Don’t Believe the Hype: This Is Going to Be a Bad Hurricane Season in NC

Wilson, N.C. flooding from Hurricane Matthew in 2016. In 2023, forecasters are now calling for a busier-than-expected hurricane season. (Shutterstock)

By Toni Ocloo

July 13, 2023

Despite predictions of a mild hurricane season, forecasters say record-warm temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean could mean more storms than expected.

Last summer, there were no named tropical storms in July or August. In June of this year alone, there were three. 

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) initially said in May that the US could expect a near-normal hurricane season, but the record-high temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean for this time of year have upended those rosy predictions. The coasts are now in-line for an above-average season, experts at Colorado State University (CSU) say. 

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These higher-than-average water temperatures could counteract the influences of an anticipated El Niño weather system, which would typically break apart developing storms. That means North Carolinians could see an earlier start to peak season — usually late August through September — and more severe and frequent storms.

Why’s the water warmer? It’s not entirely clear, climatologists say. Climate change might be playing a part, but there are a lot of factors that go into the water temperature. 

Corey Davis, assistant state climatologist of the North Carolina State Climate Office, told The News & Observer this week that conditions at this point in the summer are more comparable to August, when peak season usually begins. 

It takes only one to cause incredible devastation, so experts say now’s the time to make sure you have your hurricane plan in place. 

Here’s a reminder from the North Carolina Department of Public Safety of what you should and should not do to best keep your loved ones safe during a hurricane.

Know Your Zone:

  • When a storm is approaching, local officials will determine which areas are too dangerous and are in need of evacuation. They will order evacuations through the “Know Your Zone” system, designating Zone A as the areas at highest risk, then Zone B as the next highest, and so forth. You can find your zone here.  

Know the Terms:

  • Warnings vs. Watches: A hurricane warning will be issued when a hurricane or tropical storm conditions are expected within 36 hours. A watch is issued when such conditions are possible within 48 hours. “If a warning is issued,” the NCDPS says, “dangerous weather is imminent.” To find out if a warning or watch has been issued, keep an eye out for emergency messages from local and state governments, or the National Weather Service via television, radio, social media, and alerts on cellular devices. 

Pay Special Attention to These Tropical Impacts:

  • Heavy Rain: Heavy rain produced by tropical storms can result in deadly and destructive flooding. Be alert, especially during immediate evacuations. NEVER drive on flooded roadways. The North Carolina Department of Transportation and ReadyNC.gov offer great travel resources for evacuation emergencies. For real-time flooding information and alerts, consult the Flood Inundation Mapping & Alert Network or emergency alerts on a cellular phone. 
  • Beware Rip Currents: Even before a storm hits, it can cause dangerous conditions on the coast, in the form of dangerous waves and deadly rip currents. Pay attention to warnings and advice given by local emergency services.

Check Your Flood Insurance, or Buy it: 

  • It is important to know what your insurance will cover before any damage is done. If flood damage is not covered, separate flood insurance could be a worthy investment.

If Staying at Home:

  • Whether you plan to evacuate, go to a shelter, or stay at home, make an Emergency Kit of everything you might need. Keep it in one place and be sure that everyone in the family knows where it is. 
  • The kit should include: Face coverings / masks (if desired); hand sanitizer; a gallon of water per person per day; enough non-perishable food for up to 7 days; a battery-powered radio and extra batteries; a cell phone charger; a first aid kit; flashlight and extra batteries; a manual can opener; changes of clothes and sturdy shoes; fire extinguisher; cash; all prescription medications; toothbrush and other personal care items.
  • If you have a generator do NOT run it indoors. The carbon monoxide it produces can be fatal. And if you smell gas, get out of the house. 
  • Once the storm hits, driving may be too dangerous, but make sure to know the locations of shelters in your area, just in case.

If Evacuating:

  • Still, make your kit.
  • Sit down with your family to decide where you will go if an evacuation order is issued or if you are not feeling safe. If you are not together when the storm hits, make sure everyone knows the address and phone number of the place you are going. 
  • Staying with family or at a hotel outside the danger zone is better than staying at a shelter.
  • Make a plan for your pets if you have them. Most shelters do not take them, so know in advance if they are allowed at the hotel or spot you are going to.
  • If you have older adults or anyone with disabilities in your family, make sure all medications and devices are up to date and fully charged before the storm hits. This is also good advice if you’re staying at home. 
  • Put important documents like insurance cards, passports, wills, marriage licenses, etc. in one place so you can easily take them with you if you need to evacuate quickly or leave your home. 
  • If you have an infant or toddler, make sure you have diapers, formula, bottles and other important items. 

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