Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal and Dolly—just a few names Americans are near certain to hear this hurricane season as forecasters give a 95% chance at least one storm makes U.S. landfall, prompting early cautions and planning for coastal optometry practices.
Although hurricane season, June 1 through November 30, is still quite some time away, long-range forecasts released April 2 by Colorado State University indicate significantly "above normal" hurricane activity this year. Sixteen named storms, including eight hurricanes, are predicted for the Atlantic season with at least four of those storms projected as Categories 3 or higher. For comparison, "normal" is an average of six storms, two of which reach a major category.
What's more, the chance that at least one major hurricane strikes somewhere along the U.S. coastline is 69%, well above the average 52% for the last century, while researchers say there's a 95% chance any category hurricane makes a U.S. landfall this year. This year's hurricane activity is most analogous with those seasons in 1960, 1966, 1980, 1996 and 2008, the report notes.
"Whereas individual hurricane landfall events cannot be accurately forecast months in advance, the total seasonal probability of landfall can be forecast with statistical skill," the Colorado State report reads. In fact, the university's forecasts over the past few years have been fairly accurate, within one or two named storms and hurricanes. The exception being 2017, when Colorado State initially predicted a "below average" season that ended up yielding seven named storms, notably hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
The 2017 season demonstrates why awareness doesn't equate preparedness, especially when it comes to hurricanes. In other words, it's simply not enough for Americans to know the dangers and hazards of hurricanes; they need to proactively prepare for such a devastating force of nature.
Doctors of optometry in hurricane—or flood-prone areas should take Colorado State's prediction with a grain of salt—the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has yet to issue its season forecast and long-range forecasts do change—but also consider taking advantage of this time to create or refresh their own hurricane plan. So, too, doctors should know that when disaster does strike, help is on the way.
OFDR grants $1 million in recovery assistance
Since 2005, Optometry's Fund for Disaster Relief (OFDR), a program of Optometry Cares ®—The AOA Foundation, has distributed $1 million in financial assistance to over 500 doctors and students in at least 32 states immediately following natural disasters. The fund is optometry's exclusive financial support program in the wake of disasters and is entirely sustained by donations from colleagues and industry partners. Any doctor of optometry who is a victim of a disaster may apply for up to a $4,000 OFDR grant.
In recent years, OFDR has been there for doctors of optometry affected by hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes and floods, awarding more than $400,000 since 2017. But hurricane recovery has made up the vast majority of OFDR disbursements in its 15-year existence; nearly 85% of financial assistance, in fact.
"Optometry's Fund for Disaster Relief was established in response to the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and, since then, has provided $1 million in grant assistance to hundreds of our colleagues, the vast majority of which have been affected by the devastation wrought by hurricanes," says Catherine Amos, O.D., OFDR chair.
Optometry Cares—The AOA Foundation is committed to seeing its vision come to fruition, raising awareness about the importance of eye health, increasing access to vision care, and providing support to doctors of optometry and students in need. Learn more about Optometry Cares' programs and how you can support their mission.
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At the 2021 Leaders Summit, AOA-member volunteers set priorities for the year and launched new initiatives to lead the profession forward.