Ocean City shoreline

As hurricane season approaches, Delmarva is becoming more and more at risk from storm surge and flooding rainfall from the tropical storms, even if the storm does not make a landfall on the peninsula.

NORFOLK, Va. - The 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season doesn't officially begin until June 1st.

But the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center are wasting no time getting the message out: it's time to be ready for hurricanes.

The 2023 season had a high number of named storms, but not many hurricanes. Warm Atlantic waters tried to produce strong storms, but El Niño arrested their development in a lot of cases.

This year, it looks like El Niño is becoming La Niña, which will keep forecasters' eyes glued to the satellite.

"That would tend to favor more activity in the Atlantic Basin this season," said Michael Brennan, director of the National Hurricane Center. "We're also seeing record warm ocean temperatures in the Atlantic. So the combination of those factors would suggest we could have a pretty active year.

Delmarva is no stranger to landfalling hurricanes, but landfalls are not common on the peninsula. But Delmarva is very vulnerable to a hurricane's most deadly force: water.

"We are really concerned about the water hazard these storms bring," said Robbie Berg, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center. "With your unique position on the Delmarva, you're particularly at risk of water hazards."

With an evolving climate, Delmarva's threat from hurricanes, even hundreds of miles away, is getting worse.

"[Extreme rain is] happening more frequently," said Ken Graham, director of the National Weather Service. "You start looking at the rising sea level, you start looking at subsidence in areas with the sinking land, the combination is more events."

In fact, hurricanes are increasingly killing more people thousands of miles away from where they make landfall.

"Ida killed more people in New York and New Jersey than it did in Louisiana where it made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane," Brennan said, referring to the 2021 hurricane that spawned large tornadoes over New Jersey and caused record flooding from Virginia to New England.

Delmarva is subject to what meteorologists call a "combination threat" for flooding, as the peninsula's low, flat terrain makes it susceptible to flooding from both rainfall and storm surge. That makes following evacuation orders especially important.

"During or after a storm, you can be in a location where emergency services can't access you, you can't get help if you have a problem, so you always want to follow those evacuation orders," Brennan said.

Delmarva also only has three main ways off the peninsula: The Bay Bridge, the Bay Bridge-Tunnel, and the highways through the Wilmington, Delaware area.

Even if a hurricane stays hundreds of miles away from Delmarva and out to sea, the water is still a threat at some of Delmarva's most popular destinations.

"Surf and rip currents are an underrated hazard in hurricanes," Brennan said. "We've lost more people to surf and rip current fatalities than we have storm surge in the last ten years."

For more information about hurricanes and how to be prepared, especially if you are new to Delmarva, visit hurricanes.gov, ready.gov, and weather.gov.

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