Cover Story: 2010 - Severe hurricane season? - | WBTV Charlotte

Cover Story: 2010 - Severe hurricane season?

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Today would be a good time to review your insurance policies.

If experts are right we're in for one of the biggest hurricane seasons ever and once the storms start forming it'll be too late.

What are they saying about this season and why does it matter when we're so far inland?

As you well know many people here have property at the coast and even this far inland we're not immune to the remnants of a tropical storm.

Federal officials came out Thursday with their predictions for this hurricane season and if they hold true, we're in for a doozy.

When he's not enjoying his home on Lake Norman Bill Merritt will find himself on the beach.  He and friends share ownership in an oceanfront home on Oak Island they call the Beachy Woman.

Mention we're in for an active hurricane season and Bill's response is typical to property owners along the coast.  "What can you do?" he asks.  "If you've got an oceanfront cottage you're just out there and you just again pray that you don't get hurt."

After 2009, the quietest year in more than a decade the tropics are expected to heat up this year.

"We keep the insurance up. We never miss a payment," says Merritt.

Good advice.

NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration came out Thursday - predicting we'll see 14-to-23 named storms this year.

Put into perspective- in the 160 years of record-keeping there have only been eight years where we've had 16 or more storms in a season.

"It all points to a very active year."

Meteorologist Al Conklin points to Atlantic Ocean waters warming up already 4-degrees above average; since 1985 we've been seeing more storms; and perhaps most importantly El Nino which ripped apart storms last year is gone.

"The storms as they try to develop because of all kinds of sheer when that's gone it's a free for all. So we have to be concerned about that. It could be off to the races with these storms," says Conklin.

It's why South Carolina's Emergency Management Division opened the doors to its emergency operations center in Columbia on Thursday.

"What we're tying to do is just stay on our toes," says spokesman Derrec Becker.  "Make sure all of our staff have the proper training they need.. make sure all of our plans are update and that our local first responders have the resources that they need."

For homeowners- preparedness means reviewing your insurance policies.  Brad Smith has been in the insurance business 20 years.

He says, "You want to make sure you can get insurance while it's insurable because once the storm has been forecasted or a hurricane warning out there.. insurance companies are going to start putting freezes on either adding coverages, writing policies.. lowering deductibles.. what have you. So you want to make sure you can get insurance while you're insurable."

Know that if you have property at the coast average homeowners' policies are not going to cover damage from wind and hail.. and flooding.  Wind and hail is covered in homeowners' policies written for areas not along the coast.

You'll have to get extra insurance to cover those things we typically see in a hurricane.

How accurate are these predictions?

All three major forecasts, NOAA's which came out Thursday, and two others all line up showing an active hurricane season.

What about the Gulf oil spill?

Experts say it could have an effect keeping storms from developing in that area.  For those storms that form outside the area, it will stir up the mess.

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