Just after hurricane season ended along the Atlantic coast, Colorado State University hurricane experts Bill Gray and Phil Klotzbach issued their predictions for the 2010 hurricane season. The season that just ended was one of the best on record. There were nine tropical storms, three hurricanes, and none of the hurricanes made landfall in the United States.
Unfortunately, Gray and Klotzbach predict a doozy of a season for 2010, with as many as 16 tropical storms and six to eight hurricanes. It is possible, they say, that five of those hurricanes could be major. A major hurricane is one with sustained winds of more than 111 miles per hour. The likelihood that these hurricanes will make landfall, too, is higher than usual. “Because we are predicting an above-average hurricane season in 2010, the probability of U.S. and Caribbean major hurricane landfall is estimated to be above the long-term average,” Klotzbach said.
Why the increase in tropical storms and hurricanes? The reduced intensity of storms this year was the fault of El Nino. El Nino occurs when water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean become warmer than usual, changing wind currents around the world. (Warm ocean water makes the air over the water warm as well, and when that air rises, as hot air tends to do, cool air rushes in to take its place, creating wind.) But Klotzbach and Gray expect this year’s El Nino to diminish.
However, last year at this time, Klotzbach and Gray predicted a fairly active hurricane season for 2009 (though they changed their predictions just before the season began). Their predictions last December turned out not to be accurate.
Residents of South Florida and the Gulf coast, however, may prefer to follow the maxim that it is better to be safe than sorry, and secure any property that they feel strongly that they could not afford to lose, or stand to lose, in a hurricane. One way to prepare for a hurricane is to put property that is valuable or has sentimental value into self-storage. Self-storage units are well-constructed for withstanding hurricanes, as many of them are made out of reinforced concrete. Many self-storage facilities in hurricane-prone areas make special preparations for tropical storms and hurricanes, including having backup generators on site, hurricane impact windows, and covered loading docks. If you are especially concerned, find out whether the self-storage facility that you are considering has made preparations for hurricanes, and whether or not it has withstood other hurricanes in the past.
Another way to protect property, especially fragile items, from damage, is to pack them carefully. When packing a self-storage unit, place heavy objects on the ground, and if you need to stack boxes, stack lighter boxes on top. You may want to arrange furniture that is kept in storage flat on the ground, rather than standing dressers and shelves up against a wall. Bookcases and other heavy standing objects can cause damage if they fall. They can also cause injuries, or could block a hurricane survivor’s access to the exit, if anyone happens to be in the self-storage unit at the time of the storm.
Because major hurricanes may be followed by storm surges that result in flooding, it is wise to package irreplaceable documents and photos in zip lock bags and waterproof containers. Many people choose to err on the safe side and double-bag their family photos before placing them into a waterproof plastic container. Financial documents and computer files should be backed up and stored in two separate places.
For more tips on how to store antiques, art, documents, photos, and other collectibles to protect them from being damaged by hurricanes and tropical storms, visit the Extra Space tip page.