Posted: 2:12 pm Tuesday, May 10th, 2011
By Eliot Kleinberg
As we approach the start of hurricane season on June 1, expect to receive warnings that this is supposed to be an “active season.”
Here’s the problem: Every season is an active season. How would you define a non-active one? One in which no tropical storms or hurricanes form? Good luck with that.
Does it help to label a season “below average” or “above average”? Last year was the third-busiest on record – 19 named storms, 12 hurricanes, 5 major hurricanes — but no storms hit Florida, so people think it was a “quiet” season. In 1992, only seven storms earned names, but one was Andrew, so naturally people think it was a “busy” or “active” season.
Here’s something we posted last year. We think it still holds true:
As hurricane season starts, you’re being bombarded with one forecast after another. Here’s some important perspective.
If you took statistics in college, you know that piling odds onto odds gets you a pretty small number. So whether agencies call for a quiet forecast or a busy one has little impact on the small odds of a storm hitting you in a given year.
Whether a lot of storms form doesn’t matter if they don’t hit anyone. More specifically, if they don’t hit YOU. One the other hand, the most worn-out cliché among emergency managers is that “it takes only one,” but the comment speaks for itself.
Ultimately, annual season forecasts have no value beyond the science klatch and the water cooler. Is there a magic number? Above which: “We’re all going to die!” Below which: “We’re completely safe!” Or course not.
In terms of real life, there’s really only one set of odds: 50-50.
After that, forecasts really are just intellectual exercises. Whether they call for one hurricane or 100, you still have to prepare. So a quiet forecast or a busy one has absolutely no impact on you.
Ultimately, you have to act as if a storm WILL hit you, the same way you fasten seat belts and buy life insurance. But not to the point that it controls your life. Get your home ready, get your supplies and get a plan. Then go about your business.
Every June 1, the Post and other media put out preparation guides. They tell you what to do to prepare your home and family for hurricane season. Most of it should be done not when the storm is 48 hours away, but in May.
Reminding you on June 1 that it’s the start of hurricane season is not panic-mongering. How irresponsible would the media look if June 1 came and went and they didn’t remind you? Telling you that your neighbors, and maybe you, aren’t ready, might spur you to do what you already should have done.
Critics allege the media is in cahoots with home improvement and grocery stores to terrify you into running out for supplies. What is it you are rushing out to buy as a result of alleged media hype that you shouldn’t already have obtained? Window coverings? Flashlights and batteries? Water? You should have gotten those already.
Telling you a hurricane has formed and is out there is not hype. Again, should the media NOT tell you? It’s not saying “a storm is out there. Run for your lives!” It’s saying “a storm’s out there. Go about your business, but keep an eye on it.”
Hope this helps.