FocusUS hurricane season upgraded but still below average

01 June 2012 16:12  [Source: ICIS news]

This is a hurricaneBy Bobbie Clark

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The Colorado State University (CSU) forecast team on Friday increased its predictions for the 2012 Atlantic Basin hurricane season to 13 named storms, but added the season will still be below-average.

The CSU had earlier predicted 10 named storms.

Of the predicted 13 named storms for this season, which includes two that formed before the season officially started on 1 June, five will become hurricanes and two will be major ones, with winds of 111 miles/hour (178 km/hour), CSU said.

“We have increased our numbers slightly from our early April forecast, due largely to our uncertainty as to whether an El Nino will develop later this summer as well as somewhat marginal Atlantic basin conditions,” said Phil Klotzbach, lead author of the forecasts.

Last year, there were 19 named Atlantic storms, including seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

Chemical manufacturers on the Gulf coast keep a close eye on weather patterns during the hurricane season, since they can disrupt operations. However, no hurricane hit the US Gulf coast in 2011.

Regardless, companies take hurricane preparation seriously.

They have long had plans in place to help stem the tide of damage that major storms often bring with them.

However, hurricane preparation plans include more than securing equipment and evacuating employees. Oftentimes, the work does not really start until after the storm passes.

For example, Securitas Security Service USA, which provides security for companies like Dow Chemical, Huntsman and BP, guarantees clients it will provide officers within 48 hours after a hurricane passes.

Jim Hosel, the business development manager for Securitas, said security is a top concern after major weather events, like a hurricane.

“Most of those facilities are federally regulated for security,” he said. “They have very steep requirements.”

Hosel said they have a plan in place in the event of a hurricane that allows them to bring in officers from all over the country.

“We usually bring officers into staging areas outside the influenced area,” he said. “Once the storm passes over, and local governments let us in, we bring the officers in to secure the plants.”

The US Department of Homeland Security has established security requirements for plants and refineries situated on waterways, Hosel said.

Those plants are vulnerable after major hurricanes and must be protected from threats, such as terrorist attacks and looters, he added.

“The aftermath is just as bad, if not worse, than the actual hurricane,” Hosel said.

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 proved to be an especially challenging test for Securitas.

The company had to house officers on a cruise ship and transport them back forth to sites by helicopter.

“It was hard getting people back into those sites to protect them,” Hosel said. “There was a lot of looting and theft. All the bad guys come out during the aftermath.”

As a result of the 2005 hurricane season, the State of Louisiana helped form the Louisiana Business Emergency Operations Center (LBEOC).

“It provides the private sector with information to help prepare, react, respond and recover for a major event,” said Ed Flynn, the vice president of health, safety and security for the Louisiana Chemical Association.

Additionally, Flynn said many companies have abandoned conventional forecasting and weather services and adopted their own sophisticated systems.

“There certainly have been investments in upgrades to weather forecasting systems for facilities,” he said. “Companies have also taken advantage of social media to help communicate with employees and the public.”

By: Bobbie Clark
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