Beginning peak season

Sheri Alston, of the Village of Pine Hills, shops for hurricane supplies at Home Depot in Lady Lake. Specialists encourage residents to start preparations for peak season now.

Only two named storms have formed so far this hurricane season. But don’t be fooled. August through early October — when the Atlantic Ocean waters are warmest — typically generate more storm activity than the immediate start of the season in June. And it’s starting to show, as the National Hurricane Center continues to monitor two tropical disturbances in the Atlantic. The first is a system near Hispaniola with a chance this weekend of drenching Florida with heavy rainfall, the hurricane center stated. The other, near the Cabo Verde Islands off the coast of Africa, is considered likely to strengthen while it moves west into the Central Atlantic. Both have zero chance of becoming a tropical storm or hurricane in the next couple days — though that could change.

Dave Towle, senior forecaster with WVLG 102.7 FM & 640 AM, thinks the disturbance near the Cabo Verde Islands may be worth watching. The hurricane center said Wednesday night it has a 70% chance of becoming a tropical storm within the next five days.

Storms that develop in that region have time to build up as they move west and pass through warm waters that fuel them, he said.

“Not this weekend, but a week from this Friday, we’ll have much more interest in that as it comes across (the Atlantic),” he said.

It’s not too late for people who haven’t started preparing to build their emergency supply kits and draft their emergency plans.

“We’re a whole month away from the peak. You have effectively 30-odd days,” Towle said. “And being past the peak doesn’t mean we can’t have a storm into October or November.”

Debbie Faris isn’t taking any chances. Like other new residents to The Villages, Faris is undergoing her first hurricane season in Florida.

The Village of Fenney resident has geared up with extra food and water, a battery-operated light, flashlights and extra batteries.

“The last thing I want to do is be unprepared and then have no electricity, be low on food and potentially not have safe water to drink,” she said.

Approaching the Peak

August marks the start of a period during which the tropics are stormier than normal.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data from 1851 to the present recorded 394 tropical cyclones in August, 616 in September and 360 in October.

Of those, 244 in August, 406 in September and 212 in October became hurricanes.

The season typically peaks around Sept. 10, NOAA data showed.

Forecasters observe the waters of the Lesser Antilles and Cabo Verde Islands for temperature changes, said Brett Rossio, a meteorologist with Accuweather.com. The peak season is when water in those areas warms up, favoring storm development.

He thinks the public should pay close attention to the National Hurricane Center’s outlooks to track disturbances, which may help guide their storm readiness.

“Things can change rapidly,” Rossio said. “A day or two later, all of a sudden (a storm) can intensify.”

A hint at just how intense the remainder of the season may be is expected Monday.

Philip Klotzbach, of Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project, is expected to issue an updated forecast of hurricane season activity.

His most recent outlook, issued July 9, anticipated a near-normal hurricane season with 14 named storms, including six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

Learning to Prepare

Lt. John Longacre, emergency resource specialist with The Villages Public Safety Department, recommends people who are new to hurricane season have their preparations taken care of as soon as possible.

Waiting until the last minute may mean fewer supplies will be available, or the people preparing may forget essentials they didn’t think about.

“If you take your time and do it before the season, you don’t have to buy everything at once,” Longacre said. “Grocery stores have buy one, get one (sales) on canned foods. If you wait until the last minute, the food you like may not be there.”

Following Hurricane Michael in 2018, the Florida Division of Emergency Management recommends people stockpile up to seven days of food and bottled water in their emergency supply kits, Longacre said.

Most Villagers living in site-built homes made of block or wood should not need to evacuate to a shelter when a storm hits, he said. However, residents should consider protecting their windows because they’re the most vulnerable part of the house.

Perry Tharpe, who is experiencing his first hurricane season, went as far as to suggest friends from along the coast likely will come to him to ride out the next storm. Hurricanes pose the greatest risk to coastal residents because of storm surge, an unusual rise of water during a storm.

“We’re in a good location,” the Village of Fenney resident said. “We don’t plan to evacuate. Whatever happens will happen here. Whether it’s naive or not, we don’t know.”

But Tharpe said he’s prepared. His house is stocked with bottled water, as well as flashlights, in case the power goes out.

Like Tharpe, John Linderman is going through his first hurricane season. He’s also stockpiled bottled water, canned foods and batteries for an emergency supply kit.

The challenge for him was having enough to survive a prolonged disaster, but without exceeding his home’s limited capacity.

“Our concern was there’s so much we should get, but we just started compiling it little by little,” said Linderman, of the Village of Fenney. “We don’t have a big house, so we can’t go over our storage with stuff.”

Although he and his wife, Sherry, never experienced a hurricane before, disaster preparedness became a priority for them after a tornado razed a neighborhood in Campbelltown, Pennsylvania, close to their former home in Hershey.

“If we had been there, we would have been wiped out,” Linderman said.

Debbie Faris’s experiences outside The Villages also colored her outlook.

She lived in Cincinnati before moving to The Villages; while there, she endured two windstorms that caused trees to land on her house and car.

“We had no warning from the weatherman or anybody,” she said of one of those storms. “I came down the driveway and heard this really strong wind. I opened my window and heard ‘snap, thud, snap, thud.’”

Faris wants to be ready for whatever may happen.

Senior writer Michael Salerno can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5369, or michael.salerno@thevillagesmedia.com.