Every summer and fall, Americans - especially those living in the Mid-Atlantic & Southeast - are used to hearing about hurricanes. Names like Katrina, Matthew and Sandy are imprinted in our memories and are a reminder of the dangers posed by natural disasters. During Hurricane Matthew last October, more than 800 Haitians and 36 Americans lost their lives.
Between 2010 and 2015 there were 59 major storms with losses of more than $1 billion, four of which were tropical storms and hurricanes. In 2016 alone, there were 15, including Hurricane Matthew. Shifting climate patterns and changes to the environment will only lead to more extreme weather and storms, that will create even greater risks to life and property. This year the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts an above average hurricane season.
The Weather Channel and the American Red Cross coordinate together in times of severe weather to ensure important and time-sensitive, life-saving information is communicated to the public. We work side-by-side to minimize the effect of natural disasters through awareness, preparation, response and recovery. About eighteen months ago, we launched “Weather Red Report,” a segment on our network that provides viewers with information about the important work the American Red Cross is doing in local communities focused on weather-related emergency preparedness, disaster planning, health and safety training, family education and training tools.
As storms increase in danger, it is critical that families across the country ensure they are prepared for all possible outcomes and remain weather aware. Throughout this week, The Weather Channel will honor several “Hurricane Heroes,” whose training and attentiveness helped them save their friends and neighbors when danger struck. We have a lot to learn from their quick and life-saving thinking. If a hurricane is bearing down on your area, The Weather Channel and the American Red Cross align with local community emergency managers and municipalities to make sure you have the most relevant and real-time information to keep you updated on areas of impact. In addition, our meteorologists provide context to help you understand storms and the potential for danger better than any map or app.
Miami residents may remember how meteorologist Bryan Norcross’ experience and guidance helped countless Floridians stay safe when Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992. Additionally, local government officials frequently take to airwaves to share the latest information about how those in the community can stay safe, before, during and after storms.
While we measure hurricanes by wind speed, it’s important not to underestimate the impact of all aspects of storms. While a hurricane may be downgraded to a tropical storm, that does not mean the impact is any less dangerous as the threat of storm surge is exactly the same. New York and New Jersey residents know this firsthand. While Sandy was “downgraded” to a post-tropical cyclone, the 14-foot storm surge flooded tunnels, damaged homes and electrical equipment, and crippled the biggest metropolitan area in the country.
This threat, is why the National Weather Service introduced new storm surge watches and warnings for the 2016 season. It is critical that Americans take these warnings just as seriously, even though the threat of storm surge might not hit right when you expect it or at the same time as the hurricane itself.
Extreme weather can be scary, but it does not have to be. With simple planning, being weather aware and by paying attention and heeding warnings, you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
- Dave Shull, CEO of The Weather Channel, and Gail McGovern, CEO of the American Red Cross