Tropical weather reminder of danger now and to come

Here we are before Memorial Day and tropical weather in the Atlantic has already produced two named storms. One of them, Alberto, has had minor impact along the South Carolina shore, highly unusual for May. People surely are wondering about hurricane season, which officially begins June 1.

The timing is good to think about nature’s biggest storms. Memorial Day weekend begins National Hurricane Awareness Week, with the Weather Research Center in Houston, Texas, saying Tropical Storm Helene should be the eighth and final named storm of the 2012 season. Five of those named tropical storms – including Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence, Gordon and Helene – are predicted to intensify into hurricanes. With Alberto and Beryl not looking to make hurricane strength, that leaves five of the next six being much stronger.

According to Jill Hasling, Weather Research Center president, there is a 46 percent chance of a Category 3 or stronger hurricane forming this year in the Atlantic. There’s also a high chance that three additional tropical storms or hurricanes will make landfall somewhere along the United States coast.

“We’re forecasting a 60 percent chance of a tropical storm or hurricane making landfall along the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Key West, Fla., and along the Georgia-to-North Carolina coast during the 2012 hurricane season,” says Hasling. “We believe there will be eight named storms with five of them intensifying into hurricanes.”

That Georgia-to-North Carolina prediction gets attention here, considering particularly that the non-profit Weather Research Center has an 89 percent forecast accuracy rate since 1985. The meteorologists there use a model called Orbital Cyclone Strike Index, relying on the solar cycle to predict the risk for coastal residents each hurricane season.

As we’ve noted frequently, hurricanes are a big deal in Orangeburg County and around The TD Region. While our counties are not classified as coastal, they are near enough to the ocean that impact here is potentially significant. Hurricane Hugo in 1989 devastated eastern Orangeburg County and other inland locations. Plus, the region is a primary evacuation point for the S.C. coast. When a hurricane calls on South Carolina, it is big news here.

Ahead of this awareness week for hurricanes, we’ll offer three points.

n Be prepared. Retiring Orangeburg County Disaster Preparedness Director John Smith was around for Hugo and long before and since. He knows about preparation. He knows about the consequences of not heeding weather warnings, for hurricanes and other weather emergencies. He has many stories to tell and much wisdom to impart. You have a chance to hear him.

The Downtown Orangeburg Revitalization Association is presenting a public forum featuring Smith at the BlueBird Theatre on Tuesday, June 19, at 11 a.m. Those attending will be entered into a drawing to win a free Weather Alert Radio. There is no charge for admission and the public is invited to attend.

n Remember the time of year. Yes, early tropical weather has eyes on the ocean, but summer has not yet arrived. Spring is the “mean season” here for storms of another type: tornadoes.

Tornadoes are not the biggest storms, but they are nature’s most violent ones. Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, which can produce heavy damage in and of themselves, tornadoes can pack winds of 300 mph and quickly destroy objects in their path.

You should know the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning. A watch is issued when weather conditions are such that tornadoes are likely to develop. A tornado warning is issued when a tornado has been sighted or indicated by radar. If a tornado warning is issued, don’t assume you are safe.

Thunderstorms will be reality through the summer months, too. Lightning, hail and strong winds are fixtures. A severe thunderstorm watch will tell you when and where severe thunderstorms are likely to occur. A severe thunderstorm warning is issued when severe weather has been reported or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm.

n Appreciate those who provide help. John Smith and other disaster officials do yeoman’s work. Police officers and firefighters are often in the news in their roles. For them, we are grateful. Yet some who are responsible for saving the most lives seem to rarely get adequate attention.

So during this week before hurricanes become the official emphasis, emergency care professionals are in the spotlight.

During National Emergency Medical Services Week, we recognize the role that EMS practitioners have in health care across the nation. The around-the-clock dedication to providing emergency medical care is evident with one statistic: more than 36 million patients were cared for by EMS professionals in 2011 alone.

Join us during the National EMS Week in thanking the professionals in emergency medical services for the critical work they do to improve the health of the nation and strengthen the health security of all Americans.

More Safety Info:

  1. Experts use severe weather awareness week, tornado drills as danger reminder
  2. Dexter tornado a grim reminder to prepare now for severe weather
  3. Current Severe Weather Danger: Missouri to Wisconsin
  4. Dallas, Fort Worth Seen Struck by Severe Thunderstorms Next Week
  5. Severe Weather Awareness Week: Tornado Safety


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