2017 Hurricane Season: New Alerts Debut, Officials Emphasize Planning

This story was reported for WWNO -- New Orleans Public Radio

Hurricane Isaac in 2012. (NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER/FLICKR: CC BY 2.0)

Today, Thursday, June 1st, is the official start of hurricane season.

If there’s one thing state and local officials want you to know, it’s this: have a plan.

Fourteen state and local officials -- from the Governor to parish presidents to levee board representatives -- drove that point home at a press conference on Thursday.

They say you need to know where to go, how to get there, and what you’ll bring.

Typically, when a storm comes you’ll get notifications on your phone, hear warnings on the radio, and see maps on the news. They include how strong the wind will be, and where and when the storm might make landfall. But nothing about the real threat: water.

“Storm surge is the number one killer when it comes to hurricane fatalities,” says Danielle Manning, forecaster with the National Weather Service in Slidell. “It's responsible for almost 50 percent of hurricane related deaths.”

Manning says starting this year -- you will be warned about storm surge. Even small storms can cause big floods, like Hurricane Isaac, a few years ago.

“If we had a had a storm surge warning at that time,” she says, “We would have been able to alert those people -- [who lived] where we thought that there could be dangerous storm surge -- with another layer of: ‘Hey guys, really take this seriously.’”

The National Weather Service started putting out storm surge maps last year. Now, if you live in coastal Louisiana, they’ll send text warnings straight to your phone.