Quiet Start to 2022 Hurricane Season Should Not Deter UM Students From Emergency Preparedness of Future Storms

Sandbags line the walkways next to Whitten University Center on Aug. 31, 2019.
Photo credit: Jared Lennon

For the past three years however, there has been an abnormally quiet hurricane season. At this season’s peak in mid-September, only one low-level named tropical storm (Alex) has impacted Miami. Compared to the barrage of catastrophic storms including Harvey, Maria, Irma and Dorian that the Atlantic has faced within the past five years, the atmosphere appears to be unusually placid.

“It certainly is off to a very quiet start,” said Brian McNoldy, a senior research assistant and hurricane expert at the Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Science (RASMAES). “We’re at about a third of the normal activity for this point in the year.”

David Nolan, professor of atmospheric sciences at the RASMES, echoes McNoldy’s sentiments. According to Nolan, there have only been around a dozen hurricane seasons within the past century that have been more inactive than this season by this point in the year.

“It’s unusual in the sense that most of the time there are more,” Nolan said.

However, despite the lack of activity during the first half of the season, both researchers maintain that students should not assume that this trend will continue.

“September and October can historically be quite active, even if August wasn’t,” McNoldy said. Nolan provides similar commentary.

“There’s kind of like a second part to the hurricane season when hurricanes come from the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico,” Nolan said. He emphasizes that although the halfway point of hurricane season has passed, the most dangerous storms often occur later in the season.

“Miami proper has gotten most of its hurricane activity from those late September and October storms,” Nolan said emphasizing the unpredictability of hurricanes and urging students not to develop a false sense of security.“Over a period of one or two weeks it could change and we could have a flurry of activity at the end of the year, and possibly even get back to an average season.”

Unlike previous hurricane scares, students are now also advised to take into account the pandemic-induced supply chain issues that may cause delays to public services if a hurricane does occur. According to Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie, the manufacturing and shipping issues that have beleaguered industries worldwide will likely interfere with the state’s hurricane response.

“There will be a supply chain problem,” Guthrie said in a presentation to the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council in late August. “They will be able to get the power restored, but there are certain businesses or neighborhoods that may be on a generator power for months to years.”

In addition to the energy sector, supply chain issues may affect other crucial industries.

“You might see shortages of food, shortages of water,” said Dr. Naresh Kumar, a professor of environmental health at the University of Miami’s Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Kumar also adds that supply chain issues may also negatively impact the ability of medical institutions such as pharmacies and hospitals to recover from a hurricane, so he recommends that students obtain a backup supply of their prescription medication before hurricane season.

For information on hurricane preparedness, students can visit the University’s Office of Emergency Preparedness at prepare.miami.edu.