Tropical storm season is just like the Memorial Day races in the Carolinas this year. They are starting at the same time. The official storm season is supposed to start June 1, but now Alberto has formed in the Gulf. Quibbling about a few days, certainly, but we wonder if that  means the rest of the storm season (and maybe then our electric service) could be tested this year more than normal.

The Weather Channel said, “Subtropical Storm Alberto has formed in the western Caribbean Sea, and will track north through the Gulf of Mexico through the Memorial Day weekend, bringing the threat of flash flooding, rip currents, strong winds, coastal flooding and tornadoes to the Southeast.” They added that the most common time period for hurricanes is Aug. 16-31, followed by Aug. 1-15. 

To adapt a phrase from racing, “Tropical storms, start your engines.”

Storm season spurs us to look at how our homes and businesses are prepared for bad weather that can knock out power – for a little or a long time. The Federal Emergency Management Administration says, “During a hurricane, homes, businesses, public buildings, roads and power lines may be damaged or destroyed by high winds and floodwaters.” With the rain we have had in some parts of the Carolinas, it could be that rain, not wind, creates problems for us. Don’t let down your guard just because you may not have high winds.  (A projection of possible rainfall over the Memorial Day 2018 weekend is shown here. University of Georgia map)

“Storms” comes in several varieties. Jeff Crum, meteorologist for News 14 in Charlotte, said, “As of this post [Friday afternoon], Alberto was still considered a ‘sub-tropical’ system and not a ‘tropical’ system.  Basically, a cold core system versus a warm core (tropical) system.  If the storm holds as sub-tropical, it’s unlikely to become a hurricane.” One of his maps (left) shows what Sunday morning might look like.

Alberto reminds us that it is time to assess how prepared we are for storm season. A good source to check is Duke Energy’s Illumination online magazine. It has a good checklist that was published just last month. Some tips from Illumination (check the link for more): These are items to include in your family’s emergency kit:

  • Three-day supply of water (1 gallon/person/day)
  • Three-day supply of nonperishable food (include a manual can opener if using canned food)
  • Battery-powered radio and extra batteries
  • First-aid kit
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Whistle
  • Filter mask (or cotton T-shirt)
  • Emergency blanket
  • Cellphone charger
  • Moist towelettes
  • Wrench or pliers
  • Tape
  • Gloves
  • Documents
  • Emergency numbers
  • Unique family needs including prescription medications, infant formula, diapers, etc.
  • Pet supplies

SCE&G has a storm prep page here.

The Santee Cooper storm prep page is here.

One piece of personal safety advice that utilities pass along: A storm can knock down power lines. Treat any and all downed power lines as if they were live. Do not touch! 

Energy companies do a lot of work to prepare for storms; customers have to do their part, too. With an early storm that may impact the Carolinas, maybe it’s time to buckle our seat belts for the seaon. Energy Consumers of the Carolinas understands how important storm prep is. We’ll be writing about it more.