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Alabama Gulf coast gets a refresher on hurricane preparedness

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The City of Gulf Shores is working to get the jump on this year’s hurricane season. Residents all along the Alabama Gulf coast are invited to a storm preparedness expo today. Close to twenty organizations and vendors will gather at the Erie Meyer Civic Center to offer tips on how to handle a hurricane when it hits. Vendors from window protection companies, insurance companies, and The Red Cross will be among the groups to take questions on how to stay safe in case a major storm hits. Gulf Shores Emergency Management Coordinator Brandon Franklin says there are some things that the general public needs to be reminded of year after year…

“I think the biggest thing is like when to leave when to evacuate, or you know what to take with you and how to get back in into the area if you do leave,” said Franklin. “I think Sally showed a lot of us that, you know, we all thought it was going to be just a tropical storm just come through no big deal. And it wound up being a lot more than what anyone ever expected. So just being able to pull the trigger and evacuate where to go to and, you know, What materials do I need to take with me? And especially what am I going to need when I get back from the storm?”

Hurricane Sally hit in September of 2020. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported on its website about the estimated $7 billion dollars in damage nationally. And, as for Alabama, NOAA said…

“In Alabama, the Baldwin County coroner reported that a 72-year-old man on a large boat in Wolf Bay drowned during the storm, his body found floating behind an Orange Beach residence. In Georgia, a 30-year-old man was killed on 16 September when gusty winds and heavy rains caused a portion of a large oak tree to fall on a home in southwest Atlanta. Various reports also indicate there were at least five deaths that were indirectly attributed to Sally, or that occurred when Sally was no longer a tropical cyclone. A person in Pensacola and an 82-year-old man in Baldwin County, Alabama, each died from carbon monoxide poisoning due to improper generator use, and a 33-year-old man died in Foley, Alabama, when a tree fell on him while he was attempting to cut tree limbs.”

NOAA expects a busy year for storms in 2024. APR previously reported how forecasts for this year’s hurricane season included higher than average activity. The Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University is predicting twenty three named storms in 2024, along with eleven hurricanes, and over one hundred stormy days. That outpaces a typical Atlantic storm season which has fourteen named storms and seven hurricanes. The National Weather Service will issue its forecast on Thursday, which is expected to be similar to Colorado State’s.

A heavy or slower season is often linked to two weather phenomena. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says “El Nino,” pushes warmer water toward the west coast, and “La Nina” which includes cooler water. Either system can influence how hurricanes develop and behave in the Atlantic. Don Shepherd is lead forecaster with the National Weather Service on Mobile. He says cooling temperatures in the Pacific this year and warmer waters in the Atlantic could mean more violent storms…

“You know, just all the factors that would say, you're going to have tropical development likely, you know, throughout the year, all those factors are there. And that's why most of the forecasts and like I said, and I suspect that as well being to are going to be well above the average,” he said.

Brandon Franklin and the City of Gulf Shores will follow up today’s event with a strategy session next week with local relief organizations. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, predicts up to seven major hurricanes this year.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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