As hurricanes change so must we

Posted 9/17/21

There is less and less warning. The winds and waves are stronger. The paths are sometimes even less predictable.

When Hurricane Sally meandered across the Gulf of Mexico last year it took its …

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As hurricanes change so must we

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There is less and less warning. The winds and waves are stronger. The paths are sometimes even less predictable.

When Hurricane Sally meandered across the Gulf of Mexico last year it took its time, wobbled this way and that and finally shifted northeast in the last hours locking Baldwin County in its sights. And then it strengthened, leaving little time for those in the most vulnerable locations to leave.

Last month Hurricane Ida slammed into Louisiana on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

As Ida moved across the warm Gulf waters it grew and gained strength and then suddenly sprang to life in the last hours before landfall, slamming the coast as a powerful Category 4 storm. It was the second-most damaging and intense hurricane to strike Louisiana. There was so little time to leave ahead of the storm’s shift that local officials couldn’t even adjust the roads to allow for more travel lanes to lead out of harm’s way.

In interviews with national news outlets residents left battered and homeless called Hurricane Katrina “a picnic” compared to Ida.

Today tens of thousands are still without power if they have a home left to power. Entire towns and their residents have been left with nothing.

This week Hurricane Nicholas seemed to come out of nowhere as the storm moved slowly through the Gulf and finally gained strength just before coming ashore in Texas. Again, there was little time to evacuate. Again, residents were caught off guard with flood waters that were catastrophic in many places.

In neighboring Louisiana residents who were already cobbling together a way to survive after Ida were pounded again by Nicholas’ rain.

Hurricanes are changing. The warming of the planet caused by climate change is causing ocean waters to warm. Warmer waters make nastier, stronger hurricanes. It is where they draw their strength. Stronger hurricanes equal more rainfall, more flooding, and stronger winds when they come ashore.

Human-caused global warming has also led to a rise in sea level. As seas rise, so does storm surge when a hurricane roars ashore.

A warmer planet also means these storms intensify faster as they approach landfall, making it difficult to predict how dangerous they will be, in turn making it difficult to decide whether to stay or leave.

As the planet continues to warm, it can only be assumed that hurricanes will in turn become worse as well.

Already, a simple look at the list of hurricanes since 1980 shows that the proportion of storms that rated as a Category 3 or above in the Atlantic Ocean has doubled since 1980.

Hurricanes are changing and so must we.

Whether you are new to Baldwin County or a lifelong resident, you need to prepare. Purchase extra food, water and medical supplies to keep in a hurricane survival kit. Make plans to save and purchase a generator. Make a plan in case you must evacuate. Be weather aware.

And most importantly, as many of us learned just a year ago when Hurricane Sally sat over our homes and churned, the first 72 hours after a storm are on you. Roads may be impassable. Electricity may be out. And emergency services may not be able to reach you.

By the way, that day also marked the anniversary of the equally devastating Hurricane Ivan which followed nearly the same path ashore as Sally. Preparing now will make those first hours after future storms survivable.

Hurricane Ida could have easily come ashore in Baldwin County. We could easily be hit by the next monster storm to roll across the Gulf. It may only be a matter of time before our homes, schools and businesses are destroyed by the whim of nature.

The only thing we can control is our preparation.

Are you ready?