It only takes one.
That’s the reminder from area disaster response agencies as today marks the start of a 2010 hurricane season that forecasters are predicting to be above average.
Whether the season proves to be an active one or is a repeat of 2009 that passes by North Carolina with barely a notice, the community has to be ready for any storm that may come its way, said Joy Branham, executive director of the Onslow County Chapter of the Red Cross.
“We have to be prepared no matter how many storms we may see. It just takes one,” she said.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center issued its seasonal forecast Thursday saying an “active to extremely active” hurricane season is expected.
Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the six-month season, NOAA is projecting a 70-percent probability of 14 to 23 named storms and 8 to 14 hurricanes, with three to seven possibly being major hurricanes.
The outlook exceeds the average of 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.
While NOAA’s forecast can’t predict what path storms may follow, increased activity could mean greater probability of landfall somewhere, said Warning Coordination Meteorologist John Cole of the National Weather Service office in Newport.
“There’s really good probability of an active season and with more storms out there, there’s better chance of having landfall somewhere,” he said.
It follows on the heels of the April forecast of a team from the University of Colorado, which also predicts an above average hurricane season.
Jay Barnes of Pine Knoll Shores, author of North Carolina’s Hurricane History, said it is important to remember that the predictions are for the whole Atlantic Basin, which includes Gulf of Mexico and East Coast.
“Just the prediction of an active season does not mean North Carolina is going to be hit, just like a forecast of a below average year means you should (not) let your guard down,” he said.
Hurricane Andrew, one of the country’s costliest hurricanes, hit South Florida as a category 5 hurricane during a relatively quiet season.
How bad a hurricane season proves to be is relative to where you are and what path a storm decides to take, making hurricane awareness and preparation crucial regardless of the projections.
And Barnes said it’s important to stay prepared throughout the season, which ends Nov. 30. North Carolina has a history of getting hit by more than one storm in a season, such as Hurricanes Bertha and Fran in 1996.
“If we were to get hit by a hurricane in August, you can’t let your guard down; there’s a lot of season left and we could still have another,” he said.
While we don’t know what paths the storms will take, the greater likelihood of storms in the Atlantic Basin brings an increased risk of landfall.
And the key message as the season begins is to be prepared.
Onslow County Emergency Management Assistant Director Norman Bryson said various agencies in the county will soon be participating in a drill to practice large-scale storm response and citizens can do their part to prepare as well.
“We’re hoping we don’t have a busy season, but we’re doing everything we can to prepare in case we do,” Bryson said.
He urges families to have preparedness plans with information, such as where they would evacuate to if they need to leave the area, what they would take to a shelter and what arrangements they would make for their pets.
Individuals can also act now to stock supplies for hurricane kits and necessities they would need during and after a storm.
In Carteret County, the Emergency Services Office urges citizens to put preparations and planning “on the front burner” and not to be complacent following a relatively calm 2009 season.
“They are projecting a pretty active season, and citizens need to start preparing now and be aware of what’s out there,” said Carteret County Emergency Services Director Jo Ann Smith.
Barnham said Red Cross is prepared throughout the year to respond to emergencies and disasters from tornadoes to house fire.
“Certainly for us on the coast we always have one eye on the Atlantic ocean since one of our biggest threats can come from tropical activity,” she said.