“But an ‘average’ hurricane season will typically have about 10 named storms and six hurricanes,” said Dr. Andy Vestal, Texas AgriLife Extension Service liaison to the governor’s State Operations Center. “Besides that, Hurricane Ike and other seasonal activity last year have demonstrated to us Texans once again that there’s really nothing average about a hurricane, especially when it’s in your backyard.”
The 2008 hurricane season was the third costliest on record, and Ike was the costliest storm of the season, according to insurance industry estimates. Damage from Ike, which devastated Galveston County and affected dozens of other Texas counties, has been estimated at more than $20 billion.
“With Hurricane Ike, Hurricane Dolly and Tropical Storm Gustav, Texans had a tough time of it during the 2008 hurricane season,” Vestal said. “But whatever the 2009 hurricane season may bring, we want to help Texas residents and others prepare for and, if necessary, recover from hurricanes and other natural disasters.”
In December, researchers from Colorado State University’s renowned forecasting team predicted 14 tropical storms for 2009. Seven were expected to become hurricanes, of which three were expected to develop into major – Category 3 or greater – storms. The estimate was lowered in April to an expectation of 12 tropical storms, six of which might become hurricanes with two reaching major hurricane status.
“The bulk of computer models currently indicate a neutral phase in El Nino and La Nina cycles,” said Scott Cordero, meteorologist-in-charge at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service office in Corpus Christi. “But about a third of the weather models still indicate differently. ... The official NOAA 2009 hurricane forecast won’t be out until May 24.”
The Weather Research Center hurricane season forecast for 2009, which uses a model called the Orbital Cyclone Strike Index, shows at least seven named tropical storms with four becoming hurricanes. The forecast also indicates a 40 percent chance of a tropical storm or hurricane making landfall in Texas during the season.
Vestal said while seasonal hurricane forecasts are important guidelines, Texans need to be continually alert to the need for protecting themselves, their families and their property from a possible disaster.
“We’re approaching the beginning of hurricane season and that’s going to be top-of-mind for a while, but we can’t forget that floods, tornados and other disasters occur year-round and people need to be informed about and prepared for those as well.”
Vestal said AgriLife Extension and the Texas Department of State Health Services have created the Texas Extension Disaster Education Network, known as Texas EDEN, to help inform people about disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. The Texas EDEN Web site is http://texashelp.tamu.edu .
AgriLife Extension also has produced several disaster-related informational and educational pieces in English and Spanish, most of which can be downloaded free from the AgriLife Extension Bookstore, he said.
The AgriLife Bookstore Web site is http://agrilifebookstore.org . Specific materials on hurricane and other disaster preparation and recovery can be found by clicking on “Disasters and Emergencies” on the home page. Spanish-language versions have “S” at the end of their identification number.
Bookstore disaster-related publications address topics including: preparing for a disaster, hurricane preparedness for livestock, basic first aid, debris clean-up, disaster recovery safety tips, handling food and supplies during a power loss, cooking without electricity and controlling mold growth.
Vestal added that AgriLife Extension offers free public service announcements in English and Spanish. The announcements are available as audio files for listening online or for use by broadcast media to help listeners and viewers prepare for and clean up after a storm. These are available at http://agnews.tamu.edu/issues/hurricane/ .
“AgriLife Extension and AgriLife Research personnel work with many state and federal agencies involved in emergency management and recovery, particularly through the governor’s office,” Vestal said. “And we continue to support other disaster-related efforts, such as the Operation New Fences initiative by the Texas Department of Agriculture, which is still helping farmers and ranchers affected by Hurricane Ike.”