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Hurricane Awareness Tour warns Maine to prepare for upcoming hurricane season

Speaking in front of the "Hurricane Hunters" aircraft, representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Weather Service (NWS) delivered a speech on the first stop of their 2024 Hurricane Awareness Tour.
Nick Song
/
Maine Public
Speaking in front of the "Hurricane Hunters" aircraft, representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Weather Service (NWS) delivered a speech on the first stop of their 2024 Hurricane Awareness Tour.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) held an educational event at the Portland Jetport on Monday and cautioned Mainers to prepare hurricane emergency plans before the summer begins.

Serving as its first stop, NOAA's 2024 Hurricane Awareness Tour is aimed at spreading awareness about the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season beginning in June. NOAA and the National Hurricane Center held the Portland event at one of the Jetport's hangers.

While Mainers along the coast are especially at risk of hurricanes, storm surge flooding caused by strong storms can also affect those inland.

"If the rivers are connected to those oceans, storm surge can be extremely significant upriver," said Dr. Cody Fritz, the team lead for the Storm Surge Unit at the National Hurricane Center. "The water has a tendency to funnel. And as it funnels up, it really piles upriver. So if you live along our river and you’re connected to that, that waterway, then then certainly you need to be prepared for that risk, too."

The agencies brought two large turboprop planes to the event: the WC-130J and WP-3D Orion in the agency's "Hurricane Hunters" fleet. The flight crews and scientists — who normally collect weather data by flying the planes directly into hurricanes — opened the aircraft up and gave tours to elementary and middle school classes.

"When your kids start to bug you about something or be very insistent about getting ready for hurricane season, that’s something that people are pretty likely to listen to," Dr. Mike Brennan said, director of the National Hurricane Center. "[Having students attend the event is] also great encouragement to get kids to think about STEM careers [and] start to think, 'what do meteorologists do, [and] what do people who fly on these aircrafts do?'"

Inside the hanger nearby, the center set up stalls for attendees to learn about hurricanes and preparation strategies. Those strategies included creating a go-bag with essentials for a quick evacuation and organizing a plan for where to stay inland during a major storm. Government experts recommend households set aside food and medical supplies ahead of time, and create an emergency plan for where to go when a hurricane hits.

Lori Ehrlich, the regional administrator for FEMA Region 1 which covers New England, said preparing for the upcoming hurricane season doesn’t have to break the bank.

"It’s been forecast that we’re going to have a more active hurricane season this year," Ehrlich said. "[Just having] a go bag isn’t much of an expense at all: it’s maybe some food supplies, and medication that you have anyhow and using every day. These are good preparation things. It’s minimally challenging to just be ready in terms of that."

Ehrlich also recommends every household to make an emergency hurricane plan that might include evacuation.

Nick Song is Maine Public's inaugural Emerging Voices Fellowship Reporter.


Originally from Southern California, Nick got his start in radio when he served as the programming director for his high school's radio station. He graduated with a degree in Journalism and History from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University -- where he was Co-News Director for WNUR 89.3 FM, the campus station.