HURRICANE: Simple Safety

It's another hurricane season. Time to prepare. Do you have a plan? Let's work on that. Who are we? First Alert Storm Team! Okay, so it's hurricane season; and we're standing here playing with a selfie stick. Technology- why would we even start a hurricane special with a phone and a selfie stick?

Well, it's because we're getting to the point where cellphones are basically taking over modern day lives. Yeah, and since the last big storm that hit our area, tropical storm or hurricane, we've added weather apps and Facebook lives and all kinds of stuff on And of course there's so many ways to get that information. But we're going to give you some of the information right now.

It was 12 years ago that we had our last hurricane. And you know society has changed. You guys have aged. and the population has increased on the gulf coast. And you talk about gulf coast hurricanes, nothing unusual. They're like… yeah, they go hand in hand like beaches and humidity. Live Oaks and azaleas. And like alligators and football in the southeast. And like termites and lovebugs. Not a pleasant scenario, but it's something that we deal with. And just like that, if you're prepared, it's not an issue. So we've already actually had one tropical storm already this season, Arlene. But does that mean it's going to make an impact for the rest of the hurricane season? Remember, last year we had Alex in January. You know, a really early storm is like having a birthday party at five in the afternoon. But one guest shows up at ten in the morning. That says nothing about when or if other people get there. Well, typically things that happen before the season really have no impact.

There are a lot of forecasts out there trying to really figure out what goes on. But that forecast that places like Colorado State issue, they don't really say what's going to be happening for an exact location. It's for the entire Atlantic basin, which is a huge area. So while they might be good forecasts, it doesn't really affect us in general. And to tag onto that, I had the opportunity to speak to Dr. Phil… Dr. Phil Klotzbach.

Dr. Phil Klotzbach: Our forecasts generally are fairly similar to each other. Some years there's more difference than others. But the idea is that for someone living on the coastline, you need to be prepared the same every year because we can't say, none of those groups can tell you with any skill where the storms are going to go.

So what about a warm winter or a warm Gulf? We get questions like that all the time. But the bottom line is prepare. It only takes one. It only takes one, and we talked about the ocean water temperature and whether it's wind shear. There's no one variable that's going to make a difference. The Gulf of Mexico- it's always warm. And when we talk about tropical systems forming, they don't form in the Gulf of Mexico. But if they get into the Gulf of Mexico and it's warm, like it typically is, that might spell trouble.

Think about 20 years ago going back to Hurricane Danny. This is the 20th anniversary. And Danny, when people think of hurricanes, they think of a lot of wind. Danny was not necessarily a big wind storm. It was a big rain storm causing millions of dollars of damage along the coast -both Mobile County, Baldwin County, the rain amounted to about a foot for downtown Mobile, three feet on the coast. And every storm has its own little personality in our past. While Fish River flooded, northern Mobile Bay drained due to a strong north wind. Danny's wind speed and wind direction were not as destructive as the water.

Danny in 1997 had a bunch of rain. And then you had Hurricane Erin in 1995, where only a category 2 storm but plenty of beach erosion and also a lot of flooding on the Florida panhandle.

Okay, Opal 1995 also intensified quickly. It diminished quickly, and then you had the huge traffic jam trying to get out of Florida.

And when we talk about rainmakers, people think about Georges, which dumped more than two feet of rain. It just sat right over mobile bay.

And Ivan actually produced tornadoes. Tornadoes inland and deadly storm surge on the coast.

Less than a year after Ivan, some of the same areas got hit by a compact Hurricane Dennis. And then when you talk about all of that, you can't forget about Hurricane Katrina back in 2005. Huge hurricane in general, and we actually, my family actually evacuated to Foley, Alabama, where the water got up just about as high as Hurricane Ivan did. So the effects were very far-reaching with that storm.

And what about loopy Elena in 1985? It went all the way over to Cedar Key, Florida, and then backed up and came through here again.

So the bottom line is every single storm is different. And for folks from earlier generations, Frederic was the benchmark, if not Camille. And you just never know exactly what you're going to get.

So all these storms we talked about are on in the "hurricane" section. You have a list, a history, of what they were and what they did. Each of these storms comes with its own set of problems, be it flooding or wind damage or whatever it is. And the thing is you've got to be ready and especially with your insurance. It is a big deal that has to be addressed before a storm threatens.

Make sure your policy covers tropical wind damage and get flood insurance if you're in a flood zone. These things are not covered under a regular homeowner's policy. Pictures, pictures, pictures. Take a pre-storm inventory of your home and all your stuff, outside and inside. and after the storm, more pictures. Hurricane and tropical storm deductibles may be different from a regular thunderstorm. Repairing or rebuilding an older home may cost more because building codes may have changed. Hurricane straps on rafters is one good example. If you're building or remodeling now, you can save money on insurance with storm windows, fortified doors, or a stronger roof. Don't wait until there's a tropical threat to talk with your insurance agent. Once a storm is in the gulf, they're not allowed to write or change policies. And be patient with your insurance agent. Chances are after a storm, they are going to be swamped. It may take a couple of days before it's your turn. Yeah, it's all about simple safety. You always are better off with a plan. Most storms actually won't kill you. Yeah, and I know that we talked a lot about property damage. But the main thing to worry about is preserving life.

Riddle me this. What is the thing that killed people the most during hurricanes? We'll answer that question after the break. But we'll first show you list of names for this hurricane season.

Welcome back. We're in the news 5 tropical kitchen. We are cooking. In fact, I've got some spaghetti here and a meatball which is related to hurricanes. That's right, we're talking spaghetti plots. And there are lots of different computer models out there. Let's just imagine that those are the models. You know, you have to generalize the billions of variables in the atmosphere into just a few. And some of these models might put a little more emphasis on something like the upper atmosphere. Or some of them might put more emphasis on surface pressure. Or maybe you're looking at sea temperatures. So if one of them works better for a specific storm, that's great. But you never know which one it's going to be. And you might be thinking, why do they call them spaghetti models? Well, simply, they just look like spaghetti when they come out. That's right. Yeah, and here we have the meatballs as the storm. It's all simple. Simple in the fact that these spaghetti strands actually mean something to a meteorologist. When you look at them all together, they're known as an "ensemble."

Dr. Sharanya Majumdar: So if your ensemble gives a bunch of tightly clustered forecasts, such as, say, the different models predicting the hurricane tracks to go more or less in the same location, then that should suggest a high-confidence forecast. However, if your spaghettis are all over the place, they're spread widely then that may suggest a relatively low confidence forecast.

So the bottom line is the spaghetti plots actually do tell us something, but they don't tell us anything about the storm size. And they don't tell us anything about the intensity of the storm. So there are still a lot of questions out there. But in any case, you have a plan. And you think simple safety for your home and for the outdoors, and that's where gardening expert Bill Finch comes in. It's hurricane season, and it's a good time to know your trees.

Bill Finch: Here are two types of trees that are very common in mobile yards. A Live Oak and a Water Oak. They're very different. You need to know the difference if you want to protect your house. Water Oaks and Laurel Oaks are very short-lived trees. They get very big, very fast. But within 50 years, they start to declining and dying. So if you've got a large Water Oak or a Laurel Oak, chances are very good that it is already beginning to die on the top. Take a look at this tree back here. You can see that these trees had severe rot issues. Live Oaks are very different. They are much better at walling off rot, and they're much more wind firm during hurricanes. But you still need to watch those limbs that stretch out really far on live Oaks because sometimes they get too big for their britches, and they can shear off. Take the tips of those branches off, and you'll be fine. What do you do if you don't know the difference? Get a certified arborist to come by and look at your yard. Identify the trees. They can tell you how well those trees will stand, and they'll tell you what to do about them. Check with your certified arborist.

So if you have those troublesome trees, it's kind of a balancing act of how much it costs to get that tree removed versus the risk of having something happen to your home. Yeah, and you know, pruning it can actually save you a lot of chain sawing later. After a storm, you might think, "I've got trees on my lawn; this will be easy to clean up." but before you ever even pick up a chainsaw, there's a lot of safety measures that you need to consider. First, you need all the proper equipment. Wilson Dismukes helped me out with some of the proper gear. Here I have a helmet, which protects my head. But it also has a visor to protect my eyes. You need some sort of eye protection to protect your eyes from debris. This helmet also includes earmuffs to protect my ears. Chaps are also really important because at times, the chainsaw can get close to your legs. These chaps are actually made out of material that can help lock up the chain and stop it from moving. I also have gloves. They'll help me keep a better grip on the chainsaw. Now let's get started. First, I'm going to put my foot inside the handle. Now, I'd prefer to have steel-toed shoes. But at least some sort of closed-toed, laced up shoes really help. Next, I'm going to check that the brake is on. This will keep the chain from spinning when I start the motor. I make sure that my stance is good and I'm away from the chain. I need to make sure to release the brake grab hold of it and give it some gas. Check the owner's manual. That's the easiest thing you can do to actually keep on top of all the warnings. There's more than 80 warnings on that. Eighty? Yeah, a lot of them. So sometimes the simplest thing is just go with a professional. Yeah, and sometimes chainsaws can get you hurt.

There are also other things to take into consideration. Water needed every single day. However, too much of it can spell a lot of trouble. And there's also a lot of other things out there that might cause trouble as well. When you think of hurricanes, what do you think is the most dangerous thing? Is it the wind? Is it the storm surge? Or maybe is it something else? Well, this is a two-part answer. The deadliest attribute of a hurricane is simply water. This includes both storm surge from wind and flooding from the amount of rainwater a hurricane can produce. Storm surge is the deadliest, accounting for half of direct hurricane deaths, which means during the hurricane. And flooding from rain accounts for one-quarter of deaths, which is the second highest. The next closest is wind at less than 10%.

Now, what I haven't mentioned is the other half of the equation. It might surprise you, but about one-half of the total deaths are not directly from the hurricane. This means deaths as a result of either trying to get out of the way of a hurricane or once the hurricane has passed. This includes the loss of power, the physical stress a storm can bring on, and the long arduous process of the cleanup. It's important that you think about and plan for all possible scenarios a hurricane might pose to you and your family. Priority number 1 needs to be protect life and then property second. However, if you are or ever find yourself under evacuation, at least pay attention to those warnings. Right, and on, we've got a list of tips of things to do before the storm; if you have to evacuate, where the shelters are; what to do after the storm. And of course if we have a storm or a hurricane in our part of the world, we're going to be on TV. We're going to be on We're going to be on Facebook. We're going to be on the weather app. We're going to be everywhere. Streaming video- so we've got you covered. So when we come back, we're going to be talking about simple safety things everybody can do to be ready for the next tropical storm or the next hurricane. It's not a question of "if," it's a question of "when."

All right, so hurricane season is like bean bags or cornhole. And what does this have to do with hurricanes and tropical storms? I'm going to show you. When a storm is out of the Atlantic Ocean, it's really far away. And just imagine that hole is Mobile, and it's not quite so easy to get the bag into the hole. But as you get a little bit closer, like Melissa, she gets a little closer to me. Now, john is about two days out. And even at two days out, nope, it still didn't hit mobile. So we're all watching the storm. And even at one day out, the storm still didn't hit mobile. The point there is the farther out in time you are, the harder it is to know whether a storm is coming right here. So it's really clear that knowing exactly where a storm is going to go is really not that easy.

A couple of new things this year from the Hurricane Center. Right, we have a Storm Surge Watch and Warning that might be issued at times different from the Hurricane Warnings. And new things we might have new watches and warnings that are issued before a storm is ever even named or numbered, right? So there's going to be a lot of things to pay attention to. So you've got to stay up-to-date with what's going on. And there is one more important new thing. Storm surge used to be one number at the beach. Now it's a number that depends on where you live.

Jamie Rhome: Now we're including the elevation in the prediction so that instead of saying the water is going to be five feet above mean sea level, we would say the water is going to be two feet above ground where I'm standing. The place where I'm standing, the water will be two feet deep.

So it's a lot easier to understand. Flooding could be a big deal. Run from the water; hide from the wind. And don't forget the pets. They depend on us to guide them through tropical weather. Here are some quick tips. Make sure Fido and Kitty are up-to-date on vaccines. Have proof of those vaccines and a rabies tag and are micro-chipped and registered. Have a crate in case you need to evacuate, and be sure the place you're going accepts animals. Keep two weeks' worth of pet medicines on hand in case you can't easily get more. Tight-fitting thunder shirts can make some pets feel less anxious during a storm, or your vet can provide a mild sedative. And you need to realize that most shelters don't accept pets. And make sure if you're going to a shelter, you know that it's open number one. But check out website for a list of shelters and which ones also take care of special needs for people.

Now, if you do decide to evacuate, make sure you bring the pet. And also, you don't need to evacuate far. Inland flooding can be a big problem. So sometimes you just need to get out of that storm surge. And if you do evacuate, don't forget to bring the important cellphone. We live in a world full of technology that rules basically every day-to-day life. However, there is a chance during a hurricane that it might not work. So have a backup plan in place just in case.

Cellphones- they have become the main and, in most instances, the only way of communication for most people. Networks and cell towers have come a long way since our last hurricane, and they are now fairly reliable during disasters. But that doesn't matter if cell towers don't have any power. That is why there are regulations that require cellphone towers to have backup electricity.

Eric Daniels: It's 8 hours for cell towers; it's 24 hours for major telecommunication switching centers. And most carriers of any worth exceed that ability significantly.

Backup sources can only last so long. So if there's a long time without power, it becomes a big logistical process to keep the lights running. During a significant disaster, this might be impossible. Cell towers are strong and can withstand a lot of punishment. The cables running through cell towers that keep networks up and running are strong as well. Most of the cell towers in our area are fed by fiber optic cables. Thankfully, these cables are extremely strong and durable. Southern light experienced this firsthand when hurricane Hermine hit the panhandle last year.

Eric Daniels: The cable itself is going to survive a natural disaster really well. I've got some pretty good examples for you. In Tallahassee where you look at it and you think, "there is no way that cable is intact." we had dozens of trees down in the network in Tallahassee, and we didn't have any breaks on the actual cable.

So the moral of the story is, as long as the lights are on, cell towers typically can operate. But being able to feed backup energy to cell towers is another story. If towers are able to keep power on, then it's up to you to make sure you keep those cellphones charged. It's pointless having a cellphone if you can't recharge it. And another good thing to have might be a backup battery, just in case. We take electricity for granted, so sometimes it's best to get a generator.

Portable generators are an easy way to power a few appliances. But you'll want to practice using it before a storm ever forms. That means you need to have plenty of gas and a space outside for it to run. Never run a generator inside your home, garage, or shed as this will create carbon monoxide buildup, which is deadly. In Hurricane Sandy, 12 people died from carbon monoxide poisoning; 13 deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning in hurricane ice. Also plug the appliances you want to power like the refrigerator, microwave, or the lamp directly into the generator. Never plug a generator into a wall outlet to service your house. Generators are one great thing during a storm. But you need so much more to actually make it through the storm.

All right, let's see, in the front there, the blue tarp- a tradition here. And it helps to have a nice big tub to keep things dry. Of course don't forget the flashlight for when the power goes out. And people could never forget you need a digital portable TV and some basics, like toilet paper. And if you plan on evacuating, if you have prescriptions, make sure you get those prescriptions refilled. You do not want to run out during a storm. Prescriptions and a little hand sanitizer you never know when that comes in handy. What about this some gloves for Melissa's chainsaw. You probably need that plus some protein to get you through the day. Canned foods and, of course, you can't go wrong with the classic transistor and NOAA weather radio. And even just can openers to open some of that food. And don't forget when you think about the kids and the pets, the kids need the pets; and the pets need the kids. So you've got to be prepared for everybody. And then also, you have to prepare for the weather. Maybe after the hurricane, it might rain; so maybe a rain poncho might be something good to have. And along with that, without electricity, this is called a book. These really come in handy. Of course, and of course plenty and plenty of water clean water to get you through that storm. And to read that book at night, how about a flashlight? You need the flashlight and you need the batteries and a little a little bit of bug spray, that can be helpful, after the storm. And always make sure that you have extra fuel. We have it down below. You can see the little extra gas can something else that's good to have as well. So it's a whole bunch of stuff. It's so much to remember. And we're going into hurricane season. Stock up, prepare now, and keep in mind We've got a list of evacuation routes. Right, we also have all the shelters. We have the lists of things like this that will help you out as well a checklist.

And in a new age of technology, make sure that you follow us on social media as well. We'll be updating our Facebook page as well as our weather apps, plus our news apps. It's all free and easy for you to use. And don't forget plain old TV and radio. In case you lose power, a radio is an important thing to have. So let's all raise our glasses and hope for a safe hurricane season.

Mobile County

Baldwin County

Northwest Florida