hurricane preparedness

Time to Check Your Insurance for Hurricane Coverage

Hurricane Omar Victim in St. Crois, U.S. Virgin Islands

Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Michael Grubbs and Petty Officer 1st Class Angela Alonso, marine science technicians at Sector San Juan, Puerto Rico, inspect a vessel that has been tossed into the beach by Hurricane Omar at the St.Croix Yacht Club in St.Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008. MSTs have been deployed to St.Croix in order to determine the extent of damage to the environment and control any damage which has already occured. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 3rd Class Barry Bena)

An updated 2011 Atlantic basin hurricane forecast from Colorado State University yesterday should serve as a reminder to all East Coast and Gulf Coast boaters to check their insurance policies for hurricane coverage.  More importantly, now is the time to create your own “hurricane plan”  — whether it is to move the boat, haul it, secure it; whatever.  You need a plan and you need to ensure that you and your insurer agree on both how your boat will be covered and to what extent the insurance company might help cover the cost of a precautionary haulout.  A haulout, while inconvenient and expensive, is ultimately the best protection for your boat.  Yes, you can suffer some damage to surfaces and fittings, but a properly secured boat on dry land is never going to sink.

Every year, boaters seem to be surprised by the arrival of hurricanes and tropical storms in their area and hundreds of boats are damaged and destroyed, many needlessly.  Granted, Mother Nature is, ultimately, unpredictable, but preparation and vigilance can go a long way toward minimizing the consequences.

Now back to the forecast.  Originally started by Dr. William Gray and now released by him and Dr. Phil Kotzbach, these tropical cyclone forecasts are meant to give the public a sense for the probabilities of these storms, but of course can’t predict them with certainty.  Even lacking certainty, they are informative and useful.  The group issued its first forecast for 2011 last December and this week’s update slightly reduces the expected amount of activity, but only slightly.  All categories — tropical storms, hurricanes, etc., are still forecast to be significantly above statistical averages for the last half of the 20th century.  The slight adjustment for this forecast is predicated on a subsiding La Niña in the Pacific and slightly cooling sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic.

Here are some useful links to see these forecasts and to track the weather yourself.  If you know of others, let us know in the comments and we’ll add them to the list.

The Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University

The Updated (April 2011) Atlantic Seasonal Activity and Landfall Strike Probability for 2011 (pdf)

National Weather Service (NOAA) National Hurricane Center

U.S. Navy Fleet Weather Center (good for all oceans)

Tropical Weather and Hurricane Info from The Weather Underground (great maps and visuals)

Tropical Weather Page at Weather.com (some interesting historical analysis of specific storms)

Stormpulse Weather Website (good tracking maps and satellite imagery, including cloud cover)

Intellicast Tropical Winds Webpage (great view of upper-level steering currents)

Copyright © 2011 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Environment & Weather, Legal & Insurance, seamanship
Are You Prepared for a Bad Hurricane Season?

Are You Prepared for a Bad Hurricane Season?

Hurricane Ike in 2008.  Credit:  NOAA

Hurricane Ike in 2008. Credit: NOAA

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center this week said the hurricane outlook for the Atlantic Basin this year is for an “active to extremely active” season.  While it’s always important to be prepared with a plan for how to deal with severe weather — not only at sea but while moored — the prospect of a worse-than-average year should provide the impetus for getting that plan firmed up as quickly as possible.

One of the best ways to protect your boat (in most circumstances), is to haul it out of the water. But haulouts are not cheap and the key to this tactic is to commit to it soon enough that you actually have time to get it hauled and properly blocked and secured. Since hurricane damage varies dramatically depending on the exact final path of the storm, sometimes a haulout can feel like money unnecessarily spent. So, one question is, will your insurance company cover all or part of the cost of such a “precautionary haulout?”

We’ve put together our first-ever poll here on OceanLines and we’d like to know what your insurance policy will cover, assuming you’re in an area potentially exposed to this kind of severe weather.  Please take the poll — it’s over in the right sidebar and only takes a couple of clicks, unless you want to give us a detailed answer. You can see the results t0-date, and you can share the poll link with others.  The more we get, the better our information base will be.

In the meantime, here’s some of the key info from the CPC announcement today.  The rest of it is at this link.

“Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the six-month season, which begins June 1, NOAA is projecting a 70 percent probability of the following ranges:

  • 14 to 23 Named Storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), including:
  • 8 to 14 Hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher), of which:
  • 3 to 7 could be Major Hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph)

“If this outlook holds true, this season could be one of the more active on record,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “The greater likelihood of storms brings an increased risk of a landfall. In short, we urge everyone to be prepared.”

The outlook ranges exceed the seasonal average of 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes. Expected factors supporting this outlook are:

Upper atmospheric winds conducive for storms. Wind shear, which can tear apart storms, will be weaker since El Niño in the eastern Pacific has dissipated. Strong wind shear helped suppress storm development during the 2009 hurricane season.
Warm Atlantic Ocean water. Sea surface temperatures are expected to remain above average where storms often develop and move across the Atlantic. Record warm temperatures – up to four degrees Fahrenheit above average – are now present in this region.

High activity era continues. Since 1995, the tropical multi-decadal signal has brought favorable ocean and atmospheric conditions in sync, leading to more active hurricane seasons. Eight of the last 15 seasons rank in the top ten for the most named storms with 2005 in first place with 28 named storms.”

Lastly, we’re working on a series of articles about insuring your trawler or cruiser or sailboat and we’d like to know what questions or concerns you have about boat insurance. Please leave us those in the comments and we’ll try to include the answers we dig up in the articles.

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Environment & Weather, Legal & Insurance, seamanship