The Atlantic hurricane season ended Nov. 30, but after the year that Florida experienced, residents would be wise to begin preparing for 2023 storms.
It’s true even if the official start of the next hurricane season remains six months away.
While residents prepared for the worst as two hurricanes appeared to be heading their way, Alachua County was spared from the worst of the effects from Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. Damage was still seen around the area as trees fell on homes, blocked roads and some residents were left without power.
This was the second time in six years that two landfalling hurricanes have impacted the state in one season, with Ian and Nicole joining Hermine and Matthew in 2016 causing havoc to Florida residents.
“Preparedness for me and the weather community at large is something that we always advocate and never say there is a season for it,” UF Multimedia Meteorologist Justin Ballard said. “You should always stay prepared because hurricanes can certainly form and have formed outside of hurricane season.”
The typical Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. Tropical storms outside of the season typically occur in May or December, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
David Peaton, Alachua County’s Assistant Director of Emergency Management, wants residents to stay prepared around the clock.
“Do not wait until the last minute,” Peaton said. “Stay prepared all year long. Make sure that you are signed up to get alerts from Alachua County, which is as easy as texting the word Alachua to 888777.”
Climate change can play a hand in the intensity of hurricanes as it tends to create warmer surface temperatures and deeper depths of warm temperature in the ocean. Combining these elements creates stronger and more impactful storms, according to Ballard.
Alachua County is about 50 miles from the Gulf of Mexico and 67 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, but that should be no cause of relief for its residents.
With a large percentage of the eastern half of Alachua County lying in a 1-in-100 year floodplain, ensuring your home is insured with flood insurance, especially if you live in a flood plain, should be a top priority. A 1-in-100-year flood is a flood that is so severe it only has a 1% chance of occurring in any given year. The longer an area goes without having one, the more likely it is for that flood to occur, according to Ballard.
“With flood insurance, it does not take effect for 30 days a lot of times,” Ballard said. “Having a flood policy in place well before the start of the Atlantic hurricane season on June 1 is ideal.”
Hurricane Ian hit Fort Myers as a Category 4 hurricane, causing major damage to the area. As a part of the Extension Disaster Education Network, the University of Florida IFAS extension in Lee County understands how important it is to learn from previous hurricane seasons.
“There are always opportunities to learn and opportunities to prepare better,” said Lee County Extension Director David Outerbridge. “For this storm season, for every storm season before this, we have been as prepared as we can be and had lessons through all of them.”
The IFAS team in Lee County has been helping local agriculture producers by conducting damage assessments as well informing federal, state and county departments of the losses, scale of damage and human impacts from Hurricane Ian.
“Common-sense preparedness” includes things like a plan for what to do if power goes out for several days as well as having an evacuation plan, Peaton said. Before a storm, residents should clear up areas around homes to prevent wind from picking items up and creating damage. Checking with homeowners’ and renters’ insurance policies to make sure you know what is covered is important.
There are over 2,500 Gainesville properties that currently have a chance to be severely affected by flooding in the next 30 years, according to this risk factor calculation.
Once you have your severe weather plan in place, it is important to continue practicing it in the Atlantic hurricane offseason, Ballard said. Before the official hurricane season starts back up, severe weather season is ready to catch unprepared residents off guard.
“Severe weather season runs roughly from late February through the month of April in the state of Florida, particularly north Florida,” Ballard said. Some of the same tips and tricks used during hurricane season can keep residents on their toes and prepared for any weather events.
Alachua County is not thought of as a coastal area, and for good reason, but it is still prone to impacts from landfalling tropical systems like hurricanes and tropical storms, according to Ballard.
“Preparedness is a 24/7, 365 days a year activity,” Peaton said. “If you stay prepared, you will save so much time before an event happens.”