If you’re among the many who are scrambling to evacuate Virginia and the Carolinas, or preparing to ride out Hurricane Florence, you might be wondering why. Why now, and why us? And, given there are two more tropical storms—Helene and Isaac—looming right behind, you might even be asking, “What’s next?”
Granted, September is the peak of the Atlantic Hurricane Season. But, many along the Gulf and East Coasts may have let their guard down just a bit last month. That’s when forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) modified earlier predictions, saying we could all expect a below-normal Atlantic Hurricane Season due to the effects of El Niño.
Of course, that didn’t mean that we should expect no hurricane activity at all. Even an average season includes at least 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes (with three being classified as major storms). A major storm is categorized as a Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson scale, with wind speeds in excess of 111 mph. Florence, though now downgraded to a strong Category 2 storm, may not be considered major by definition, but she is definitely packing a mighty, if not devastating punch. She is a massive hurricane with tropical storm force winds that are about 400 miles wide. Plus, she’s expected to stall out, potentially dropping as much as 40 inches of rain.
As of this post, well over one million people have been evacuated in advance of Hurricane Florence. There are 5.25 million people under hurricane watches or warnings, and another 4.89 million under tropical storm watches and warnings. Thousands are boarding up, hunkering down, and preparing for her wrath. Storm shelters are open, Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) are activated, and first responders are geared up and ready to go.
While no one could have anticipated a storm of this magnitude to form, or especially make landfall along the East Coast, it is now inevitable. And, it will most likely be a storm for the record books, joining the likes of Hugo and Katrina. Still, as bad as it now appears things will be, it’s hard not think what still may be yet to come this hurricane season. That’s why it’s so important to keep your guard up, expect surprises from Mother Nature, and always be prepared.