The Lowcountry was drenched over the Memorial Day holiday by rain related to Subtropical Storm Alberto — the first named storm of 2018 — but hurricane season didn't officially kick off until June 1.
Alberto, which made landfall May 28 along the Florida Panhandle, caused flooding across Florida and was blamed for mudslides in North Carolina.
The storm also was blamed for the deaths of two journalists killed when a tree fell on their vehicle in Tryon, North Carolina, where they were reporting about the weather for Greenville television station WYFF. All total, at least eight deaths — four in North Carolina and four in Cuba — were attributed to Alberto.
With memories of Hurricane Matthew's devastation in October 2016 and Tropical Storm Irma's flooding last September fresh in the minds of Beaufort County residents, hurricane season's early start may bring a sense of dread.
Here are five things to think about as you make your plans for the upcoming hurricane season:
1. The season is expected to be average or above average in terms of storm numbers.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration outlook indicates the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season might be another busy one. Forecasters are predicting 10 to 16 named storms, and of those, five to nine could become hurricanes.
Researchers with the Hurricane Genesis and Outlook Project at Coastal Carolina University said they anticipate a "slightly above average" season this year and predict there will be a range of 11 to 18 named storms.
2. Last year's hurricane season was one of extremes.
Researchers at Colorado State University say this year's lack of El Nino — a band of warm water that develops in the Pacific — may offer the U.S. hope for a reprieve.
"Coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them," the Colorado State report added as a caveat. "And they need to prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted."
3. The 'cone of uncertainty' won't be quite as uncertain.
In the upcoming hurricane season, the National Hurricane Center is shrinking its "cone of uncertainty," which is a way warnings are depicted once a storm forms.
Meteorologists say the cone — which provides a probable track for a storm about two-thirds of the time — is calculated using previous five-year records. Improved forecast tracks in recent years have allowed forecasters to narrow the cone.
Along with the shrinking cone, forecasters are extending advisories to 72 hours in advance of a storm, providing a full additional day for those in the path to prepare.
4. The only way to avoid the mad dash for water and batteries is to plan ahead.
Here's what the Red Cross recommends you have in an emergency kit:
- One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days if evacuating or two weeks if staying through a storm.
- Nonperishable, easy-to-prepare food.
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio.
- Extra batteries.
- First-aid kit.
- Seven-day supply of medications and medical items.
- Multipurpose tool.
- Sanitation and personal hygiene items.
- Copies of personal documents such as proof of address, a home deed or lease, passports, birth certificates and insurance policies.
- Cellphone with chargers.
- Family and emergency contact information.
- Extra cash.
- Emergency blankets.
- Maps of the area.
5. The procedures for returning to Beaufort County after an evacuation have changed.
After Beaufort County residents faced a chaotic return from evacuation in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, officials reassessed the re-entry procedures.
The plan offers four levels of re-entry passes for public safety officials, government personnel, hospital employees, contractors and others who need to return early to prepare the county for the public’s return. The final tier ahead of the general public would include residents, business owners and property owners.