Delaware residents warned: Hurricane season starts today

(hurricane photo courtesy NOAA)

(hurricane photo courtesy NOAA)

State emergency management leaders urge residents not to be complacent when it comes to preparing for coastal storms.

“It only takes one.”

That’s the key message from Sussex County Emergency Operations Center Director Joseph Thomas. “All it takes is one storm to devastate a community,” Thomas said.

This year’s hurricane forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a “near-normal” Atlantic hurricane season. That means there is a 70 percent likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms that could threaten the East Coast. Four to eight of those named storms could be come full-blown hurricanes with one to four of those becoming major hurricanes.

But with that forecast comes a caveat about the difficulty in forming this year’s predictions for the season. “It’s difficult to determine whether there will be reinforcing or competing climate influences on tropical storm development,’ said Gerry Bell, NOAA’s lead seasonal hurricane forecaster. “This is a more challenging hurricane season outlook than most.”

It’s also not clear whether an active hurricane period that started in 1995 may be ending. Forecasters say weaker hurricane seasons over the past three years accompanied by cooler temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean could indicate that the active period may already be over. A lower hurricane activity period could last for 25 to 40 years, according to NOAA.

Despite that uncertainty, preparation is key to minimizing the impact of whatever storms come Delaware’s way. “Hopefully, it’s a quiet season. But everyone should be ready for the worst, no matter the forecast,” Thomas said.

Delmarva Power officials say the company is ready to deal with the potential damage posed by hurricane season. “We are prepared for whatever the summer storm season brings,” said Gary Stockbridge, Delmarva Power region president. “We want to assure our customers that Delmarva Power is committed to an emergency response system that makes safety a priority, restores power as quickly as possible and provides customers with information on how to prepare for and deal with weather-related outages.”

The power company has spent $586 million since 2013 on technology upgrades designed to prepare for the challenges of both hot weather and storms. That investment includes improved substation equipment as well as new polls, transformers and other infrastructure.

As always, the best way residents can prepare right now is by gathering items for an emergency kit. That kit should include a flashlight, battery-powered clock and radio, extra batteries, non-perishable food, bottled water and a list of important phone numbers.

Residents in Sussex County can further prepare by creating a safety profile for their residence with the county’s Smart911.com service. This free service allows residents to provide information about their household to put on file before there’s an emergency. That information could include as much or as little detail as users want, including special medical conditions of anyone in the home and family contacts. Having the information on file helps save time during an actual emergency.

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