The South Jersey shore is subject to different types of coastal storms. If you live on or visit the South Jersey shore, you will want to know what to do in the event of a coastal storm. Here, we will discuss the facts about coastal storms, help you to understand coastal storm terminology and assist you in determining the best way to prepare for coastal storms, such as hurricanes and nor’easters, so that you may protect yourself and your home from a coastal storm.
Facts About Coastal Storms
Type of Coastal Storms
There are basically two types of coastal storms that hit the South Jersey shore. One comes from the north, the other comes from the south, originating in the tropics. It’s helpful to understand these storms in deciding how to protect yourself and your home from coastal storms.
Nor-Easter A nor’easter is a storm that forms along the East Coast of North America. Nor’easters get their name from the direction from which the wind is coming. For New Jersey, this means the storms come across the Atlantic from its northern region such as New England or southern Canada. Nor’easters are formed when colder air from Canada meets with the warmer temps of the Atlantic Ocean. This results in a low-pressure system which causes clouds and storms to develop. These storms can bring wind, snow, rain and flooding to the Northeast.
Tropical Cyclone A tropical cyclone begins in the tropics around the equator due to the warm air and water in that region. The warm air rises and causes an area of lower air pressure below. The warm, moist air rises and begins to swirl. As the air cools, moisture in the air forms into clouds. The ocean’s heat and water evaporating from the surface feeds the system and causes it to spin and grow. As the storm system rotates faster, an eye forms in the center. The term “tropical cyclone” includes tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes.
Difference Between Tropical Depressions, Storms and Hurricanes
As you watch the Weather Channel or tune into weather forecasts when a coastal storm has been predicted, you may have heard different coastal storm terminology – such as tropical depression, tropical storm and hurricane. You may wonder what is the difference between a tropical depression, tropical storm and hurricane? The answer is simple: they are all different types of tropical cyclones. The difference, however, is in the speed of he winds involved. Typically, these types of tropical cyclones all begin in the tropics where warm water creates the perfect conditions. They begin as tropical depression and, as the winds increase, become tropical storms. If the winds increase enough, the storm will become a hurricane.
Tropical Depression Maximum sustained winds of 38 miles per hour or less
Tropical Storm Maximum sustained winds of 39-73 miles per hour
Hurricane Maximum sustained winds of at least 74 miles; categories based on speed
Coastal Storm Seasons
Different types of coastal storms can come in at different times of year, but not always. So just when is hurricane season and when are hurricanes most active in New Jersey? Hurricane season is from June 1 to November 1. However, hurricanes are most active in New Jersey between late August and the end of October with a peak in mid-September and a decrease by early November. Nor’easters, on the other hand, tend to develop in winter.
What is the difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning?
A hurricane watch is issued when sustained winds of 74 miles per hour or higher are possible. Hurricane watches are typically issued 48 hours in advance of the onset of tropical storm force winds. This is the least severe of the two alerts.
A hurricane warning is issued when sustained winds of 74 mph or higher are expected. Hurricane warnings are typically issued 36 hours in advance of the onset of tropical storm force winds. This is the most severe of the two alerts and must be heeded.
What is the difference between the eye and the eye wall?
The eye of a hurricane is the very center of the rotation. When you see pictures on weather forecasts, it is the clear circle or dot in the middle of the swirling clouds and rain bands. In the eye wall, the weather tends to be calm. But beware – once the eye passes, things get wild again.
The eye wall of the hurricane is the most dangerous part of the storm. The eye wall con and does the most damage as it contains the strongest winds and deep convective thunderstorms. Also, the right side of the hurricane has the strongest winds and storm surge.
What is storm surge?
Storm surge is an abnormal rise in sea level that comes with tropical storms and hurricanes. Storm surge is not the result of rainfall or flooding, rather it is the result of powerful winds pushing ocean water ashore. A storm surge of 40 feet means the height of the surface is 40 feet higher than what an average tide would have been in absence of the storm. Storm surge is often the most destructive part of a coastal storm such as a hurricane or nor’easter. Along the South Jersey shore, storm surge not only erodes the beach, but causes the bay to flood the island. This is because beach replenishment projects help to fortify the ocean side of these barrier islands, while the bayside is vulnerable to the rising tides caused by storm surge.
Preparing for a Coastal Storm
Make a Coastal Storm Plan
The time to start planning for a coastal storm is when weather is nice and seas are calm. Regardless of the different types of coastal storms that may be coming your way, the reality is that any type of coastal storm can threaten property and the lives of you and your family. While you cannot anticipate all of the chaos that may ensue once a coastal storm hits, thinking it through, strategizing and making a plan is far better than winging it after storm surge has moved in. There are some excellent resources to help you learn how to protect yourself and your home from a coastal storm.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also has a very informative brochure on “How to Prepare for a Hurricane”.
The Red Cross has a comprehensive Disaster Preparedness Plan. It also provides a Hurricane Safety Checklist to assist you as you prepare for an approaching coastal storm. The Red Cross also provides a full explanation of what to do before, during and after a coastal storm.
Things to consider when making a coastal storm plan:
- What can you do to protect yourself and your home from a coastal storm?
- Where do you meet if you must evacuate your home?
- Where do you go if you must evacuate to an out-of-town location?
- What emergency items do you need in the event of a coastal storm?
- What do you take with you if you’re evacuated in a coastal storm?
- How do you secure the outside of your house to prepare for a coastal storm?
- How do you secure the inside of your house to prepare for a coastal storm?
- Who will be your out-of-town contact in the event of an emergency evacuation or storm center information?
Make an Emergency Coastal Storm Kit
There are many resources available online to help you in preparing an emergency coastal storm kit. As with all aspects of planning for a coastal storm, it is a good idea to order or assemble your kit well before a storm threatens to hit. Here are a few ideas from leading emergency disaster relief organizations. The American Red Cross has a quiz and a thorough list of supplies you will need for an emergency survival kit to help you prepare. You can purchase a hurricane survival kit on Amazon, as well as other supplies such as a handcrank radio with smartphone charger and LED beacon light, LifeStraw water filters or a first aid kit. Refer to the lists above to determine what you need. (Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)
Protect the interests of special needs family members
The State of New Jersey Office of Emergency Management created a New Jersey Register to provide assistance to people with special needs and their families during a coastal storm or other disaster. The program is called “Register Ready – New Jersey’s Special Needs Registry for Disasters”. This program allows New Jersey residents with special needs – and their families, friends and caregivers – to provide information to emergency response agencies so responders can better plan to serve them in a coastal storm emergency or other disaster. If this applies to your family, click on the link below.
Keep an eye on the weather
During the months of June – November, it is a good idea to keep your eye on the weather. We know you already do so in summer when deciding what days to go to the beach and find out what the UV index is on any given day. But don’t forget to tune in after Labor Day, when most of the hurricanes visit New Jersey. The National Hurricane Center will give you important information about potential coastal storm activity in the tropics, including when tropical cyclones form and are expected to impact the US coast.
Or you can order your own National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) radio here to stay tuned into weather all year long.
Secure your home for a coastal storm
There are many resources available online to help you protect your property in a coastal storm. Once again, the best time to prepare your home for a coastal storm is well before storm season hits. To assure that your home will be ready to withstand a coastal storm, there are many resources available. DisasterSafety.org shows you how to fortify your home to withstand coastal storms. FEMA has a comprehensive checklist on how to prepare the inside of your home for a coastal storm once it’s on its way.
Know what to do when evacuation is ordered
This is an easy one: evacuate. Listen to the emergency management officials if they say that staying on the coast can be life-threatening. It’s not only about you – it’s about all the people you will endanger if they have to come save you. A house can be replaced – you and the lives of your community’s first responders cannot be replaced. Mother Nature will do what she must and there may not be much you can do once she unleashes her fury, so heed the warnings to evacuate, stay away, and come back only when the experts tell you it’s safe to return. If you’re not convinced, tune into the Weather Channel when they interview people who have stayed behind and had to be rescued. If given the chance to do it again, they all say it was not worth it.
What to do after a coastal storm hits
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has great information to help you stay safe after a storm.
Bookmark these handy resources and don’t forget to consult them well before a coastal storm hits so that you may protect yourself and your home from a coastal storm. Stay safe!