By: Dr. Josh Eachus
((As seen on wbrz.com))
Louisiana and Mississippi are among the most hurricane prone areas in the nation. Every year, various media outlets, including the WBRZ Weather Team, spend hours piecing together special broadcasts, news reports and online content all in advance of the season. Year after year and story after story, the message is sent, repeated, suddenly jumbled and eventually lost.
There is an ocean of information. It begins with the seasonal outlooks. Know that the experts at Colorado State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are among the best meteorologists and climatologists in the world. Unfortunately, their predictions are simply an exercise in the abilities of science. Just over 50 percent correct prior to June 1, these outlooks mean very little to us. From weather terminology to warning definitions, it does not matter if a storm is sub-tropical or post-tropical. It does not matter if it is a category four or “just a category one.” Every storm will bring unique challenges and can pose a threat to life and property.
For example, Hurricane Humberto went from depression to category one overnight. When Mother Nature already has the element of surprise, why give the additional advantage of not being prepared? The Great Flood of 2016, “didn’t even have a name” and was a billion dollar disaster. Just because a storm does not meet textbook specifications, why take the same weather threats any less seriously?
— Josh Eachus (@DrJoshWX) June 1, 2018
Understanding the threats and using history as a guide, the necessity of preparation becomes much clearer. The goal of this is not to flex the ego of storm forecasters. The goal of preparation is peace of mind. So, what in that mass of information is truly important with regard to preparation? The answer is anything that will protect life and restore living conditions to their pre-storm state as quickly as possible after the storm. That means knowing an evacuation plan, double-checking insurance coverage, putting together a supply kit and securing your property. The peace of mind comes in doing all of this long before a storm threatens so that when it does, there is no delay in evacuating, no long waiting for supplies and no second-guessing. Research has proven that when under pressure, people respond to their own fear and make irrational decisions. When a plan is in place, people are more likely to respond to the danger at hand and enact a preconceived plan leading to better decisions and outcomes.
Much as well-trained athletes need a good coach in order to execute a gameplan, well-prepared people need a good information source in order to act ahead of a storm. Believe it or not, a good forecast will not focus on the wind, the rain or the surge. A good forecast will explain how the wind, the surge and the rain will affect PEOPLE and offer advice as to how PEOPLE can stay safe from the storm. A perfect forecast riddled with meteorological jargon may be more compelling but is less useful than a mediocre forecast combined with actionable information.
Preparedness does not deflect storms, but it does ease mental and physical stress. Disasters do not discriminate on impact, but they do in recovery. The sad truth is that not all people have access to resources needed to prepare, much less recover. Chances are high that those reading this digital script do have some resources to prepare. Doing so strengthens the community around in lessening the toll on manpower and supplies after the storm. Therefore, non-profit groups such as the Cajun Army and the Cajun Navy can assemble much more quickly to help those hit hardest. Preparedness is not just a buzzword meant to capture the thorough process outlined prior to every season. Preparedness is a mindset and state of being that makes a whole community resilient after a storm.