As we prepare to leave for the beach tomorrow, I am thankful that Invest 99L has not materialized into more than a rainmaker at this point. We are now at the height of hurricane season. Tropical waves come off of the west coast of Africa and make their track across the Atlantic. Even with superb, advanced technology, there is still no way to know exactly what these storms will do. Some waves will encounter favorable strengthening conditions, becoming a hurricane, while others will encounter things like wind sheer and have a hard time developing into a tropical depression. Whatever the case, we live on the East Coast of the United States and must keep an eye to the tropics, June 1 until Nov. 1.
Though the east coast of Virginia has not experienced a direct hit from a tropical system in a long time, one that comes in on the South Atlantic coast, or from the Gulf Coast can still affect Virginia. The effects of a tropical system in central Virginia have been rain, wind, tornadoes, and flooding. We could go years between systems affecting Virginia, or we could have multiple systems in the same year. It is important to know the dangers of these systems and to heed the warnings of local and state officials when a tropical system is headed our way.
High, sustained winds will bring down trees and power lines. Flooding will cause small creeks and tributaries to become raging torrents of water. I remember three tropical systems that affected us, in the most past: Fran, Isabel and Gaston. The first two were rain and wind, while Gaston was a heavy rain event. Fran and Isabel came and went pretty quickly, but Gaston parked over central Virginia for a substantial period of time.
There are three important time frames to think about: pre-storm arrival, the height of the storm, and the period of recovery after the storm. The pre-storm period could be the years, months, weeks, days or hours before a storm hits. The amount of time before a storm hits will determine what can be done. Preparation could be trimming back trees, checking an emergency generator, moving loose items inside, or preparing to evacuate, though central Virginia is usually the place to which coastal locations plan. Once the storm has hit, preparation time is over. This is the time that you need to hunker down and ride it out. You need to be able to hear warningsas long as possible. It is important to stay in your home, as long as that is possible, until the storm has passed. If the power goes out and you go to emergency power, remember to ensure that carbon monoxide from the generator exhaustcannot enter the living space. Though some will be hurt or killed during the storm phase, I believe that the most dangerous time is the recovery or clean-up phase after the storm. This is the time when people do things that they are not qualified to do, especially where tree removal is concerned. There may be days or weeks before the power is restored, as well as other services. Depending on what has happened to the water system, bottled water may have to be used for consumption.
Will you be ready when a tropical system affects central Virginia again? It could happen before the 2016 season ends, or it may not happen for years. We live in a place that can be affected and need to always be vigilant. Prepare now and prepare then, that way you will not be caught off guard.
Just to show you that I do try to put into practice what I write about, we are now back from the beach. We returned one day early because of Hurricane Hermine. The projected path of the storm would have put us east of the center of circulation. Weather experts stated that conditions would continue to worsen overnight. Therefore, we packed in a steady rain and left. Having two young grandchildren can change your perspective on many things. Though it was a rainy trip to the North Carolina state line, we made it home safely. We have heard through news reports that some of the roads that we traveled home on were flooded at some point. Thus far, reports are that one person lost his life, as a result of the storm; a falling tree hit a homeless man in Florida. These storms are nothing to play around with.