It’s Hurricane Season: Have a Plan
Living near the water comes at a price. Wise lifelong shore residents know this. Indeed, water can be an emotional thing for us. The sights, sounds, and smells of the seashore become part of our person.
This year the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting 10-16 named storms, 5-9 hurricanes, and 1-4 major hurricanes, which is “above-normal” for the Atlantic basin. A major hurricane is one that is Category 3 or stronger on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Cat 3 hurricane winds can reach 130 mph with storm water surges up to 12 feet above the mean high tide.
The natural forces of wind and water have been shaping our coast for millions of years. Even as we enter the 2018 hurricane season (June 1 to November 30), we shore residents already have enough worries. Persistent efforts to eliminate beach replenishment funding, growing federal and state government insolvency, and coastal over-development means we beach folks already face serious challenges to our permanence.
I suppose that’s the price beach bums must pay. And we paid big time not too long ago — with Hurricane Sandy in late-October 2012. Whatever you want to call it, a hurricane, a super storm or a “post-tropical cyclone,” Monmouth Beach had a taste of “the big one” within recent memory. It made a meal out of the borough.
In driving through the borough shortly after that storm, I’ll never forget the signs of its impact — not so much to property and possessions — but in seeing the mounds of ruined home contents lying on the side of the road for junk removal. For months the MB Bathing Pavilion parking lot looked like a mountainous garbage dump. I thought about Monmouth Beach people and property forever altered by this direct hit from nature. And yet they endured.
Beyond Sandy, history finds only one intense hurricane made landfall in New Jersey in the past 350 years in 1821 (others recall bad ones in 1938 and 1910). Although the chances generally favor us (most hurricanes lose their energy before reaching the Jersey Shore), any appreciation for the law of averages means understanding that the longest odds will sometimes hit, more than once.
“Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.”
Monmouth Beach alone, according to the Monmouth County Board of Taxation, has a total assessed real property value of about $1.3 billion. Our borough, a low-lying barrier beach bracketed by the Shrewsbury River and Atlantic Ocean, is particularly vulnerable. Geologically known as the Northern Headlands, our immediate shore area is “characterized by narrow beaches at the base of deteriorated bluffs and dunes that have been eroded by years of storm damage,” say the experts at Hurricaneville, “offering the least suitable natural and artificial protection from erosive forces.”
Massive tides surges, brutal winds, a peak summer population, limited and clogged escape routes, and complacency (too many coastal dwellers underestimate hurricanes) could combine to intensify an already unthinkable weather disaster.
What’s the Plan?
Shore residents shouldn’t really count on government of any type to save them. Security can only come from having an escape plan and the discipline to employ it when the time arrives. If we’ve learned anything it’s that we can’t truly predict the weather.
Even the most advanced climate-tracking technology is no match for Mother Nature’s wrath. Late-hour changes in a storm’s path could leave thousands unprepared. Bottom line: all shore dwellers must be vigilant and always have a “Plan.” Here are some other basics to consider:
• Shore residents must always be a little more alert and prepared during the hurricane season.
• If you suspect serious weather trouble, listen to the Weather Channel. Tune into the borough’s radio station at 1640 AM for regular weather updates. The MB Office of Emergency Management also has a Facebook page.
• Have a personal escape route planned and a safe location predetermined. The borough has posted Coastal Evacuation Route signs throughout town. Know them and have your gas tank full.
• Assemble and maintain a disaster supplies kit. This should include a flashlight, radio, batteries, first aid kit, nonperishable foods, three gallons of water per person, and protective clothing.
• For more information visit the National Hurricane Center.