This Week In Business Continuity: Not the Same Old Hurricane Stuff

“But it’s been so quiet for so long.”  “But they said this year isn’t going to be that active.”  “But this area hasn’t been hit in 15 years . . . “  But, but, but.  Hurricanes haven’t gone away and they’ll be back sooner than we’d prefer; the season starts in just seven weeks.  My hope is that this is the only time we’ll post about the Atlantic Tropical Storm Season this year and, fingers crossed, there won’t be any severe storms to post about later this year.

Clear skies on Monday, landfall on Thursday night. Click to enlarge.

Clear skies on Monday, landfall on Thursday night. Click to enlarge.

But every year at this time I remember that the Houston-Galveston area has been caught by surprise in two different ways in the last few decades.  Once with hurricane Alicia in ’83 which formed up just south of Louisiana as a small thunderstorm but which made landfall near Galveston just three days later as a major category three hurricane.  Note that it was the ‘A’ storm, i.e., the first storm of the season, and yet it didn’t develop until fairly late in what had been a very quiet season.  On the flip side of the surprise scale, tropical storm Allison smacked the same area in the very first week of the season in 2001.  Allison’s winds weren’t high enough to warrant its elevation to hurricane status and yet the devastation it yielded was such that it’s the only tropical storm ever to have its name retired from the list without ever having been a hurricane at all.

Two news items this week also remind us that there’s always plenty to keep up with in the world of tropical storm preparation.

  • Despite a relatively quiet period over the last several years (depending on your location), “the insured value of property along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts jumped from $7.2 trillion in 2004 to $10.6 trillion in 2012” due to the continued explosion of growth and development of real property and infrastructure along both coasts. “Too many people are in denial about the risk,” says surge-problemSteven Weisbart, chief economist for the New York-based Insurance Information Institute.  “The population has decided it’s not afraid of being exposed to hurricanes and storm surge.”  That’s a problem.  And remember, more than half of the population of the U.S. lives within 50 miles of a coastline, although tropical storms aren’t usually that much of a problem for the West Coast.  Nevertheless, it’s a good reminder that if you live in a coastal zone that experiences frequent or even just occasional tropical activity, it’s not the season that you prepare for – it’s the one storm.  This applies to both your personal/residential circumstances and your professional situation.  And with more and more neighbors moving in each year, you’ll need to be even shrewder in improving your response plan in the future.
  • On the brighter side of the news, in an effort to enhance forecast precision of the potential effects of a storm, starting this year NOAA will for the first time issue separate warnings and watches for the categories of wind speed and storm surge. Why?  Because by far the flooding caused by storm surge is not only more damaging to property than high winds but surge also kills far more people than high winds do.  (If you’re a coastal native, “hide from the wind, run from the water” is even more a part of your genetic makeup than “hunker down” is.) Higher wind speeds don’t always result in more severe surge and vice-versa, so splitting those categories into two different types of watches and warnings should help improve the accuracy of the forecasts and, hopefully, make people heed the warnings better than they sometimes have in the past.    If nothing else, at least it will give all of us in business continuity something more concrete to work with when our executives look to us for recommendations about whether or not to trigger a deployment.

hurricane-webinarJust what do the experts think the 2015 season will bring?  Continuity Housing hasn’t hosted a season outlook webinar in a while so we asked Chris Hebert, lead hurricane forecast with ImpactWeather, for a short webinar on May 14th at 11:30 Eastern / 10:30 Central.  Here’s more information and where you can register to attend.   I’ve known Chris for 25 years and he’s the undisputed master of both seasonal and storm-specific hurricane forecasting in addition to being a skilled and entertaining presenter.  This Continuity Housing webinar is, as always, free and you’re welcome to invite whoever you’d like to.

Do you have an interesting business continuity-related topic or solution that you’d like to host a webinar about?  Email me.  If your topic is compelling, your content is solution-oriented, your presentation style is superior and your presentation is NOT a sales pitch, Continuity Housing may be interested in hosting and publicizing your presentation at no cost to you.  When we share what we’ve learned, we all benefit.

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Continuity Housing helps companies enhance their business continuity plans by pre-arranging guaranteed housing and providing logistical support for mission-critical employees during disasters.  Subscribe to the Continuity Housing blog (in sidebar at right) and follow us on Twitter, on YouTube, on LinkedIn and on Facebook.  To subscribe to our mailing list and/or if you’d like a free 30-minute planning session, let us know.

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