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‘You really want to be prepared’: Canadian Hurricane Centre calls for extra storm readiness

The COVID-19 pandemic and an anticipated “extremely active” hurricane season are among the top reasons why Canadians should be extra prepared for major storms this year.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States announced on Thursday it was anticipating 19 to 25 named storms this season, of which seven to 11 could become hurricanes — including three to six major hurricanes.

“We know what the protocols now are in stores, social distancing and everything else, [so] you really want to be prepared if we get a storm that will generate a prolonged power outage ahead of time this year,” said Bob Robichaud, a warning preparedness meteorologist with the Canadian Hurricane Centre in Dartmouth, N.S.

“If there’s any year we were going to be prepared, this is the year to be prepared.”

Last year, CBC News captured a photo of a long line of people waiting to get propane refills at the Costco store in Halifax the day before Hurricane Dorian swept through the region on Sept. 7.

Robichaud said people should be stocking up well in advance of a storm being forecast because “it’ll take longer to do everything” in light of the pandemic. He recommends people get three to four days’ worth of supplies.

The lineup for propane refills at a Costco store in Halifax spans the entire parking lot ahead of Dorian in September 2019. (Eric Woolliscroft/CBC)

“Dealing with a hurricane is in direct conflict with everything you can think of about dealing with a pandemic,” he said.

Robichaud said about 40 per cent of the storms that form over the Atlantic Ocean end up in the Canadian Hurricane Centre’s response zone, which includes land and areas off shore.

NOAA said Thursday that the hurricane season has been off to a “rapid pace” with a “record-setting nine named storms so far.” It also said the 2020 season has the potential to be the busiest on record.

Matthew Rosencrans, a metrologist with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said even though an active season is anticipated, it’s not necessarily an indicator of how many storms will make landfall.

“Not all of them are going to move toward land, and really the exact direction any storm takes is really dictated by the winds in the last week or two when the storm is forming,” he said.

“We really can’t make forecasts for landfall many weeks or months out. So while we do have a lot of activity, we don’t necessarily have a landfall forecast. That’s still an active area of research for NOAA.”

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