There may be new leadership at the National Hurricane Center for the 2018 season but the message remains the same. “Know your risk, prepare for that risk, and be safe,” says Ken Graham, the new National Hurricane Center Director. He is no stranger to working through tropical cyclones having spent over two decades working along the U.S. Coast during many high impact weather events. His love of meteorology can be traced to an unusual tropical system in Arizon. At age 7, Graham had to evacuate his home due to a tropical system approaching from Mexico. That weather system in his childhood led him into the science of meteorology with an emphasis on the tropics.
Graham comes to the role as director with a new situation this year, something that has not been realized in nearly a decade. Prior to the 2017 season there had not been a major landfall in the U.S. for 10 years, a phenomenon often referred to as hurricane amnesia. This year, however, the anxiety is heightened after nearly consecutive landfalls of Harvey, Irma, and Maria during the extraordinarily devastating 2017 season.
“It’s really important that we don’t compare storms,” Graham cautions. “Just because it didn’t happen with Irma, doesn’t mean it can’t happen.” Knowing the risks is one of the key messages he and the other meteorologists wanted to get out as they spoke at the National Hurricane Center June 1 which was the first official day of the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season. It is also the first day of the Central Pacific Hurricane Season, which could impact Hawaii this year.
Brand new products were introduced in 2017 in hopes of highlighting the dangers of tropical systems in addition to the storm’s track and intensity forecasts. According to Graham 50% of fatalities in tropical systems is a result of storm surge. With the new storm surge product issuing watches and warnings Graham says, “We finally have a product that can highlight those dangers.”
With the new products last year and the forecasts becoming more and more accurate, Graham says this year communicating those forecasts will be improved. “We are going to focus on the science getting better but couple that with behavioral science and social science.” Graham added, we want to make sure that everything we do is actionable and understood.”
Hurricanes can impact any state along the US Gulf of East coast. With Florida’s expansive coastline on both, Florida is rolling out a special deal for residents to prepare for the season. The State of Florida implemented a sales tax holiday in effect until June 7th for a wide variety of items that can be applied to a hurricane preparedness. Qualifying items include anything from flashlights and batteries to large generators and tie-down kits. When purchasing these items during this time period there will be no sales tax added to the items listed. Price limits are in effect and they can be found here .
Walking into a Home Depot just outside of the Miami area and you can easily find all of these items located together. Eddie Quintana, a sales associate for Home Depot says, “We are here to help. There is signage throughout the store to let customers know about the new tax program.”
The idea is to help residents replace items they may have used last year during the hurricane season, but also add items they may realize they need. “Remember this.” Says Graham. “You plan for what could happen, not necessarily what’s going to happen. You have to take the worst case scenario and be ready for it.”
Hurricane season is underway and will end November 30th, 2018.