Preparing for a Below-Average Hurricane Season: What’s Different?

Coming off the heels of the 2017 hurricane season, the 2018 forecast for a below-average season is a relief. But just because this season’s forecast “only” calls for five hurricanes total, and one major hurricane, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to let down your guard. One major storm is all it takes to wreak havoc in your community and business. 

Just consider that two major storms were predicted at the start of the 2017 season,1 which ended with three of the top five costliest hurricanes on record, including Hurricane Harvey, which struck the Gulf coast and Houston, Hurricane Irma in Florida and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. By the end of the year, the damages from the three storms totaled a whopping $265 billion.2

Lessons from Recent Storms
The three major hurricanes of 2017 all brought dramatically different circumstances and lessons to impacted businesses and residents, and Hurricane Irma certainly provided some good reminders of the chaos hurricanes bring.

Before Irma made landfall in Florida, forecasters believed it was going to track up the middle of Florida, but as time passed Irma’s track shifted to the west coast and ended up landing over Fort Myers. In other words, despite all of the sophisticated tracking equipment in use today, forecasting is still anything but perfect. That means it’s well worth heeding regional hurricane warnings—even when your city is not directly in forecasted path.

Moreover, although Irma brought storm surges and heavy rains, its winds alone caused widespread damages across western Florida, downing trees and tree branches and severely damaging landscaping and building structures. Suddenly landscapers, tree trimmers and disaster restoration providers were all stretched thin, leaving many property owners to fend for themselves. It’s a good reminder of the value of advance preparation for area-wide events, including establishing relationships with key restoration and service providers.

3 Hurricane Preparation Essentials
One thing we saw after Hurricanes Irma is that it pays to think outside of the box, when it comes to hurricane preparation. For example, if a storm is approaching and you have a lot of trees on your property, contact your landscaper as early as possible. That way you can line up other help, if your landscaper is already overwhelmed with work. With Irma, for instance, we saw paving companies help with cleanup. They were a great alternative resource, given their equipment and staff resources.

Random challenges aside, here are three critical things to remember as the hurricane season winds up:

  1. Heed warnings—Remember the lesson above regarding Irma’s shifting trajectory. If you ignore warnings because you think a storm is going to miss your area, you could very well be in for a big surprise.
  2. Stockpile essentials—Once a storm is named, it’s usually too late to get the supplies you will need because everyone else will be scrambling for them as well. That’s why it’s important to have a hurricane kit onsite along with a reserve of plywood, duct tape and any other resources you think you will need to protect your building. 
  3. Call ahead—Don’t wait until a storm is approaching to call a restoration provider or landscaper. Setting up a relationship and emergency plan ahead of time doesn’t take a lot of time and it can save you some serious heartburn and headache if the worst happens. 

The 2018 hurricane season has already seen several named storms, including tropical storm Alberto, which made landfall in Florida. And since it’s impossible to know what the rest of the season has in store for the Gulf Coast region, it’s worth taking a little time this week to make sure your business is ready for whatever may be in store. 

Thanks to Paul Licata in our Boynton Beach, Florida office for sharing his expertise in this area! 

1 CSU team predicts slightly below-average 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, Colorado State University, April 2017. 
2 Hurricane Costs Fast Facts, Office for Coastal Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2018. 

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