, Port Arthur, Texas

Tropical Weather

June 2, 2014

Area in southern Gulf already under scrutiny

The 2014 hurricane season is only a day old, but already the National Weather Service in Lake Charles is monitoring an area of disturbed weather in the southern Gulf of Mexico and Yucatan Peninsula.

“This system is not expected to develop in the next couple of days, but we will watch it and provide daily updates this week,” Roger Erickson, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said Sunday.

Forecasters are expecting a slower than average hurricane season but that doesn’t mean that preparations should be put on the back burner.

It just takes one hurricane to devastate a city or region.

“All you have to do is look at it personally. Look at Humberto (2007). It was the fastest forming hurricane in U.S. history,” Greg Fountain, Jefferson County Emergency Management coordinator, said. “It developed over midnight, made landfall as a category 1 hurricane at High Island then came across parts of Jefferson County. Some people had more damage from Humberto then with a (hurricane) Rita or Ike. It doesn’t have to be a Category 5 to wipe you out.”

2008’s Hurricane Ike, he said, was a Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale but brought with it the storm surge of a Category 4 storm. Hurricane Sandy struck the east coast in 2012 as a Category 2 storm, caused more than 100 deaths and left behind more than $68 billion in damages.

The Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30. The forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows eight to 13 named storms, three to six hurricanes with one to two major storms at least a category three, Andy Tingler, meteorologist with the National Weather Service-Lake Charles said.

“An average season will typically have 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes,” Tingler said.

The reason behind a lower than normal prediction is due to a combination of a relatively high likelihood of a moderate El Nino and a relatively cool tropical Atlantic.

To help with preparations for the hurricane season, check out the Disaster and Hurricane Guide in this Sunday’s edition of The Port Arthur News and the Orange Leader.

Fountain recently returned from the State Emergency Management Conference in San Antonio as well as a national conference in Orlando, Florida. Attendees were able to hear William Gray and Philip Klotzbach who recalled last year’s prediction of an active season which was off the mark.

The 2013 Atlantic hurricane season was the first season in 19 years in which there were zero major hurricanes and the first since 1968 to feature zero storms of at least a category 2.

“Most people missed that prediction. And like I’ve said all along, unless you’re at the right hand of God you don’t know where a hurricane will hit,” Fountain said. “All it takes is for a season like in 1992 with Hurricane Andrew which was the only storm to hit the U.S. that year.”

Andrew blew in as a Category 5.

Jefferson County Drainage District 7, who is responsible for the area’s levee system, is constantly working to maintain the levee system.

Phil Kelley, general manager, said DD7 has been in the process of inspecting all of its closure structures, making sure the roadway hasn’t been built up and there or no objects in the way of the gates as well as making sure all of the gates slide open and closed.

The Texas Department of Public Safety also advises citizens to be ready for hurricane season.

“As we enter hurricane season, it is important that Texans understand that powerful hurricanes and tropical storms have the capacity to endanger the lives of residents living throughout the state, not just coastal regions,” DPS Director Steven McCraw said. “We urge Texans who have not already made preparations to safeguard their families and property from potential storms, to do so now.”

All Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas are subject to hurricanes or tropical storms. Because the strongest winds in a hurricane are not located precisely at the center, it is possible for a storm to affect conditions over land even if landfall does not occur, according to a press release from DPS.

Hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and areas several hundred miles inland, and winds can exceed 155 miles per hour. In addition, hurricanes and tropical storms can also spawn tornadoes, create storm surges along the coast and cause extensive damage from flooding.

Here are several measures residents can take now to prepare for potential storms:

• Assemble an emergency kit that includes essential documents, supplies and provisions.

• Review hurricane evacuation maps, and select a route for you and your family.

• Plan how all family members and pets will evacuate safely.

• Consider any special needs for individuals with disabilities or the elderly.

• Stay informed about changing weather conditions in and around your area.

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