The 2016 hurricane season (June 1 through November 1) is here, and professional weather forecasters foresee (a) an above-average season, (b) a below-average season, or (c) a near-normal season for states bordering the Atlantic and/or the Gulf of Mexico.
Sound wishy-washy? Indeed it does, but the major sources of weather information all agree on one thing: there are simply too many variables in the environment right now (including the expiration of El Niño, and the emergence of La Niña) to allow for a more reliable outlook.
El Niño vs. La Niña
El Niño is a pattern of unusually warm ocean currents in the tropical eastern Pacific that shifts upper level winds and reduces the likelihood of storm formation in the Atlantic. La Niña is the opposite, and is thought to produce below-average sea surface temperatures in the eastern Central Pacific.
Weather specialists are pretty uniform in their belief that the current El Niño is dead or dying and La Niña will be taking shape sometime this year, perhaps in late summer or fall. If that happens, upper level winds in the tropical Atlantic will be weaker, allowing storms to linger over warm water and grow into stronger storms.
What does this mean to you?
If you’re planning travel to the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico states this summer, take into account the possibility of tropical storms or hurricanes affecting your vacation.
For those of you with a condo, mobile home site, or manufactured home in any of these coastal areas, ask neighbours to keep a watch and alert you if your home-site is damaged or directly in the path of a serious weather disturbance. Remember: it doesn’t always take a hurricane to do a lot of damage. A strong storm can uproot your life, too.
If you’re already on site, clean up your property, leave nothing moveable outdoors or on your patio, trim down trees or foliage, put up storm shutters, follow the directions of local, county, or state officials, and make sure your homeowner insurance is intact and immediately available to you.
If you’re planning a short stay summer or fall vacation to a coastal area, make sure you can get your cash deposit returned if a storm does hit your target area. Keep a close watch on local weather forecasts and stay flexible, since hurricanes very often turn on a dime and leave your destination unscathed. If that happens, and you don’t show up, you can be pretty sure your resort managers will hang on to your deposit. No damage—no payout. Consequently, you should always try to put down as small a deposit as you can get away with.
Also, cover yourself with travel insurance that includes trip interruption or cancellation benefits, and make sure you know the policy’s limitations and exclusions. Read them. Ask your selling agent to clarify anything that seems murky to you. And to add another layer of protection, ask for a “change of mind” policy that allows you to cancel for pretty well any reason (or even no reason at all). It may not cover every last dollar you have already paid, but it might save you a bundle if Mother Nature is not kind to you.
And don’t try to outguess a storm’s path—they have a mind of their own and can pop up quickly or drag on for a couple of weeks, meandering out in the ocean, gathering warm water fuel in anticipation of dumping it on you.
Finally, disregard the fools who tempt fate by partying in the path of a storm. There are always some who will insist on staying put and fighting it out while they fuel up on chicken wings and coolers. They will learn, eventually.
Several years ago I moved my family out of our Fort Lauderdale waterfront home in the direct path of a hurricane, only to be hit by the eye walls, 90 miles up the road in the Fort Pierce hotel to which we had escaped. Frightening? You bet. Ninety-five-mile-an-hour winds and rain beating on your roof and window panes makes strong people very humble, very quickly. When we returned home the next day, the only damage we saw at home was a loosened porch screen that took 10 minutes to fix.
A waste of time and money? No. I would do it again. So should you.
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