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Preparing for a very busy Hurricane season

by JoAnna Black August 25, 2020

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was the most active on record. It brewed a whopping 30 named storms, 14 of them hurricanes. Eta and Iota, that battered parts of South America just two weeks apart in early November, were Category 4 storms.

Fast forward to this year, which experts predict to produce yet another above-average Atlantic Hurricane season – the 6th in a row. And it hasn’t been a great year for disasters in general so far. The month of July saw an unprecedented number of extreme flooding events everywhere around the globe – from India to Western Europe, as well as devastating wildfires in places such as the USA, Cyprus, and Turkey. An alarming reminder that disasters don’t stop for a global pandemic.

But what does an extremely active hurricane season look like in practice? The 2021 hurricane season, which runs from June to November, is already off to a flying start. By early August, there have already been a record-high of nine named storms, including two hurricanes. For the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season, the NOAA is forecasting 13 to 20 named storms, with between 6 and 10 hurricanes, and 3 to 5 major hurricanes.

Destruction everywhere. The Caribbean was badly hit after Hurricanes Irma and Maria swept over the area in September 2017. Thanks to our supporters, we delivered aid across six countries, tailoring our response to best help different communities.

 

Many are wondering what is causing this spike in the expected number of storms. According to CSU Meteorologist Philip Klotzbach, one reason is the extremely warm waters. Last year, tropical waters reached the fourth warmest temperatures on record, following 2005, 2010 and 2017. Pictures like the ones above show how devastating the hurricane season was in 2017, particularly in the Caribbean. You helped us respond after Hurricanes Irma and Maria swept through the area, leaving significant destruction behind.

An abnormally active hurricane season is not good news for families living in at-risk locations in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Imagine having to protect yourself from a global pandemic that has affected hundreds of thousands of lives already, while also being on standby for potentially some of the most menacing hurricanes of the decade. It’s unimaginable.

Thanks to our global network of supporters, we’re always ready and on standby, monitoring weather events using a number of alert systems. For hurricanes, there are some more bespoke monitoring systems, so we keep an eye on the US’s National Hurricane Centre.

Following menacing hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, our supporters helped people like Simon from Dominica get back on their feet. 

 

There are always challenges when responding to devastating hurricanes. The widespread destruction can seriously affect families – both physically through losing loved ones, and mentally with trauma. Infrastructure damage can affect not just ports, airports, and roads but can also present extreme challenges for governments as they try to support their citizens.

This year, however, the challenges are very different. The coronavirus pandemic means that it will be more challenging for response teams to travel to hurricane-hit countries. But our links with local partners worldwide mean we can provide aid in new ways that keep families safe. This combined with our storage of pre-positioned aid in strategic locations globally, funded by compassionate donors all over the world, means we are still able to get shelter to families who are in a vulnerable position – no matter what.

The threat of coronavirus also alters the aid items provided to families, something that’s already been happening since the start of the pandemic. Soap, washbasins, and masks have been added to aid packages in places like Cameroon and Ethiopia, to enable families to protect themselves as much as possible.

The economic shocks caused by the pandemic and efforts to prevent its spread are likely to exacerbate existing needs. This could mean that families are less resilient to events such as hurricanes.

And it’s not just coronavirus and powerful hurricanes – it’s floods, earthquakes, conflict; the list is long. But with your support, we can be prepared and reach the families who need support the most.

 

At ShelterBox we are dedicated to supporting families after disaster, even in the face of a global pandemic. To learn more about our work around the world, click here.

 

*Written in collaboration with Dave Raybould, Operations Team Lead.

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