Irene was just barely a hurricane when it passed Puerto Rico on Sunday night and into Monday morning — barely a hurricane but still powerful enough to take power, flood streets, knock down trees and damage homes.
Not a pleasant night, to say the least.
Yes, the heart of the Atlantic Hurricane Season — which continues through November — has officially arrived. From now until mid-September is the busiest time. Irene, it seems, will be just the beginning of what is supposed to be an active season.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami say that Irene poses a threat to the East Coast of the United States, from South Florida to North Carolina. The best guess about where Irene might land is simple: Who knows?
Yes, weather’s a tricky thing and forecasting it can be more mysterious than the pyramids. A Monday story by the Associated Press was instructive on that score. The Hurricane Center mystics said should the storm pass over a mountainous region of Hispaniola or Cuba then it could weaken.
“If the system ends up moving to the north of both of those land masses it could strengthen more than expected,” wrote forecaster Richard Pasch.
North Carolinians have a great deal of experience watching these late summer and early fall behemoths form, develop, strengthen, weaken, twist and turn then either land, graze or miss the coast completely. And it’s not just the coastal regions that need to be on alert. In 1996, Hurricane Fran hit the coast with a vengeance then ripped the gut of North Carolina. In Alamance County, hundreds had to flee flooding from the Haw River and millions in property was damaged. Subsequent storms that began in Florida led to mudslides in the North Carolina mountains.
So while our friends along the coast need to pay serious attention to nearly every storm the Weather Channel decides to monitor, it pays to remember that we should do the same.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers a few tips to remember, even for folks who don’t have beachfront property.
n Get a kit. This one helps even in other weather emergencies such as tornadoes. Stock the kit with contact lists, lanterns, batteries, bottled water, snacks, scissors, tape, plastic sheeting and a NOAA weather radio. Keep a list of valuables in your home, with approximate values of items. You’ll be glad you did when the insurance adjuster calls.
n In case of emergency … make a plan. Families should talk in advance about what they will do in case of a storm — where to seek shelter, meeting places and how to make contact should people become separated.
n Stay informed. Read the newspaper, monitor events online or on TV. Know when potential trouble lurks and what evacuation procedures might be in place should the need arise. We’ll have updated hurricane information on our website www.thetimesnews.com.
Lives and property can be salvaged during the worst storms when people pay attention and use common sense.
It’s often easier said than done.