The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts a near-average Atlantic hurricane season this year, but noted in their live May 23 press conference that “that’s still a lot” of activity. With 70% confidence, the organization predicts there will be 9 to 15 named storms, that 4 to 8 could become hurricanes, and that 2 to 4 could become major hurricanes. This forecast does not predict how many storms will come ashore.
We all hope that the season will be quiet and that everyone will remain safe.
Looking Back: Recent Hurricane History
Overall, severe weather seems to be increasing in strength and frequency. According to NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, the average number of billion-dollar weather disasters in the U.S. between 1980 and 2018 was 6.3 events. From 2014 to 2018, it was 12.6.
Last year, hurricanes Florence and Michael devastated parts of the Southeast. Florence came ashore as a Category 1 hurricane, the weakest category, but then dropped nearly three feet of water in parts of North Carolina. Major flooding ensued. Hurricane Michael roared ashore near Mexico Beach, Florida, as a Category 5 storm, one of the strongest ever to make landfall, devastating the area. Together, the two storms also are blamed for more than 90 deaths.
The National Weather Service website provides a list of weather alert services. Sign up to receive warnings and updates.
When a tropical cyclone forms in the Atlantic, the National Hurricane Center will issue an advisory and provide updates as necessary. A storm becomes a hurricane when sustained winds reach 74 miles per hour (mph). Hurricanes are categorized by their sustained wind speeds, using the Saffir-Simpson scale:
• Category 1: 74-95 mph sustained winds (ex: Hurricane Florence)
• Category 2: 96-110 mph sustained winds (ex: Hurricane Ike)
• Category 3: 111-129 mph sustained winds (ex: Hurricanes Irma and Katrina)
• Category 4: 130-156 mph sustained winds (ex: Hurricanes Maria and Harvey)
• Category 5: 157 or higher mph sustained winds (ex: Hurricanes Michael, Andrew and Camille)
Consider that the effects of tropical storms can be felt not only along coastal regions, but sometimes also inland for hundreds of miles.
Finally, keep in mind that wind is only one cause of catastrophic damage. Water (e.g., storm surge, heavy rainfall and flooding) is often even more devastating.
Have a plan.
While thinking about facing a hurricane is not pleasant, it is less stressful to plan ahead than it is to wait until catastrophic weather is approaching. Here are some tips for getting started.
• Create a family communication plan in case of an emergency.
• Know the evacuation routes in case you are ordered to leave.
• Research shelter locations (and their pet policies, if you have pets) in advance.
• Have emergency supplies on hand, including clean drinking water and a first aid kit.
• Have cash on hand; ATMs rely on electricity.
• Have a battery-powered radio.
• Keep vehicles and generators fueled.
• Pre-pack items, including medications, that you want to take with you if you are ordered to evacuate.
• Keep phones charged ahead of a storm.
How to Prepare for a Hurricane, from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is an excellent resource.
For personal property:
• Review your insurance policy with your broker to make sure it is up-to-date. Talk about flood insurance, which isn’t included in a standard homeowners policy.
• If budget allows and before storms threaten, consider installing roof tie-downs, impact-resistant windows, sewer line valves to prevent backups, and other structural upgrades to protect your home.
• Clean gutters, clear drains and repair loose roof shingles ahead of storms.
• Take inventory (and photographs or recordings, if possible) of belongings.
• Store important information in a safe, accessible, waterproof place (save pictures and recordings to the cloud).
• Remove dead trees or branches, as well as any trees or structures that could fall on buildings or vehicles.
• Keep materials like plywood, plastic tarps, bracing and sandbags on hand.
• If a storm is approaching, remove or anchor outdoor items that could become projectiles. Cover windows and brace doors. Deploy sandbags if needed.
• Review your insurance policies with your broker to make sure they are up-to-date. Visit our severe weather page to learn more about how business insurance works in the face of severe weather.
• Make sure your business continuity plan is up-to-date and that everyone understands his or her role.
• Communicate with employees, clients and suppliers ahead of the storm. Let them know what to expect.
• Secure property.
• Move or cover computers, machinery, other equipment and inventory to minimize damage potential.
• Have a vetted, qualified restoration company ready to assist after the storm passes.
FEMA’s Hurricane Toolkit is a great planning resource.
A Word About Flood Insurance
Losses due to flooding are not included in most property insurance policies. The coverage must be purchased separately. Additionally, these policies have a 30-day waiting period before they go into effect. That is, if you purchase flood insurance today, it isn’t active until 30 days from now. If you live or work in an area susceptible to hurricanes and/or flooding, speak with your insurance broker to make sure your property is covered.
For help reviewing your current policies, contact your local Hylant office or Hylant service team member.
The above information does not constitute advice. Always contact your insurance broker or trusted adviser for insurance-related questions.