The 2010 hurricane season is under way, and a storm’s path of travel could affect the severity of its destruction in Catawba County.
“We actually worry more about (storms) that come from the Gulf Coast,” said Karyn Yaussy, Catawba County Emergency Management coordinator.
Hurricane Hugo, the 1989 storm that devastated parts of western North Carolina and caused more than $7 billion in damage, traveled near the Gulf Coast and across the Appalachian Mountains.
This year’s Hurricane Earl, however, which had little effect on Catawba County residents, traveled past North Carolina’s shores and along the East Coast.
Not every storm will cause devastation reminiscent of Hurricane Hugo, but even small storms can affect Catawba County residents.
And when storms do hit the county this hurricane season, officials ask residents to be prepared.
September is National Preparedness Month, and this is the first time Catawba County is an official participant in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s campaign.
“Small, simple steps go a long way toward being ready,” Yaussy said. “Today you may be able to remember lots of phone numbers off the top of your head, but you might not be able to do so with a crisis happening all around you.”
A variety of free emergency preparedness brochures and other materials are available at the Catawba County Emergency Services office on the ground floor of the Government Center off U.S. 321 in Newton.
During hurricane season, the county most frequently experiences land slides, fallen trees, heavy winds and flooding when a tropical storm or hurricane is nearby.
“If we have any storms before (the hurricane’s landfall), that makes the tropical storm even worse,” Yaussy said.
If the ground is already wet from rainfall when a tropical storm or hurricane hits, the additional water makes flooding and landslides more likely.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts the 2010 hurricane season to be more active than usual, with an estimated 14-20 named storms, 8-12 hurricanes and 4-6 major storms.
“All indications are for considerable activity during the next several months,” said Dr. Gerry Bell, NOAA Climate Prediction Center lead seasonal hurricane forecaster, in a press release. “As we’ve seen in past years, storms can come on quickly during the peak months of the season. There remains a high likelihood that the season could be very active, with the potential of being one of the more active on record.”
The formation of a La Nina weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean this spring, combined with warmer-than-average water in the tropical Atlantic Ocean create favorable conditions for a more active hurricane season this fall, according to the NOAA website.
During a year with normal storm activity, NOAA predicts about 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major storms.
The hurricane season lasts from June 1 to Nov. 1, with the most active part of the season from late August through October.
“I have heard that it’s going to be a more active year,” Yaussy said, “but the truth is, we won’t really know until it’s over.”
Regardless of a hurricane season’s intensity, there are measures residents can take to be prepared for any kind of adverse weather conditions.
These items are the same preventative items people should have for other natural disasters year round.
“They’re the same across all kinds of hazards,” Yaussy said.
These items include battery-operated radios, a three-day water supply for each person in the household and nonperishable food items, such as canned goods.
Potential dangers don’t subside, however, just because a storm passed.
“Some of the things people do after a storm cause more injuries than the storm itself,” Yaussy said.
Storm damage, such as broken power lines and flooded roadways, could create electrocution or drowning hazards for residents.
“People need to be aware of their surroundings,” Yaussy said “If there’s water over a roadway, you probably shouldn’t cross.”
Despite the potential dangers before, during and after hurricane season, Catawba County Emergency Services usually receives more emergency calls during adverse winter weather.
“We’ll probably see more emergency events during winter because of ice storms,” Yaussy said.