Reports coming from the National Hurricane Center in Miami have been dull this season. You can imagine the boredom of the professional forecasters there, as storm formation probabilities remain near zero in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. They will not remain so, if history is any guide.
Most everyone around here knows about the Hurricane of 1938 and Sandy, in 2012, which, while not technically a hurricane, caused devastating flooding. Given how compact the Northeast is, the annual risk of landfall in a populated area is substantial. Damaging tropical systems and hurricanes have come ashore from Long Island to Maine for centuries — as many as 30 major storms in the 20th century alone, for example. Among the less-remembered tropical storms to cause significant damage on the East End were Hurricane Carol in 1954, Donna in 1960, and Esther the following year. Hurricane Belle struck in 1976 and the Category 2 Gloria in 1985. Bob made a near-miss but caused massive beach erosion in 1991. Irene affected the area in 2011, then came the oddball Sandy; since then, things have been relatively quiet.
Since records have been kept, September has had the highest probability of tropical storms and hurricanes on Long Island. And, despite the early lack of action, we who live along the coast should not be lulled into letting down our guard. Conditions still favor an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration said in a report issued about two weeks ago. As NOAA’s outlook stands, it anticipates three to five major hurricanes, that is, with winds 111 miles per hour or greater. On average, the Atlantic hurricane season produces 14 named storms with winds of a minimum of 39 miles per hour; for 2022, NOAA predicts between 14 and 20. So far, there have only been three, which means plenty more are to come.
Where a storm strikes and the amount of devastation it brings is difficult to predict. Landfalls are determined by short-term weather conditions that can be relied on within only about a week of a storm reaching land. This uncertainty, combined with hemispheric trends that indicate storm formation is expected between now and the end of the hurricane season in November, means that every community along the Eastern Seaboard must be prepared.
Now is the time to check generators and solar phone chargers and, for those in low-lying areas to think about where they would go if evacuation orders came. The Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests building up an emergency supply kit over time, beginning with things including flashlights and extra batteries, copies of important documents, water, paper products, personal items, medicines, first aid, and non-perishable food. It also recommends a plan to keep in touch with friends and relatives should usual means of communication, such as the internet, become unavailable. FEMA even offers an app with weather alerts and safety tips in English and Spanish. Pet owners need to think about where they could go as a major storm approaches, because most shelters will only accept actual service animals.
Odds are, the East End of Long Island will pass this year without a direct hit by a hurricane. However, prudence dictates that we must always be prepared as if one is already on its way.