Jul 19 2019

’Tis The Season

By Dave Williams for Island Eye News

Dave Williams

The best way to be prepared for Hurricane Season is by understanding the foe you are up against, arming yourself with knowledge, and remaining calm. Each storm is different and presents a unique set of potential impacts. Never generalize about a looming tropical cyclone and have a trusted local meteorologist where you can get accurate, reliable forecasts.

By far the most devastating part of a landfalling hurricane is the storm surge. This is the water rise with the onshore winds in a tropical system. In the Lowcountry, this would be the part of the hurricane directly north of the eye. For instance, 30 years ago Hugo made landfall at the northern tip of Isle of Palms, while a 20 foot plus storm surge expanded into Bulls Bay and inundated McClellanville. Best way to avoid storm surge, EVACUATE.

Winds are another impact with a hurricane nearby. One of the biggest problems here is when debris becomes airborne missiles. Tree branches, garbage cans, two by fours from damaged structures can all fly through the air and down powerlines, or hurt you or your property. Prepare for this by securing lose outdoor items, pruning trees & shrubs and always protect your windows, tape doesn’t do the trick either.

Tropical systems transport copious amounts of rainfall making freshwater flooding another vast threat. The previous two threats are mainly within a short distance of the coast, while flooding from rain can spread hundreds of miles inland! Torrential rain on creeks, streams and rivers can swell very quickly causing flooding, but can persist for days and even weeks as watersheds drain back to the coast. To avoid this type of flooding, again – evacuate and move to higher ground.

A few other impacts to be aware of are dangerous waves and currents, beach erosion, and tornadoes. These are more tertiary concerns, but nonetheless cause damage, injury, and even death.

The most important thing to consider is adequate insurance for your property as stuff can be replaced. If asked to evacuate, do so, because lives cannot be replaced. 

Lessons are learned with every storm and applied to future forecasts and preparedness plans. Last year, the two storms that stand out vividly are hurricanes Michael and Florence.

Florence posed a threat close to home, evacuations were ordered for much of the South Carolina coast. The storm surge went into the southeast North Carolina coast. Fortunately, it had weakened to a category one hurricane at landfall, but a much higher swell was generated earlier when the storm was more intense. It had nowhere to go but on shore.

That wasn’t all with Florence; feet of rain fell near the North/ South Carolina border and historic flooding occurred along the Pee Dee and Waccamaw rivers. It took over a month for all of this water to drain out through Winyah Bay in Georgetown.

Then there was Hurricane Michael, the first category five to strike the US since Andrew in 1992. Mexico Beach in the Panhandle of Florida was unrecognizable in the storms wake.

It is possible to be impacted by a storm any given hurricane season. Some storms are more dangerous than others. The preseason forecasts for high or low activity are quite useless when your home is impacted. The most valuable piece of information to remember is—it only takes one, so be prepared.

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