Well, as I sit down to write this, I’m looking at the Atlantic Basin Seasonal Hurricane forecast for 2019 out of Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences, and there’s a storm that developed over Georgia that moved into the Gulf on July 11, 2019, and became Tropical Storm Barry (the first storm of the year was Andrea, which was a post-Tropical Storm back on May 21) at 27.8N, 88.7W, southeast of New Orleans.
So, here’s the Department of Atmospheric Sciences Tropical Meteorology Project (now in its 37th year) take on the 2019 season.
As of July 9, 2019, CSU is calling for 13 named storms and six hurricanes — two of which will be major. The “probabilities for at least one major (Category 3-4-5) hurricane landfall,” for the entire US coastline is 54 percent (the average for the last century was 52 percent); and for the East Coast including Florida, 32 percent (average for the last century 30 percent). This is a “near average Atlantic Basin hurricane season,” according to the CSU meteorologists.
The odds of a weak Pacific El Nino persisting through the Atlantic hurricane season have decreased slightly, according to the CSU. (In general, warm El Niño events are characterized by more tropical storms and hurricanes in the eastern Pacific and a decrease in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. If the El Nino was to persist it would tend to lead to more vertical wind shear in the Caribbean and tropical Atlantic, tearing apart hurricanes.)
Like much in weather prediction, CSU offers this proviso: “Coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make [hurricane season] an active season for them …”
According to Hurricane City (www.hurricanecity.com, a cool site to spend some time perusing) the longest gap between storms (as of 2018) on Eastern Long Island, was nine years (1945 to 1953), but we get brushed by a hurricane every 2.88 years. Statistically when should Long Island be affected next? According to Hurricane City, “before the end of 2020.”
If a hurricane is imminent, get your boat out of the water and to sa place where flying debris and falling trees are of minimal concern. Failing that, there are some things you can do.
For starters, have a plan of action ready. If you know or have access to a hurricane hole (an area pretty much protected from all sides … a bit of a rarity around here) get to it before it gets crowded. Waiting till the last minute is a no-no.
Even if you’re able to trailer your craft inland, have a plan ready to do so and do it early. Don’t leave your boat on the trailer or stands and figure that’s enough. Secure it to the ground with screw-in anchors.
If you’re in a hurricane hole get the anchors out fore and aft and remember there’ll be a 180-degree wind shift after an eye passes over. You’ll have to deal with that.
You can’t have enough scope out, but go for 10:1. Think: storm surge.
You’ll also have to be concerned with swing room with a 10:1 scope out. Make sure you have chaffing gear on all lines, the motion to come will saw through plain lines fast; use garden hose if you have nothing else, but wrap the line wherever it contacts your boat with something that’ll stay in place. Your entire system is only as strong as it’s weakest link, so make sure there isn’t a piece of line, chain, connectors, swivels, whatever that isn’t in first rate shape.
If you’re moored out and tied/chained to a zillion pound mushroom anchor, don’t bet the farm on it holding your boat. Helix anchors are the way to go. Boat US compares mushroom and deadwight moorings to helix anchors as screws to thumbtacks (www.boatus.com/seaworthy/magazine/2014/january/everyday-moorings.asp).
Note that in shallow harbors where you don’t have the room for proper scope, a 3:1 ratio will have your boat hop-skipping its mushroom all the way to shore. I’ve seen it and salvaged the anchors and the boats. And I’ve used helix anchors as pivot points for pulling boats off beaches. (And speaking of salvage. Make sure your boat insurance is paid in full and know exactly what’s covered and what you’re responsible to do.)
Regardless, BOAT US suggests a 50/50 mix of chain to rope for a hurricane anchorage — along with 10:1 scope.
If you’re docked at a marina, you should have discussed hurricane policies when you first signed on the dotted line. Find out now who’s responsible for doing what insofar as hurricane prep. Having your boat tied up securely won’t do any good if the boat next to you has polypro dock lines fore and aft and that’s it.
Remember when considering hurricane wind speed, the given power of a hurricane expressed in wind speed has to be increased by the speed of the storm’s movement; i.e., a storm punching 110 mph (a Cat 2 on the Saffir-Simpson scale) moving at 20 mph is essentially a Cat 3 (1989’s Hurricane Hugo reached around 60 to 70 mph of forward speed with a max sustained wind of 160! Do the math). “Sustained wind” is a measure of wind speed taken for one minute at approximately 33 feet of height.
The worst winds will be on the right side of the hurricane’s travel direction. If the storm is moving north, that means the east side, if it’s moving west, it’s the north side, etc. The best quadrant to be in - if you’re at sea, where you shouldn’t be with today’s electronics and forecasting capabilities - is the side away from the right side because the same forward motion that is added to the hurricane’s sustained wind speed is subtracted on that side. In the aforementioned example, the wind speed on the side away from travel direction would make it a 90 mph hurricane or a Cat 1.
Of course riding out a hurricane at sea that is pumping 90 mph, rather than 140 is an experience I will gladly live without ever having done.
Bottom line? Get your boat out of the water. If you can’t, make sure it’s tied down and/or anchored as best you can. Make sure the insurance is current, pray for a low tide, and that the weather forecasters are wrong and … keep your fingers crossed.