"What was the most important lesson learned from Hurricane Irene?
Eric Davis: We were lucky! A few days before Irene struck the North Carolina coast it was a category 3 hurricane. The storm weakened to a category 1 before it struck Cape Lookout. In addition the actual track of the storm was further east than some of the forecasts 24 hours before landfall. This combination of a weaker hurricane and a track further from our coast limited the storm's impact. A storm that maintained its category 3 status and came closer to our coastline would have been much more destructive.
Robb Ellis: Irene surprised in many ways, including the duration of the wind and heavy rain of the storm. Although Irene made landfall up the coast on Emerald Isle, the effects were felt for nearly 2 days in southeastern North Carolina. Because the storm was so large and had a very wide wind field, the gusty winds and rain started well before landfall, and continued well after landfall. The strongest winds occurred on the back side of Irene, and led to the largest number of power outages as the storm was pulling away. With so many power outages, social media and mobile devices became an even more important avenue for the First Alert Weather Team to keep people updated on the latest conditions, storm location and how much more was coming.
Colin Hackman: Preparation is the most valuable asset. I feel that our area had another good test run for readying for a land falling tropical system. Many people made the commitment to be ready in any way they possibly could. Some evacuated. Some enacted a hurricane survival plan laid out in previous years. Some saw the need and enacted one for the first time. No matter what the outcome, we are more prepared now than we were before, that is the lasting physical effect. However it is important to note the psychological effect of a near miss as well. In my experience at WECT since 1996 I have actually heard people in the community say that "It's only a Category 2", or "the last one missed us, this one will too." We have to cautiously guard against this line of thinking. Maximum preparation each and every time gives us the maximum chance of survival.
"Does the active 2011 hurricane season have an impact of the upcoming 2012 season?
Eric Davis: Not necessarily. Lower water temperatures in the Atlantic and the end of La Nina points to a quieter hurricane season this year. However it only takes one storm to strike our area! If one storms strikes us it would be a bad hurricane season for southeast North Carolina. Always be prepared from June-November!
Robb Ellis: As each season approaches, preparedness is always key when it comes to hurricanes. For the optimists out there, there is a positive side to having an active season : it keeps the dangers of hurricane season fresh in the minds of North Carolina residents. During inactive periods, complacency about hurricane preparedness becomes a concern. When hurricanes are out of sight, they are out of mind. An active season ensures that people are on their toes, and consistently prepared for each approaching hurricane season.
Colin Hackman: We tend to go through stretches of about 30 years with increased major hurricane (Category 3-5) activity. Then over the course of a few years it changes. The activity level drops off considerably for another 20-30 years. This is the product of large scale ocean circulation changes, which doesn't switch over night. So to answer the question, yes. Since we are in a period of increased activity we are more likely to see that continue. Not necessarily because 2011 was busy, which it was (19 storms), but because we are still in the 'active' window that began in 1995. Notice though, we are near the end of the 30 year cycle, so things may be changing in the coming seasons.