Forecasters: 2010 to bring 'busy' hurricane season

Traffic during the Hurricane Floyd evacuation.
Traffic during the Hurricane Floyd evacuation.

CHARLESTON, SC - CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The 2010 hurricane season is expected to bring 14 to 23 named storms to the Atlantic Ocean, with 8 to 14 becoming hurricanes, according to a report published Thursday by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Storms do not acquire names until they are designated tropical storms with sustained maximum winds of at least 39 miles per hour.

The NOAA report predicted that 3 to 7 of the season's 8 to 14 hurricanes will develop into intense or major storms, meaning Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale. A Category 3 storm has sustained winds of at least 111 miles per hour.

"We see it every year that all it takes is one storm. And we see that devastation," said Joe Calderone, a forecaster for the National Weather Service in Charleston.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30.

In April, Colorado State University forecasters predicted a range of 15 named storms, eight  hurricanes and four major hurricanes.

The 2010 forecast marks 27 years of hurricane forecasting at Colorado State, led by William Gray. The hurricane forecast team makes its predictions based on 58 years of historical data.

"Based on our latest forecast, the probability of a major hurricane making landfall along the U.S. coastline is 69 percent compared with the last-century average of 52 percent," Gray said. "While patterns may change before the start of hurricane season, we believe current conditions warrant concern for an above-average season."

A typical season has 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes, according to the NOAA.

While forecasters were focusing on the numbers of storms, emergency preparedness experts were directing their attention to informing the public of what precautions and procedures need to be taken to stay safe in a storm.

At the Medical University of South Carolina, representatives from state and local agencies as well as the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the NWS were on hand Wednesday to talk to the university about hurricane preparedness.

For the last 11 years, Julie Dorn has helped organize the hurricane day at MUSC. Dorn is the risk management program coordinator.

"Everybody has a different little niche that they help people prepare for [incoming storms]," said Dorn.

Calderone said the best thing people can do is to be aware of the season and take action at home now, before being caught unprepared in a serious storm. The advice resonates well with the MUSC crowd, he said, because many of them are relatively new to the area.

"Here at the college we have a lot of people that aren't from this area and so they want to know [about hurricane safety]," he said. "This is what can happen here. Don't be ignorant to it."

Richard Murdoch is the community disaster education coordinator for the Lowcountry chapter of the Red Cross and he manned the table at MUSC Wednesday. He was giving passers-by three easy pointers to prepare for hurricanes or any serious disaster.

Murdoch says everyone should make a survival kit that includes prescriptions, medicines, water and food to last at least three days. He also says people should make a plan and let family and friends know that plan, whether it's to stay or to evacuate. He says people that evacuate should let someone know the path they intend to travel.

Murdoch also says people need to be informed, particularly when a storm is approaching. "Watch the TV and understand the different levels of a hurricane -- warnings and watches -- and what to do," he said.

Because Charleston is situated on the coast, state and local emergency management crews have devised evacuation routes for people fleeing a coming storm, but those routes' effectiveness is dependant upon the public's understanding of them.

"It is absolutely critical that people are well informed and they understand what will be expected of them before, during and after a hurricane," said Capt. Rob Woods, the emergency traffic management coordinator for the Department of Public Safety.

He said each evacuation area has a prescribed evacuation route. It's designed that way, he said, so people leaving the area "don't overload the highway system at any particular area."

Emergency evacuation isn't a delicate art, but emergency personnel like Woods are trying to prevent another gridlock situation like the one experienced during Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

After the problems during Hurricane Floyd, traffic planners devised a plan to reverse all eastbound lanes of traffic on Interstate 26 during a mandatory evacuation.

Woods said it was to everyone's advantage to leave early "and make sure your tank is full of gas."

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