Alabama should be prepared for ‘above-normal’ 2017 hurricane season

Hurricane season started June 1 and officials said the Atlantic could see four major hurricanes this year.

With the 2017 hurricane season beginning, Alabama Power employees, the Alabama National Guard and the Alabama Emergency Management Agency have demonstrated they are prepared to respond, if and when they are needed.

Alabama Power customers and the rest of the public also should make sure they are ready for the potential of severe storms this summer.

Hurricanes can be devastating but being prepared can protect lives and property. (file)

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30. Forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center say there’s the potential for an above-normal hurricane season this year. They predict a 70 percent likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher). Five to nine of those storms could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), and up to four could become major hurricanes (winds of 111 mph or higher), NOAA officials said.

An average season produces 12 named storms, with six becoming hurricanes and three becoming major hurricanes.

Of course, it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for people in the path of that storm, say hurricane researchers at Colorado State University. They say residents in coastal communities should prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted.

Every year, Alabama Power reviews historical data and scientific models as it updates its hurricane plans. Company teams also test their storm plans by conducting drills.

Alabama Power employees across the state have reviewed storm plans and have updated the company’s emergency operating procedures.

Alabama Power has plans in place for hurricane recovery if and when the big storm happens. (Wynter Byrd / Alabama NewsCenter)

“Our major storm response plans are based on scale,” said Steve Kirkham, Distribution general manager for the company’s Mobile Division.  “We can ramp up or ramp down our response to meet the respective threat, while working safely and efficiently to restore service to our customers.”

The Alabama Emergency Management Agency conducted a statewide hurricane exercise last month that included several government agencies and private sector participants. The Alabama National Guard also conducted its annual hurricane exercise to prepare and test plans.

As hurricane season begins, Alabama Power customers should review their storm plans in case of a weather emergency. Here are some safety tips for hurricane season:

Before a hurricane strikes:

  • Build an emergency kit, including flashlights, batteries and a first-aid kit.
  • Keep cellphones and electronic devices charged.
  • Have a three-day supply of water and nonperishable food on hand.
  • Make a family communications plan.
  • Learn community hurricane evacuation routes. Determine where your family would meet and how you would get there.
  • Cover your home’s windows and reinforce garage doors. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection. Otherwise, board up windows with 5/8-inch exterior grade or marine plywood.
  • Make sure trees and shrubs around the home are well-trimmed.
  • Bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans, etc.
  • Keep a battery-operated weather radio to stay informed.
  • Turn down the thermostat to keep your home cool as long as possible.

Alabama National Guard and Alabama Emergency Management Agency officials brief Gov. Kay Ivey during the hurricane exercise in May. (Sydney Foster/Alabama Governor’s Office)


During a hurricane:

  • Seek shelter inside a sturdy building. In a tornado, the safest place is on the lowest level, in a room with no windows. Make sure pets are safe.
  • Turn off propane tanks.
  • Stay tuned to the radio for updates.

After the storm:

  • Drive only if necessary and don’t cross flooded roads.
  • Avoid damaged trees.
  • Stay away from downed or hanging power lines. If you see a downed line, call Alabama Power at 1-800-888-APCO (2726).
  • Check your property for gas leaks or structural damage. Take photos for insurance purposes.
  • Avoid climbing on debris, as it may be unsafe or harbor dangerous wildlife.
  • Be cautious about cutting or removing large limbs. Check that electrical wires are not hidden in the brush.
  • Check food for spoilage and check tap water for contamination.

For more tips, visit the National Weather Service Hurricane Preparedness Week 2017 website.

Hurricanes can be destructive to life in property along the Alabama Gulf Coast. (Wynter Byrd / Alabama NewsCenter)

Republished with permission of Alabama NewsCenter.