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An active hurricane season is looming. Hampton Roads needs to prepare. – The Virginian Pilot

Longtime Hampton Roads residents have heard the warnings before hurricane season so often that they probably dismiss them out of hand. Yes, yes, it’s important to be prepared blah blah blah.

This year, however, it’s not something to let go. All signs point to this being an extremely active season for tropical systems and it is imperative for everyone in the region to be prepared now, well before a storm hits on the coast.

Although Atlantic hurricane season officially begins June 1, Hurricane Preparedness Week (May 5-11) aims to encourage coastal residents to prepare their families, homes, and businesses for tropical weather. well before the first storm of the year.

It’s been decades since Hampton Roads was directly hit by a hurricane, but numerous hurricanes have passed through the region in recent years as weakening tropical systems, reminding us that it doesn’t have to be a Category 4 or 5 storm causes widespread hardship and significant damage. .

Consider 2016, where a series of remnant storms drenched the region with rain in a matter of weeks. The result was predictable: thousands of homes flooded, thousands of families displaced, tens of millions of material losses.

That year, meteorologists accurately predicted an active hurricane season, as the tropics produced 15 named storms, seven hurricanes, and four major hurricanes (Category 3 and stronger). These look eerily similar to this year’s forecasts, with most models forecasting a near-record number of storms: 20 named storms, 11 to 12 hurricanes and five major hurricanes.

This is due to a change in wind patterns that will contribute to the formation of storms, like in 2016, but also to unusually warm ocean temperatures. The Atlantic Ocean is already about 2 degrees Celsius warmer than normal, which will provide fuel for tropical systems heading toward the East and Gulf coasts.

For these reasons, even those who typically ignore warnings about hurricane season should pay attention: This could be a very dangerous season for our region, and it is critical that Hampton Roads families be prepared.

Start by visiting online emergency planning resources, such as the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (vaemergency.gov), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (ready.gov), or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (noaa .gov/hurricane-prep).

Homes and businesses located near water must have specific flood insurance policies. These take 30 days to take effect and home insurance policies do not cover flooding. Visit Floodsmart.gov to find an insurance provider in Virginia.

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management uses a priority system for ordering evacuations called “Know Your Zone,” so be sure to visit vaemergency.gov/know-your-zone to confirm yours. Families are encouraged to develop an evacuation plan and make sure everyone knows what to do in the event of an emergency.

When doing yard work this month, look for anything that could be a problem during a hurricane, such as tree branches that could be dangerous, and clean out storm drains and ditches as much as possible to remove debris. obstacles that could impede the flow of rainwater.

This is also a good time to gather emergency supplies or check out any leftovers from last season. Having at least three days, and preferably five, of food and water will allow area residents to shelter in place if necessary. (Allow 1 gallon of water per person per day, and don’t forget your pets.) Gather essential medications, a first aid kit, flashlights and candles, batteries, a storm radio and some something to pass the time, like a board. games or a deck of cards.

Hurricane preparedness isn’t just about you and your family’s safety. It also helps the community as a whole since first responders will be busy following a storm and being self-sufficient eases their burden.

Maybe you’ve been slow to accomplish these tasks in recent years, but it’s time to get down to business. All indications are that hurricane season will be very active and Hampton Roads residents should prepare for the worst, even as they hope for the best.