Editorial: Trying to predict the unpredictable

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If you watch news of any sort, you would have seen the images and video of the floods in Ellicott City, Maryland and the preparations for subtropical storm Alberto as it heads to the Florida Panhandle on the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Already, Maryland’s Governor, Larry Hogan, has declared a state of emergency as the massive storm triggered flash floods, causing numerous evacuations and leaving at least one person missing. While in Florida, residents and visitors are bracing for the landfall of the first named storm of 2018 Atlantic season.  
While these two storms and other weather have revived the loud climate change debate, here in our bit of paradise, they are a reminder that the start of the upcoming hurricane season is just a few days away. It was not that long ago that Hurricane Irma made landfall in Barbuda and terrorised the residents with her 185 mile per hour winds. It was the night of September 5, 2017, to be exact. Clear evidence of the devastation is still visible to this day and the name Irma and that September night will not be forgotten any time soon.  
It was hoped that Barbuda would have been cleaned and the rebuilding effort well underway, if not completed, before the 2018 season began, but those hopes were overly optimistic. With so much work still to be done, we hope and pray that another storm does not trample over our sister island to make a very bad situation even worse.
Regardless of the state of restoration in Barbuda, we must remain vigilant as we approach this year’s Hurricane season. If it is one lesson that we should learn from Barbuda and Irma is that Mother Nature will do whatever she pleases and all we can do is prepare. Prepare for the worse and hope for the best.
If you are thinking, in any way that 2018 cannot be as bad as 2017, then you should know that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center is forecasting “a 75 percent chance that the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season will be near – or above-normal”. The unpredictable nature of the season is evident in the details in which forecasters say is a 35 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season, and a 25 percent chance of a below-normal season.
Getting into the nitty-gritty further, NOAA’s forecasters predict a 70 percent change of 10 to 16 named storms which carry winds of 39 miles per hour or higher.  Of that number, five to nine could become hurricanes carrying winds of 74 miles per hour or higher, with one to four of those becoming major hurricanes. Major being Category three or above and sporting winds in excess of 111 miles per hours.  In comparison, NOAA says, “an average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes”.
This all means that you should attend to all of those things that you have put-off fixing since last year. Procrastination now becomes as big an enemy as the storms themselves. We cannot predict the unpredictable but we certainly can address the procrastination. Don’t wait until a storm is heading our way. Get what needs to be done, done!
We understand that it is difficult to prepare for hurricanes like Irma but the less you do to prepare, the less strength the storm needs to destroy. We have been lulled into a false sense of security before, and then Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989. A few naive and stubborn people did not heed the warning delivered by Hugo, so they let their guard down, only to be reminded by Hurricane Luis in 1995 that being ever vigilant is the best way to survive the annual hurricane season.  
We sing this song and preach this sermon every year but we will continue to do so because there is clearly a need. Every year, we are fascinated by the number of people who demonstrate a near-total disinterest in the approaching season. They adopt a casual response to news of serious weather and approaching storms to the point that it irritates us. What they do not realise is that their don’t care attitude puts other people’s property and lives at risk.  For example, when they do not secure debris and loose items before a storm, those objects become missiles and end up somewhere; usually causing damage to their neighbours’ property. And when all hell breaks loose during the storm and they call out for help, they hope that their neighbours will put themselves in harms way to assist.
So, please, let us all be overly cautious and remain ever vigilant for this coming hurricane season. Let us each do what is necessary to achieve the greatest level of safety. Dispense of the procrastination and remember the words of H. Jackson Brown Jr. who advised, “the best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today”.

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