VIRGINIA BEACH — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday gave its predictions for 2019’s Atlantic hurricane season, which starts June 1.
And meteorologists said expect a “near normal” season this year.
What exactly does that mean?
According to Accuweather, the 2018 season’s activity measured “above normal,” with 15 named storms and eight hurricanes as opposed to the average 12 named storms and six hurricanes.
Last year, Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency and issued a mandatory evacuation for about 245,000 people before Hurricane Florence.
Virginia Beach spent nearly $547,518 preparing for Hurricane Florence, according to a list of the city’s expenditures obtained through a FOIA request.
Although Florence brought historic devastation to the Carolinas, and Hurricane Michael to Florida, 2018’s Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) measured “less intense” than 2017’s Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
Daniel Kaniewski, FEMA’s deputy administrator for resilience, reaffirmed the importance of emergency preparation before the season begins.
“You as individuals, families and communities need to come together and take action now to protect yourselves, your property, and your financial future,” Kaniewski said.
Residents can start preparing for hurricane season by knowing which evacuation zone they live in.
The Virginia Department of Emergency Management launched the “Know Your Zone” program in spring 2017 to streamline evacuation efforts in the event of a powerful hurricane passing over Hampton Roads.
Twenty-three localities participate in the program. The areas are split into four zones based on their vulnerability to the impacts of hurricanes, including storms surge and flooding.
Residents of individual zones may be directed by local emergency managers to evacuate along a predetermined path ahead of a storm’s landfall.
By knowing one’s zone before a storm approaches, residents can be prepared when the evacuation order is given.
Homeowners should also consider getting flood insurance which is separate from homeowners insurance.
This year, Virginia Beach was accepted into FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program which decreases flood insurance premiums for those who qualify.
Officials said families should develop and practice emergency plans now and sign up to get updates by downloading the mobile app.
Those who do not live in an evacuation zone should be ready to shelter in place.
Supplies include nonperishable food, bottled water, medicine, a flashlight and batteries, a radio, hygiene supplies and a first-aid kit.
Parents should have enough diapers and baby formula for their infants and food for pets.
Evacuees should carry a supply kit in their vehicles that includes critical documents such as Social Security cards, passports, copies of prescriptions and insurance forms.
Bringing a list of family contacts is also a good idea in case the power is knocked out and cellphone batteries die.
Whether staying or going, carrying cash is a good idea. If the region loses power, credit cards and ATMs may not work for days after a storm.
In advance of a storm, experts said property owners should take a lap around their homes and look for anything that could be downed by hurricane-force winds.
Homeowners should secure rain spouts and gutters, and reinforce the roof, windows and doors.
Patio furniture and garbage cans should be brought inside so they aren’t blown away.
Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Russ said, “Bottom line with the 2019 outlook is being prepared.”