Looking ahead to hurricane season, on the heels of active severe weather season in Cenla

Published: May. 6, 2020 at 12:31 PM CDT
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It’s been an active severe weather season in Central Louisiana. Already more than a dozen tornadoes have touched down in our area, including one on April 22 that left damage at the LSU Ag Center’s Dean Lee Research Station. This week is National Hurricane Preparedness Week, a time to start looking ahead to June and the start of our next weather threat.

A composite of warnings issued by the National Weather Service office in Shreveport shows just how busy this severe weather season has been, and this is only a small portion of Cenla. Another graphic from the NWS shows all the days Cenla was under a risk for severe storms in April, that verified more than a dozen tornadoes, including one on April 22 that killed a Lecompte woman and destroyed the Dean Lee Research Station and Dewitt Livestock Facility in Alexandria.

"We estimate that it will be in the millions because we know that several of our buildings have been completely destroyed and will have to come back as well as some large pieces of field crop equipment,” says Ag Center director Tara Smith.

Smith says the nearby mega shelter also sustained minor damage to gutters and the roof, but that it will be utilized this summer if needed.

“I can say with confidence that in the event of a hurricane or any other natural disaster that the mega shelter would be available," Smith said.

According to data compiled by Chief Meteorologist Tom Konvicka, Cenla is experiencing the most active tornado pattern on record since 1950, with 19 tornadoes confirmed in Rapides Parish alone since the start of 2017. The active severe weather is due to a number of meteorological factors, including a warm Gulf of Mexico and a La Nina pattern, which could continue through the end of the year, also leading to an active hurricane season.

The official NOAA hurricane outlook calls for 18 named storms, nine hurricanes, and four major hurricanes. Although we don’t live on the coast, it’s important to have a plan in place in the event that we see flooding or high winds that cause power outages. You can download the free ‘Get a Game Plan app, to find a checklist of how to get ready.

One thing that will be notably different this hurricane season, is the presence of COVID-19. Right now FEMA is working with states to develop a hurricane preparedness plan that will address issues like how to evacuate people while maintaining social distancing, how much extra shelter space will be needed if schools remain closed, and how to safely evacuate hospitals with COVID patients.

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