With prime hurricane season now upon us — and the latest big storm, Dorian, brewing off Puerto Rico — Nassau officials Tuesday urged residents to begin making preparations for their family, neighbors and pets.
“The county is ready for peak hurricane season, and we encourage our residents to prepare as well,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran at a news conference in Bethpage with police and emergency management officials. “The best time to prepare for a storm is when nothing is in the forecast."
Among the county's hurricane preparedness recommendations are creating an emergency preparedness kit with food, water, batteries, medication and basic supplies to last at least three days; knowing an evacuation route from a flood zone, keeping a list of emergency contacts and checking on elderly or disabled neighbors.
Nassau and Suffolk counties are coordinating with the State National Guard to offer hurricane preparedness training classes for residents throughout August and September.
"As Long Islanders, we know how critically important it is to be prepared during these devastating storms and that we can leave nothing to chance,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Tuesday. “In the years since Hurricane Sandy, we have continued to improve our operations and emergency protocols by implementing best practices, collaborating with local municipalities and ensuring our residents are educated on what to do should an emergency situation arise.”
Long Island is no stranger to dangerous hurricanes, tropical storms and their aftermaths, particularly this time of year. This fall marks the seventh anniversary of the second-deadliest tropical storm in state history: superstorm Sandy, which damaged or destroyed almost 100,000 homes and other buildings in Nassau and Suffolk. It marks 81 years since the deadliest storm, the notorious Long Island Express of September 1938.
Hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, with the prime season for the Atlantic Coast running from mid-August through mid-October, said Tim Morrin, observation program leader for the National Weather Service in Upton.
Interestingly, Sept. 13 is what Morrin called "the absolute climatological peak" for storms here on Long Island — with tropical storm activity more likely by the day advancing toward Sept. 13, and less likely following it.
However, Morrin cautioned, likeliness often has little to do with when storms hit — or the likelihood of devastation.
"You could have a year with off-the-chart numbers [of storms] and not one hits land," Morrin said. "And then other years … "
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Hurricane Center is the bible for hurricane and tropical storm information in the United States. Its experts use historical predictors to suggest when and how often major storms and hurricanes are likely to hit Long Island.
The predictor is for a hurricane to strike Nassau and Suffolk every 18 years, while Morrin said the last hurricane to directly hit Long Island was 34 years ago — Gloria, a Category 2 storm, on Sept. 27, 1985.
The predictor is for a major hurricane — that would be a Category 3 to 5 storm — to hit the Long Island-metro area every 70 years. The last one was Hurricane Donna, a Category 3 storm, on Sept. 11, 1960.
Sandy was the aftermath of a hurricane, then tropical storm, whose devastation was due to a range of factors: a full moon, coupled with a historic nor'easter, that battered the metro area at high tide, resulting in a record storm surge of 14.41 feet at Battery Park.
Forecasters with the NOAA Hurricane Center are now predicting the East Coast could see 10-17 named storms, five to nine hurricanes and two to four major hurricanes this storm season, Morrin said.
Predicting tropical storms and hurricanes, Morrin said, is a scientific-based system using historic data, statistics and facts.
"What this means," he said, "is that climatologically, we're due."
The Deadliest Hurricanes / Tropical Storms in modern Long Island and New York State History
- The Long Island Express, 1938. Death toll: 60
- Superstorm Sandy, 2012. Death toll: 53
- Hurricane Edna, 1954. Death toll: 29
- Hurricane Agnes, 1972; the Great Atlantic Hurricane, 1944. Death toll: 6 in each.
- Hurricane Irene, 2011. Death toll: 5
- Tropical storm Cristobal, 2002. Death toll: 3
- Tropical storm Beryl, 1994; Hurricane Floyd, 1999. Death toll: 2 in each.
NOAA National Hurricane Center
National Weather Service
Nassau County OEM
Suffolk County OEM
FEMA / American Red Cross
Keys to hurricane preparedness
Putting together an emergency kit, with a communication plan for all family members and loved ones;
Knowing if your property is flood-prone and how it will be affected by tidal flooding and storm surge;
Familiarizing yourself with hurricane evacuation routes;
Knowing how to make your property secure prior to any significant storm [i.e., having plywood or permanent storm shutters available to cover windows, having straps or clips available to reinforce roofing against wind and other storm damage, making sure all trees and shrubs are well-trimmed and free of dead or vulnerable branches that could cause damage to your home or property, clearing clogged rain gutters and drains, storing all outdoor furniture and fixtures in a storm-secure area, and installing a generator, so you have an alternate source of electricity during any potential power outage.]
Suffolk County Office of Emergency Management