Today, President Obama receives his annual briefing on forecast, emergency preparations, and response activities for the coming hurricane season. For the first time, he’s traveling to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida to receive the briefing firsthand. So, why is he going in person?
The Miami Beach business district has been plagued by high-tide flooding due to rising sea levels in the face of climate change. But, they are proactively working to protect their neighborhoods from high tide floods by elevating roads, installing pumping stations and adjusting building codes. And, they are working to prepare for the more intense impact of coastal storms by improving storm water drainage infrastructure.
The President’s briefing showcases tools developed by Federal agencies that help individuals and communities like Miami prepare to face the threats of hurricanes and all emergencies. Because you won’t be there in person, we wanted to give you an overview of the same materials, resources, and preparedness tools that were shared with the President so you can help your community get ready and stay safe.
2015 Forecast: Below-Normal
According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season (June 1-November 30), will likely be below-normal. NOAA is predicting a 70 percent chance of 6 to 11 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 3 to 6 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including zero to 2 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher). While a below-normal season is likely, there is also a 20 percent chance of a near-normal season, and a 10 percent chance of an above-normal season. But, a below-normal forecast is no reason to believe coastal areas will have it easy.
“A below-normal season doesn’t mean we’re off the hook. As we’ve seen before, below-normal seasons can still produce catastrophic impacts to communities.”
— NOAA Administrator, Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., referring to the 1992 season in which category 5 Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida.
As the President mentioned in his commencement address at the Coast Guard Academy last week, climate change will mean more powerful hurricanes and storms, rising sea levels, and flooding, all of which could endanger our country’s infrastructure and cost billions.
Sea level rise, coupled with more intense storms, means that storm surges can pack a more damaging punch than in the past. Global sea levels are an average of about 8 inches higher than they were a century ago. The water in New York Harbor is about a foot higher than it was a century ago — and that higher water level helped fuel the powerful storm surge in Superstorm Sandy.
Tools & Resources to Prepare
CLIMATE RESILIENCE: The Obama Administration invests in digital tools found in the Climate Resilience Toolkit that help communities understand their climate risk. NOAA used the Coastal Flood Resilience Mapper to show President Obama how communities can assess coastal vulnerabilities:
STORM SURGE: When a tropical storm or hurricane is forecast, NOAA releases a Potential Storm Surge Flooding Map to help communities prepare for the impacts of that particular storm.
EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS: FEMA has tools, apps, and advice to help your family prepare for hurricanes and all other kinds of extreme weather.
Practicing what to do in an emergency, in advance of the event, can make a difference in the ability to take immediate and informed action. This, in turn, enables recovery to happen more quickly. You can get all the information you need to prepare for hurricanes at www.ready.gov/hurricanes.
HISTORIC HURRICANES: How often has your state had a hurricane make landfall? Use NOAA’s “Historical Hurricane Tracks” tool to learn more.