May 26-31st 2014
By Elizabeth Bevan, National Sea Grant Office Knauss Fellow 2014
Come June 1st of each year, people rush to grocery and hardware stores to stock up on supplies as the TV or radio news station heralds the start of hurricane season. From bottled water to batteries, canned goods to candles, and everything in between people prepare with emergency kits for the chance that their home might be swathed in the “cone of uncertainty”, the likely path of one of nature’s most powerful disasters-a hurricane. Combining a deluge of rain and leveling winds, hurricanes test the ability of communities all over the country to withstand such disasters. Identifying and understanding how you, your family, and your community are vulnerable to the impacts of hurricanes is key to being able to adequately prepare for such an event.
Hurricanes can involve several hazards such as high storm surge, storm tide, high winds, rip currents, and tornados. These hazards pose major threats to people’s lives, property, infrastructure, and the environment. The impacts of hurricanes are not felt by only those people living right at the water’s edge, but can affect communities many miles from the coast. Hurricane-associated storm intensity and rainfall rates are projected to increase as the climate continues to warm creating a great need for increased and more widespread awareness regarding the dangers of hurricanes.
Sea Grant programs in many coastal states around the US are working to help communities better understand and weather the threat of hurricanes, among other natural hazards. Raising awareness about how to prepare for and understanding the hazards associated with hurricanes is an important focus for Sea Grant programs. In many cases, Sea Grant promotes hurricane awareness developing hazards guides for property owners in coastal communities, holding workshops to demonstrate how to properly prepare for natural disasters and even through hazard-themed essay challenges for school kids. These activities not only address how to prevent and mitigate several coastal hazards that result from hurricanes but also what to do in case of an emergency and how to build a hurricane kit. Just as important as how to prepare for a disaster is how to communicate a coming hazard. Sea Grant supports research to improve the timely and effective communication of warnings for natural disasters.
Sea Grant agents are also involved in activities that build the capacity of communities to efficiently handle the aftermath of a hurricane. Sea Grant efforts include programs hosting workshops to help communities develop and update emergency management protocols, as well as initiating programs that assist boaters in locating their displaced vessels following a storm surge.
Hurricanes and their associated hazards are a threat to many coastal residents, which is why Hurricane Awareness Week is important. Only by understanding the risks and knowing how to prepare for a natural disaster can communities weather the storm for the long haul.
Meet some people in the Sea Grant Network that help communities prepare for severe coastal storms like hurricanes:
Hawaii Sea Grant Extension Agent Dennis Hwang
National Severe Storm Laboratory Sea Grant Extension Agent: Kodi Monroe
New York Sea Grant Communication Specialist: Paul Focazio
Maine Sea Grant Extension Agent: Kristen Grant
MIT Sea Grant funded researchers: Robert Beardsley and Changsheng Chen
South Carolina Sea Grant funded Researcher: Scott Schiff
Texas Sea Grant Extension Agent: Heather Wade