Earlier in July, representatives from the National Weather Service (NWS) and Dare County came together to host a Hurricane Community Forum in Buxton. The goal of the event was to share essential information with island residents who are regularly impacted by coastal storms, and while the presenters were preaching to the choir when it came to the inherent risks of storms and storm surge, there was also a ton of info that even lifelong residents found illuminating.
Interest was especially peaked by the various online tools that are available to help determine risks and appropriate next steps during a storm.
Long gone are the days when we have to head to the sound to see if it has disappeared, or watch the Weather Channel waiting for the “Local Weather on the 8s” to make a determination of how bad a storm is going to be. The internet era has changed everything, and there are some exceptional and detailed resources that will make planning, receiving alerts, and obtaining instant forecast updates even easier.
So with that in mind, here’s a guide to three resources that were presented at the Hurricane Community Forum, and which will come in very handy should a hurricane head our way. (I’m knocking on wood on all of our behalves.) Hopefully, you won’t have to use any of these tools this hurricane season, but if the need arises, it’s pretty incredible that so much data is now available at our
The ReadyNC mobile app is a statewide and all-in-one tool “to help people get ready for everything from traffic jams to hurricanes and ice storms.” The free app works with both iPhone and Android phones, and features a wealth of information that covers all aspects of hurricane preparation and recovery.
This includes but is not limited to the following:
- Current weather conditions
- Open shelters near you, (including ones which accept pets)
- Flood gauges that work with the recently installed gauges on Hatteras Island
- Real-time traffic conditions for when you are making a beeline west
- Evacuation information and counties being evacuated
- Tips and information on creating an emergency plan
- Post-storm resources and who to call for help when a disaster strikes
The app was created by the N.C. Department of Public Safety and North Carolina Emergency Management, and is essentially a one-stop source for all hurricane-related info that is especially useful when you’re on the go, and potentially miles from home during an evacuation. For details, visit https://readync.org/.
Storm Surge Hazard Maps
For the past few years, there has been an increased focus on storm surge versus hurricane category, (which gauges wind speeds), when it comes to estimating how much damage a storm is going to generate. Presenter
and NWS Meteorologist Carl Barnes noted at the Hurricane Forum that half of all storm-related fatalities in the past 50 years were related to storm surge, and 25% of all fatalities were because of rain flooding. “That’s 75% of all fatalities related to water – not wind.”
In response to this shift in focus, interactive storm surge / flooding maps were introduced during Hurricane Arthur in 2014, and the maps have been steadily improving ever since, with new data and information garnered with every storm.
You’ll find these interactive maps available with each named storm on the National Hurricane Center’s website with the other affiliated and online products, such as the Cone graphics, Wind Speed Probabilities, and Arrival Time of Winds, and it’s an essential resource to pay attention to when a storm is approaching.
The maps show what to prepare for via a color-coded estimate of expected flooding, (like “less than 3 feet above ground” or “greater than 3 feet above ground,” etc.) As such, it’s easy to identify if you’re at risk of storm surge, and how you should proceed – by moving your car, digging out your waders, or getting the heck out of Dodge.
Arguably, the most impressive aspect of the interactive storm surge maps is the level of detail. Islanders know all too well that flooding can vary drastically by village, and the maps allow users to zoom in to their exact neighborhood to get an accurate portrait of what to expect in their neck of the sand.
You can see an example of the interactive maps and how they work here, and when a named storm pops up on the radar, be sure and look for live and real-time data on the National Hurricane Center’s site.
Emergency Alerts System
In the past several years, Dare County Emergency Management has established a new system that shares alerts on a wide range of potentially dangerous or emergency situations.
Featuring three ways for the public to sign up and / or receive this information, the system allows Emergency Management to share valuable info including evacuation orders and reentry information, hurricane advisories, bulletins, emergencies disrupting vehicular or pedestrian traffic, and post-disaster information for Dare County.
Registered users pick how time-sensitive messages are received and which devices, phone numbers, and email addresses notifications are sent to, and can even select which alerts they would like to receive from NOAA and the National Weather Service.
For more information and to sign up, visit https://www.darenc.com/departments/emergency-management/emergency-alerts, and remember that you can also obtain warnings and alerts on beach conditions like rip current risks by texting “Join OBXBeachConditions” to 30890.
As with every hurricane season, it is sincerely hoped that all of the above resources and tools will be utterly useless this year, and you won’t have to use a single one in the months ahead.
But preparation is an inherent step of dealing with hurricanes, and taking a few moments to subscribe, download, or bookmark these online tools may make life easier should a hurricane or coastal storm approach our coast. (My knuckles are now officially sore from wood-knocking.)
In the end, the silver lining is that as technology advances, so do the tools that are available to the public to make smart decisions when it comes to storm response. And with our internet-era recourses available and constantly progressing, it’s easier than it has been in decades to obtain crucial hurricane info when we need it the most.