking at the potential for development in the Northwest Carribbean and Gulf about two weeks ago from one American model. And it predicted very well in this case. It predicted Beryl forming off the Southeast U.S. coast at least two weeks in advance, so they’ve been getting better and better.”
Not every storm can be predicted that early, but the technology gets better every year as scientists learn more about how hurricanes develop and strengthen.
Mark Sloan heads up Harris County’s Office of Emergency Management. He says while his office is always ready to deploy
for a major storm or disaster, it’s nice to have extra time to monitor the situation.
“Whenever you have additional time, like we have right now watching something develop, is always to your advantage. I mean we’ve seen in tornado events and other short notice that you have to react very quickly, your timing and preparations are dramatically decreased if you don’t see it coming well in advance.”
Michael Walter with the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management at the City of Houston says they’re already notifying all city departments that have a response role that something’s brewing in the Gulf.
“We as a department, as an office of emergency management, are sending notifications both internally to the city and we’re also trying to make sure that Houston residents are starting to put their own family plans in place and making sure that they’re kits are ready to go in case we have some sort of emergency or some sort of tropical storm impact.”
And that early warning is of particular value when it comes to alerting residents, who are often the last to prepare for a storm.
Mark Sloan says the important thing is not to fritter away the extra time that better forecasting provides.
“I think it’s an excellent opportunity for the community, the region, to remember we’re in hurricane season. And to go back and make sure that they have taken the appropriate steps to take care of themselves, their family and their property and review their plans.”
Sloan says Houston residents should store enough water and non-perishable food to survive for 3-7 days without assistance.
You can go to Ready.gov for more advice on how to prepare for hurricanes.
For tropical storm and hurricane coverage, information and maps, visit our hurricane resources page.