Hurricane season is here
Last year’s Atlantic hurricane season produced a staggering number of 17 named storms, 10 hurricanes and six major hurricanes — the most active season since 1936 — and caused an overall estimated $215 billion in losses, according to insurance company Munich RE. Hundreds of lives were also claimed from the US coast to the Caribbean making last year’s hurricane season one of the costliest, not only in terms of money.
What to expect for 2018
As many still struggle to recover from last season’s major hurricanes — Harvey, Irma and Maria — the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season started June 1, and according to predictions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) we’re in for an above-average season.
The NOAA Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a 75-percent chance that the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season will be near- or above-normal with a likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which five to nine could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including one to four major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher). An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.
Separate forecasts from North Carolina State University and Colorado State University predict there will be between 14 and 18 named storms on the eastern seaboard this year. Colorado State predicts seven of those will be hurricanes. North Carolina State believes between 7 and 11 will. The Weather Channel, meanwhile, is predicting a slightly more sedate 13 named storms and six hurricanes, two of which it says will be major. In either model, that’s above the average. From 1950 through 2017, the average number of named storms has been 11.
Hurricanes are getting stronger rapidly
An average hurricane season is based on the 30-year average from 1981 to 2010. By that definition, an average season includes 12 named storms and six hurricanes, with three of those being major hurricanes — storms that qualify as category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
Researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research are warning that future tropical storms and hurricanes will only get bigger, stronger and drop significantly more rain after analyzing data from NOAA’s National Hurricane Center and the U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center on the impact of the 22 most recent hurricanes, with a particular interest in how quickly the hurricanes intensified or grew in strength. A study led by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory supports these findings, reporting that Atlantic storms are intensifying quicker than they did 30 years ago.
Many states are prepared for the season
A report released by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) — Rating the States: 2018 —shows Florida, Virginia, South Carolina, New Jersey and Connecticut rounding out the top-five states scoring high in an assessment of the residential building code systems in 18 hurricane-prone states. The state of Florida finished first with a score of 95. Virginia was second with a score of 94 and South Carolina placed third with a score of 92. New Jersey and Connecticut both had a score of 89.
In developing its Rating the States report, IBHS assessed 47 data points to address the effectiveness of the states’ residential building code programs. This included code adoption and enforcement, building official training and certification, and licensing requirements for construction trades. The report also offers a clear roadmap with specific details for states to follow as they seek to update and improve their code systems.
New research confirms the value of investing in property loss mitigation. According to a report by the National Institute of Building Sciences, Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: 2017 Interim Report, society saves $6 for every $1 spent through federal mitigation grants, and $4 for every $1 in private sector investments that exceed select provisions in model building codes. A follow-up study on the economic benefits of model building codes is forthcoming.
Following Hurricane Sandy, a comprehensive federal report called on states to use the most current building codes to “ensure that buildings and other structures incorporate the latest science, advances in technology and lessons learned.” That admonition is even more compelling in the wake of Harvey, Irma, and Maria precisely because the building code is an active, evolving document. The application of the codes in the field reflects new knowledge and new standards of practice that have evolved from lessons learned; accordingly, their adoption and enforcement should be a priority in all communities across the U.S.
It takes just one storm
Hurricane season — which runs from June 1 through November 30 — is always a stressful time for the Caribbean, the Gulf coast and the Southeast. The U.S. might not see the same levels of destruction this year, but residents of the coastal U.S. should prepare for a hurricane strike or flooding, no matter the forecast. It only takes one storm to claim lives and property. The International Code Council offers education on preparedness through its Hurricane Safety page, filled with disaster safety and mitigation information for code officials and the public.
Safety starts with smart building design and construction and buildings built to updated, modern codes are best able to withstand the impacts of severe wind and rain. The materials used in construction, their method of installation, and additional protections such as hurricane shutters and safer glass can be the difference between life and death.