Experts Predict an EXTREMELY ACTIVE 2020 Hurricane Season

The NOAA predicts an 85% change of an above average season after August.

The first half of the 2020 hurricane season has already been record-breaking. The second half of the 2020 hurricane season is expected to be historic with a higher volume of dangerously powerful storms.

Know Your Risk & When to be Worried

The biggest risk to Houston every hurricane season is flood damage.
The Space City Weather Flood Scale is the most valuable resource to determine the effect of rainfall from hurricanes. This flood scale is used as a reference for their rain/flood forecasts. Anything Stage 2 and above could cause lasting damage to communities. Check their website for daily updates before and during a hurricane as they will announce their predictions on the stages of expected flood impact to the Houston area.

Conditions that indicate ‘AN EXTREMELY ACTIVE’ 2020 Hurricane Season

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association predicts this hurricane season to be extremely active. The current atmospheric and oceanic conditions are perfect fuel for storm development in the Atlantic.

We are currently experiencing historically high temperatures in the Atlantic which can contribute directly to more powerful storm development.

This graphic shows waters in the Gulf, Caribbean Sea, and Western Atlantic at temperatures well above normal (as indicated by yellow, orange and red).

Experts expect La Niña conditions to develop going into the second half of the 2020 hurricane season (September to November). La Niña weakens the wind shear over the Atlantic Basin, making it easier for storms to develop. La Niña generally acts as a speed boost to the Atlantic hurricane season and is always a factor considered for hurricane season forecasting.

This season started early with Tropical Storm Arthur in May and we’ve already seen 9 named storms up to August 1st, when historically, only 2 named storms form on average by early August.

So far this season, we have been lucky with less powerful storms due to the dry Saharan dust. Come mid-August, experts
expect this dry air to dissipate, leaving us more likely to experience major hurricane formation.

This year we saw an enhanced West African monsoon season, this means a greater chance of strong storm development in the Western Atlantic for us later in the season.

The Biggest Threat to Houston: Flooding

Hurricane Harvey’s Impact

As we’ve seen with Hurricane Harvey, flooding is the biggest threat posed by storms entering the Gulf. Nearly 1 trillion gallons of water fell across Harris County over the four-day period Harvey was stalled over the Texas coast. Harvey will go down in history as not only the biggest storm to hit Houston, or the state of Texas but even by some measures the entire US. The rainfall was unprecedented, in fact it shattered what scientists believed the atmosphere was even capable of producing.

This historic flooding event has been used by experts to better predict flooding patterns throughout Harris County and the surrounding areas. The Harris County Flood Control District has been busy since with planning and executing flood risk reduction infrastructure, such as watershed projects, drainage projects, reservoir updates and more.

Rainfall model from Hurricane Harvey (2017)

Harris County Floodplain Map

How to Determine Flood Risk

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the city of Houston has worked to educate the community on the dangers of flooding and how to prepare. The Harris County Flood Control District created a Flood Education Mapping Tool to provide information about the boundaries of the mapped floodplains in Harris County. A floodplain is any land area vulnerable to flooding by water from any source. These areas are classified by a 100-year or 500-year flood zone. The term “100-year flood” can be misleading, it means that there is a 1% percent chance of that happening each year. The “500-year flood zone” means there is a .2% chance of that happening per year.

What about wind speed risk during a Category 5 Hurricane?

This is the wind speed model for the worst case scenario; a category 5 hurricane at the highest wind speed possible otherwise known as “The Big One,” which has yet to happen in history.

Houston, Texas

The Greater Houston area splits two wind speeds, with Downtown and Southeast Houston at more risk due to an unpredictable max wind speed. In Northwest Houston, particularly at TRG’s Spring, TX data center location the max wind speed is 127mph. Given the 185mph wind load ratio of TRG we have a 100% guarantee of survival given a worst-case scenario hurricane. Since the highest theoretical value we could ever see per NOAA is 127mph, our building remains over-prepared by 145% compared to the theoretical maximum.

Dallas, Texas

Although Dallas would be within the 59-92mph sections during “The Big One,” this area of North Texas is at greater risk of tornado damage because it lies within Significant Tornado Alley. Significant Tornado Alley is an area in the southern plains of the central United States that consistently experiences a high frequency of tornadoes each year. This region is ideally situated for the formation of supercell thunderstorms, often the producers of violent (EF-2 or greater) tornadoes.

Other Damaging Wind Speed Disasters: Tornadoes

Dallas & Violent Tornado Incidence

Since the Texas Pandhandle and Northern Texas, including Dallas, lies within Significant Tornado Alley they are at a greater risk to violent tornadoes than the rest of Texas. Within Significant Tornado Alley 5% of tornadoes per year are
greater than an EF-3 with wind speeds of 166+mph. Unlike hurricanes, tornadoes can be unpredictable and develop within a moment’s notice, leaving data centers in Dallas unprepared in a worst-case scenario tornado.

Tornado Classification Scale

Weak EF0, EF1 Wind speeds of 65 to 110 mph
Strong EF2, EF3 Wind speeds of 111 to 165 mph
Violent EF4, EF5 Wind speeds of 166 to 200 mph or more

Houston is out of Range of Damaging Tornadoes

Unlike Dallas, Houston does not lie within Significant Tornado Alley. Meteorologically significant tornadoes (EF2 or greater) typically don’t form in Houston due to the moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. Weak EF0-EF1 tornadoes sometimes occur during severe weather in Houston but usually don’t last long or cause much damage.

Because Houston is less likely to get violent tornadoes, our power grid is also more reliable than that of Dallas. Damaging power surges from tornadoes can enter the home, office or data center via power lines and cause permanent damage to electrical equipment. While a building may not be in the direct path of the storm, they are connected to the Dallas electrical grid and therefore these damaging storm surges can affect any building in the entire DFW area.

How to Prepare your Data Center for Hurricane Season

Generator Test – test your ability to transfer to generator power now in case any adjustments need to be made

Fuel – ensure you have organized a backup supply of fuel to your generators for at least four days

Check your location on the Harris County Flood Map to evaluate your expected damage

Have at least two active carriers in your facility in case of a carrier outage

Review emergency response protocols with your mission critical team so when the time comes, they are properly prepared

Review and test your DR plan- go through all steps of your disaster plan and update as needed

TRG is Always Prepared

TRG Datacenters was built specifically to meet the needs of Houston. Since we are a purpose-built data center and not a retrofit, we were able to customize our infrastructure.

Torrential Rain / Flooding

TRG is 65 miles inland from the coast, lies outside of the 500 year floodplain and is 4 ft above grade. We also pride ourselves on our state-of-the-art 4-inch thick sloping roof with fully redundant leak protection.

Wind Speed

Our location lies within the capped wind speed contour of 110-127mph. TRG Datacenters is built to withstand wind speeds of up to 185mph, far meeting and exceeding the 127mph threshold in a category 5 hurricane.

Backup Power

TRG’s Infini-fuel program guarantees us a continued supply of fuel to our indoor generators for an unlimited number of hours for the duration of any outage.

Our Purpose-Built Infrastructure

TRG Datacenters has a 4-inch thick, sloping, leak-proof roof, 8-inch thick concrete reinforced walls, no rooftop equipment and no roof penetrations, successfully eliminating any risk of rooftop damage.

Hurricane Advisory Resource Index

Space City Weather is a Houston-based duo of meteorologists who provide “hype-free” daily weather forecasts on their website and Facebook. They have designed a valuable flood scale that they reference for rain forecasts in context with past flood events.

The NOAA is an amazing resource for hurricane tracking. The NOAA Inland Wind Model is an interactive model that demonstrates the wind speeds on the coast from stage 1-5 hurricanes.

Ready Harris – A resource that is especially useful for Houston/Harris County residents is the Ready Harris website. They provide a text update service for emergency communications during hurricane season, as well as evacuation routes among many other resources.

Harris County Flood Education Mapping Tool – An interactive map of Harris County to see the floodplains, which is useful to gauge the likelihood of flooding in your area.

Harris County Flood Control District – A useful resource to keep up with current flood prevention initiatives. They also provide a customizable text or email flood alert system to notify Harris County residents of real-time rainfall and water levels of bayous or water channels in their areas.

Houston Hurricane Evacuation Map

Harris County Hurricane Preparedness Checklist

Preparedness is Key

As with every hurricane season it’s important to always have a plan, this year it is even more important because procrastination is not an option.

  • Review the evacuation procedure for your location.
  • Prepare an evacuation kit with personal protective equipment and supplies to protect against the coronavirus: hand sanitizer, face masks, alcohol wipes, etc.
  • Prepare to stay safe at home with at least seven days’ worth of food, water, and medicine.
  • Gather supplies for a safety kit such as flashlights, batteries, first aid kit, etc.
  • Always have at least half a tank of gas at all times during hurricane season.
  • Double check backup power for your home and infrastructure.
  • Sign up for local alerts to stay informed.
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