Hurricanes are a considerable concern for many of our customers (think auto dealerships with lots full of cars and construction job sites with underdeveloped physical property.) But without much to do to fight a hurricane or any other natural disaster head-on, the best thing that safety managers can do is stay one step ahead of the next big one.
Hurricane Season Basics
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30. The Atlantic basin includes the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. Based on a 30-year climate period from 1991 to 2020, an average Atlantic hurricane season has 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes.
Forecasters at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, are predicting above-average hurricane activity this year — which would make it the seventh consecutive above-average hurricane season.
The first named storm typically forms in mid to late June.
The first hurricane tends to form in early to mid-August.
And the first major hurricane forms in late August or early September.
NOAA’s outlook for the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season, which extends from June 1 to November 30, predicts…
60% chance of an above-normal season,
25% chance of a near-normal season, and
15% chance of a below-normal season.
This means NOAA is forecasting a likely range of
14 to 21 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which
6 to 11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including
2 to 5 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher).
NOAA provides these ranges with a 70% confidence.
2023 Season Outlook
What does that mean for businesses in hurricane-prone areas? You need to be prepared!
The first step of preparation is to understand how storms are categorized.
A tropical cyclone is a rotating, organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that originates over tropical or subtropical waters and has a closed low-level circulation. Tropical cyclones rotate counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere. They are classified as follows:
- Tropical Depression:
A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 38 mph (33 knots) or less.
- Tropical Storm:
A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph (34 to 63 knots).
A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher. In the western North Pacific, hurricanes are called typhoons; similar storms in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean are called cyclones.
- Major Hurricane:
A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 111 mph (96 knots) or higher, corresponding to a Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
Next, make sure you understand the major hazards associated with these storms
NOAA’s National Hurricane Center considers these as hazards to keep an eye out for:
- Storm surge and storm tide
- Heavy rainfall and inland flooding
- High winds
- Rip currents
Make sure you’re up to speed on your Emergency Response Plan
You’ve got one of these put together, right? An organization with a systematized, comprehensive emergency response plan can effectively minimize risks and save lives before, during, and after any emergency. We’re talking about the difference between an inevitable incident and its escalation into something much worse.
Last, prepare your facility
Here are some tips for when the storm’s a-comin’
- Ensure employees are informed of current weather warnings and risks
- Ensure you have a business closure plan in place to allow for safe evacuation and return of employees
- Secure drums and tanks and ensure fill ports are closed
- Secure advertising, promotions, trash cans, and other loose items that can blow away
- Move equipment and assets to higher ground
- Shut off utilities, practice electrical safety, avoid water that covers the electrical outlets or where cords are submerged.
- Be ready to evacuate and obey evacuation orders
- Avoid driving through standing water. If you come upon a flooded street, take an alternate route.
- Review the National Weather Service’s Guide for Hurricane Preparedness.