How Often Should You "Keep an Eye on the Tropics" During Hurricane Season?

Hurricane Season requires the attention of Houstonians, but just how much exactly?
Hurricane Season requires the attention of Houstonians, but just how much exactly? Photo by Brandon Navarro
From June through the end of November, mentions of hurricane season are frequent along the Gulf Coast. Media outlets urge us all to stay wary of any tropical weather and pay attention as things can develop quickly. This was evident recently with Hurricane Barry, which didn't even form into a tropical storm until just a few days before landfall.

But, how much is too much information for the average person living in Houston and surrounding areas affected by hurricanes? Much of that has to do with a couple of factors including how interested you are in the weather in general, exactly how vulnerable you are to flooding and what kind of plans you are making that might be changed by tropical weather. Here are some guidelines.

If you are anxious...

Check in with the National Hurricane Center or your local weather forecaster of choice about once a week before August 1 and maybe twice per week between August 1 and September 30, the peak of hurricane season. Otherwise, put the apps and tracking models away, and live your life. Hurricane anxiety is real. Don't let it overwhelm you. When the time comes to be ready, our guess is you will be.

If you live in flood prone areas...

You probably need to check for rain events more regularly, probably every couple of days just to prepare. As we have seen with tropical weather, it doesn't even have to be a depression to drop copious amounts of rain on our area. And despite the fear of large hurricanes with high winds, most people are killed by water in storms, not wind.

If you are planning to travel...

It's a good idea to check the weather every couple days in the two weeks leading up to your trip, particularly if you are traveling to another part of the country that may also be at risk for tropical storms. Forecasting storm tracks has grown remarkably in recent years (Barry's track forecast was spot on five days before landfall and well before it even became a depression) and intensity modeling is improving. It could help you adjust your plans and save some money on flight changes.

If you have special needs that make you vulnerable during a storm...

If you have family members with special needs or any other reason to need to flee a storm sooner than others, you might do well to keep closer tabs on the tropics throughout hurricane season - until the first of October in Houston. Have a good plan and you should be in good shape when the time comes to go.

For everyone else...

First, don't obsess (unless you enjoy being a weather nerd). But, plan to check in a couple times a week throughout the season and particularly between mid August and mid September. You can pretty much turn off the weather after October 1, which is typically the end of our hurricane season thanks to the first cool fronts of the year.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke