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August 18, 2010 / Dave Gorham

Anniversaries and "It Just Takes One"

Perhaps the media is a bit behind the curve, but I think most government agencies with public safety in mind have caught on and are spreading the word: It just takes one storm. It’s not about the number of storms expected. It’s not about a busy season or a quiet season. It’s about being prepared for the one storm that could likely change your life — whether it happens this year, or next year or perhaps not at all. Preparation is the key.

Red Cross Spokesperson Jamie Lee Curtis with her preparedness kit. Photo: American Red Cross.

As we approach the second half of the hurricane season a few notable tropical anniversaries are on the near horizon. In fact, the first anniversary is today. 27 years ago today, Category 3 Hurricane Alicia made landfall on the upper Texas coast, then travelled northward along Interstate 45 to downtown Houston. Another notable anniversary, the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, occurs later this month on the 29th. And yet another notable anniversary: it’s the fifth year since the most active Atlantic tropical season on record.

What do anniversaries mean? Many things to many people, of course. For Your Weather Department, it’s an opportunity to stress preparation for that one storm while the actual number of storms expected for the season only plays a bit part in the overall production.

Consider Hurricane Alicia. Alicia, the “A” storm obviously, waited until the third week in August to form. Not only that, it formed off the coast of Louisiana and four days later it was making landfall on the Texas coast with winds of 115mph. Yes, other storms have formed and moved inland more quickly, but Alicia serves as a potent reminder that storms don’t always form in the Atlantic or the Caribbean then move slowly and steadily toward landfall allowing several days of scrutiny. Interestingly, the year of Alicia, 1983, was a year in which only four tropical storms formed and Alicia was the only major hurricane of the season. With “it just takes one” in mind, Alicia caught a lot of southeast Texas unprepared. To compound matters, Alicia moved inland along the main evacuation route from Galveston to Houston: Interstate 45.

Hurricane Alicia before Landfall. Image: WikiMedia

2005 proved to be a much busier season, with 28 named storms and seven major hurricanes — the most active Atlantic season on record. However, for the people of New Orleans it just took one storm, Katrina, to change their lives. For the people of Cuba and Florida (Dennis); Honduras, Mexico and southern Texas (Emily); Cuba and Florida (Rita); Jamaica, Cuba and Florida (Wilma) it just took one storm to change their lives. As it turned out, many areas in 2005 were impacted more than once and by more than one hurricane that season (Florida was criss-crossed by four named storms), but preparation remains the key.

The 2010 Atlantic Tropical Season is off to a slow start. And even though the most active portion of the season lies ahead (the climatological peak occurs September 10th) the key to preparing for a  hurricane season is not to prepare for a busy season or a quiet season but to prepare for that one storm that may or may not come, but that will likely change your life. By how much it changes your life is mostly the result of your preparation.

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