The hurricane season in the tropical Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico runs from June through to the end of November, but, most hurricanes occur from around the middle of August through the middle of October. So Hurricane Matthew, though slow to develop from its origins as an atmospheric trough that emerged off Africa on September 22, was more or less right on schedule as it crossed the Western Atlantic and then journeyed northward through Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Lucayan Archipelago, the southeastern United States, and the Canadian Maritimes before finally dissipating by October 10th.
Here in the Pacific Northwest where, at most, we may experience only the remnants of hurricanes along Mexico’s west coast, it was tempting to tune out ‘Matthew.’ But online photographs of its intensity and destruction show why the coverage was extensive. And now that our autumnal storm season has settled in, we are reminded first-hand of the challenges of attempting to carry on ‘normally’ while under steady assault from high winds and heavy rain.
It turns out that ‘Tips for hurricane preparedness’ are also useful guidelines here. For example, the first and foremost hurricane ‘tip’ —stay updated on the latest weather forecast, also applies. And thankfully, these days, what with weather apps, and weather-only radio and TV stations, it’s a challenge not to know what the day will bring.
With a stormy weather forecast, therefore, if you must be on the road, planning for extra travel time and heavier slower traffic is just plain common sense, as is avoiding driving and staying off the roads if you don’t need to be using them. If you have to drive note this information quoted from a “Hurricane Driving Tips” source:
· Big puddles of water can hide debris or potholes that can damage your tires, and their depth may surprise you—depth that is enough to damage your engine or even carry your vehicle away. Avoid big puddles.
· Watch out for downed wires. Do not drive over them. Do report this hazard to emergency responders when it is safe to make such a call.
· Know your surroundings and increase your following distance behind all vehicles. Larger vehicles, trailers, big trucks, and buses—vehicles you might expect would have more stability are actually rendered by their greater surface area more vulnerable to buffeting by high winds. Stay well back from them.
· Always expect the unexpected. Watch for flying debris from roadside trees, from light trucks with uncovered loads. The higher your speed the greater potential for serious damage if you happen to collide with anything tossed around by the elements.
· In heavy rain, don’t use your cruise control. Cruise control can cause your vehicle to accelerate while hydroplaning intensifying your loss of control.
· If you hydroplane, some experts say to slowly take your foot off the gas while holding the steering wheel straight until your tires regain contact with the road surface. Once you have traction, lightly tap your brake pedal to help dry the brakes.
· If the rain is so heavy that visibility is severely limited, pull over and wait it out.