2023 Hurricane Season: Forecasters Predicting Near-Normal Activity in the Atlantic with Emerging El Niño Conditions

Thursday, May 25, as of 1:00 pm (EDT)

On Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its 2023 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook. Forecasting a near-normal season, NOAA estimates 12 to 17 named storms, five to nine hurricanes, and one to four major hurricanes to develop in the Atlantic basin this season. This is a near-normal forecast for the regular season average of 14 named storms, seven hurricanes, and three major hurricanes. Although the historical peak of hurricane season is still a few months away, recent years have shown more early storm formations, something forecasters and emergency managers will be on the lookout for in the coming weeks. This year, NOAA has implemented various upgrades and improvements to its hurricane forecast models, expanding the capacity of its operating system by 20 percent and extending its lead time for tropical cyclone forecasts from five to seven days. According to United States (US) Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves, these advancements have improved forecast track accuracy by 40 percent since 2017.  

Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook

The 2023 Atlantic hurricane season begins on June 1 and lasts until November 30. Today, the NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) forecast a 40 percent chance of a near-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic, with a 30 percent chance for an above-normal and a 30 percent chance for a below-normal season. There are 12 to 17 named storms anticipated for the season, with winds reaching 39 miles per hour (mph) or higher. Five to nine of these storms could likely become hurricanes, with one to four predicted to become major hurricanes as either Category (Cat) 3, Cat 4, or Cat 5. These storms can reach wind speeds of 111 mph or higher, and NOAA provided the storm range with a confidence rate of 70 percent.

These predictions support the CPC’s forecast for a return to a “potentially significant” El Niño, or climate pattern marked by warmer-than-normal surface waters in the Pacific Ocean. While an El Niño episode is historically known to suppress tropical cyclone and hurricane formation in the Atlantic basin, its warm water can fuel increased activity in the central/eastern Pacific Ocean. According to the CPC’s report issued on May 11, El Niño is likely to form sometime during June or July and persist into the winter when its impacts are felt strongest.  

The 2023 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook

NOAA: 2023 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook   

Pacific Hurricane Season Outlook

NOAA’s CPC additionally provided a 2023 hurricane season outlook for the Eastern Pacific Ocean, indicating a 55 percent chance for above-normal tropical cyclone activity throughout the season. The forecast further noted a 35 percent chance for near-normal activity, with a 10 percent chance for an above-normal season. Forecasters anticipate between 14 to 20 named storms, seven to 11 hurricanes, and four to eight major hurricanes will affect the Eastern Pacific hurricane region from May 15 through November 30, with a confidence rate of 70 percent. For the Central Pacific region, NOAA’s outlook indicates a 50 percent chance for above-normal activity, predicting four to seven tropical cyclones will affect the Central Pacific hurricane region, which includes tropical depressions, named storms, and hurricanes. 

Recently, forecasters, emergency managers, vendors, and volunteers met in West Palm Beach, Florida, for the 2023 National Hurricane Conference to discuss best practices and innovative approaches to moving our profession forward. Participation at the conference this year underscored that both seasoned and new emergency managers alike are preparing seriously for another active season this year.

At NOAA’s Season Outlook Press Conference, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell said, “As we saw with Hurricane Ian, it only takes one hurricane to cause widespread devastation and upend lives.” Regardless of the number of predicted named storms this season, it is important that you know your risk, be prepared, and follow emergency guidance from state and local officials. Here are some important tips Hagerty’s Director of Response Programs, Lee Mayfield, encourages emergency managers and decision-makers to keep in mind as they prepare for the next six months. 

Important Tips for Emergency Managers

1. Have a plan in place to manage and support those coming to support you. Amidst a disaster response, there is often an extensive network of mutual aid to support state and local jurisdictions in the response. This ranges from neighboring cities and counties to emergency management professionals and first responders from across the country. Mechanisms like the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) are in place to allow rapid deployment of personnel through pre-established agreements. Local emergency managers should recognize the value that mutual aid networks can bring to a response mission and be prepared to integrate mutual aid personnel and resources into the response operation. While many will come self-sufficient, with the goal of not overburdening the impact area, identifying workspace in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) or other facilities and including outside responders in feeding and support plans are advised. If planned for ahead of time, these mutual aid partners can add value to a complex response and lighten the load on the local team.

2. Do not focus on the skinny black line. The 2022 hurricane season brought additional attention to the National Hurricane Center’s (NHC) forecast cone of uncertainty. Hurricane Ian’s impacts extended far beyond the cone, and we should continue to educate the public that dangers always exist outside of it. While this is not a new challenge, it is one that remains difficult to communicate to our stakeholders and residents. The cone represents the probable track of the center of a tropical cyclone and incorporates historical forecast errors in determining this area. Emergency managers should continue to work with their National Weather Service (NWS) and communications partners to highlight risks that still exist to individuals and communities outside of the cone.

3. Confirm all pre-event contracts. In addition to mutual aid deployments, our EOCs normally scale to include representatives from the private sector in support of response operations. This could include debris haulers and monitors, cost-recovery subject matter experts, feeding vendors, and other EOC staff augmentation. If these contracts have not been activated in a while, they may be easy to overlook during pre-hurricane season planning. Taking the time to review all pre-event contracts and confirm readiness for if and/or when they need to be activated. Emergency managers should have these partners on speed dial and having them in the EOC before landfall is a best practice. Setting up an early season meeting(s) with key vendors to review protocols, deployment timelines, and scope of work will allow roles and responsibilities to be defined and take some of the guesswork out of your vendor activation plan.

4. Take care of our teams. When responding to a large-scale event like a hurricane, long days and hours are expected. It can often be weeks to months until the operation balances out, and there is an opportunity for real rest. As emergency managers, we spend our careers planning how to best respond to these events, and we see it as our obligation to see it through. At the same time, as leaders, we should recognize that while our teams are passionate about what they do, they will need support throughout an extended response operation. This could include maximizing the use of mutual aid EOC support teams or staff augmentation, an intentional scheduling effort to ensure days off and rotations, and ways to reduce stress across the operation. Thinking about ways to support our teams now will make sure it remains a priority when an EOC activation is underway. 


This hurricane season, there is an increase in uncertainty for officials as a result of two contradictory factors: the developing El Niño and an unusually warm Atlantic Basin. Veteran and new emergency managers alike will once again be required to use their expertise, networks, and partnerships to overcome these challenges. Through strategic coordination, emergency managers can build trust with constituents and exemplify the value of the protective measures they are asking them to take. 

Hurricane Preparedness Tips

NOAA: Prepare Before Hurricane Season 

FEMA encourages individuals to prepare before a tropical storm or hurricane warning is in effect. The impacts of a storm can be felt hundreds of miles inland in the form of wind and water hazards. Be sure to understand the potential hazards that may affect your community. After determining the risks of severe weather that have the possibility of impacting your community, it is critical to then: 

  • Create a plan among your family and household in the event of a storm;
  • Sign up for severe weather alerts to receive timely and reliable guidance in the event of an emergency(s);
  • Be prepared to shelter in your home, workplace, or outside location when instructed by local officials;
  • Plan your evacuation routes and where you will shelter if local officials advise evacuation;
  • Collaborate with your family and household to establish a communication plan in the event of an emergency; and
  • Keep your emergency preparedness kit stocked and ready to go.

Emergency plans should be personalized based on the unique composition of your family and household – considering the needs of young children, older adults, and pets; dietary and medical requirements; and individuals living with disabilities. Additional preparedness opportunities could include completing FEMA’s Family Emergency Communication Plan or using this resource as a guide for documenting important contact information that can be shared with your family and household for safekeeping. Once your plan is set, periodically review and rehearse the plan so that everyone involved can become familiar with their responsibilities and equipped with the confidence to make quick decisions during a real emergency. FEMA suggests several precautionary steps you can take to protect your home and personal property from damage by high winds and floods, including reviewing your flood insurance coverage. 

Related Stories

Throughout the hurricane season, Hagerty will continue to provide guidance on making effective preparations for long-term recovery, as well as continuing our situational extreme weather event updates. 

Stay Updated and Learn More

  • Remember, Ready.gov provides information on how to prepare for a storm and how to keep you and your family safe. 

Keep track of Hagerty’s incident coverage here: 

2023 Hurricane Season


The Hagerty Advantage – Our People: Sarah Peters and Grace Maliborski

With hurricane season on the horizon, May is the perfect time to learn your risks and better understand how hurricanes can affect you, your family, and your community. At Hagerty, our Response professionals understand the demands communities face as they confront hurricane season and work tirelessly to tailor our support as clients’ needs and missions evolve. This month, we are highlighting some of Hagerty’s Response personnel to discuss how their career paths and professional experiences led them to the Hagerty team.

1. Tell us about yourself and how your career path led you to Hagerty.

Sarah Peters: Before working at Hagerty, I worked at a recruiting and staffing firm supporting healthcare staffing. I knew that regardless of where my career took me, I wanted to continue supporting and helping people. A friend reached out with the opportunity to learn about Hagerty. After speaking with Hagerty staff and learning more about the firm, I knew it was the right fit for me.

Grace Maliborski: I have been lucky to begin my emergency management career at Hagerty! I joined in 2022 as an intern for Hagerty’s Recovery division before moving to a full-time role as a Response Associate. Prior to joining the team, I studied public health at Saint Louis University (SLU), which is where my interest in emergency management began.

2. What role do you play in supporting Hagerty’s response to disasters?

Sarah Peters: When responding to a disaster, I support the team by collecting our professional’s mobilization and client-required documents, tracking the mobilizations, and helping our staff locate hotels, rental cars, and flights. I also support the readiness team by tracking staff we have available via our Response Cadre and On-Call team.

Grace Maliborski: In my current position, I play a couple of different roles in supporting Hagerty’s response work. I have been deployed to disaster sites to be the boots-on-the-ground support, worked on a client’s project management team, and contributed to Hagerty’s readiness efforts.

3. What do you find most rewarding about working in the field of emergency management?

Sarah Peters: The most rewarding part of working in emergency management has been knowing that even though my work is behind the scenes, I am helping people whose lives have been affected by disaster.

Grace Maliborski: The part of working in the emergency management field that I find the most rewarding is being able to participate in high-profile current events and connecting those in need to the services that are able to support them. 

4. What is one piece of information that you have learned working in the response division that you think people should know?

Sarah Peters: I have learned that disaster comes when least expected, and you can never be too prepared.

Grace Maliborski: If I could shed light on one thing I have learned while working in Hagerty’s Response division, it would be the high number of intelligent, hard-working, and dedicated individuals that are willing to mobilize, at a moment’s notice, to support those in need affected by a disaster.

5. What are you passionate about outside of work?

Sarah Peters: Outside of work, I love reading, walking, and spending time with friends and family.

Grace Maliborski: Outside of work, I love hot yoga, thrifting, and enjoying all the fun and exciting activities in my neighborhood in New York City (NYC)!

To learn more about Hagerty’s work coordinating facilities and personnel to serve disaster-impacted communities, visit our Response page here.

Sarah Peters is a Mobilization Coordinator for Hagerty’s Response division with more than eight years of experience in account management, sales process, and relationship management. In her role at Hagerty, Ms. Peters has supported the documentation, mobilization, and coordination of response personnel to emergencies and disasters across the country.

Grace Maliborski is a Response Associate and passionate emergency management professional with a background in public health. At Hagerty, Ms. Maliborski has contributed to projects with multiple types of organizations involving disaster response and recovery efforts. She holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Biosecurity and Disaster Preparedness from SLU.

Dozens of Severe Storms and Tornadoes Impact Multiple States

Throughout the past two weeks, many regions of the United States (US) have experienced extreme weather and tornadoes. On Friday, March 24, severe storms produced more than 20 reported tornadoes across Mississippi and Alabama, including a long-track, catastrophic tornado that traveled 59.4 miles across west-central Mississippi, causing widespread destruction and at least 25 fatalities. According to the National Weather Service’s (NWS) preliminary storm data, the rural towns of Silver City and Rolling Fork, Mississippi, sustained significant damages to homes, businesses, and farmland as the tornado stayed on the ground for more than an hour. The tornado received a four out of five on the NWS’s Enhanced Fujita (EF) Scale and had maximum wind speeds of up to 170 miles per hour (mph). As of March 25, more than 40,000 customers had reported lost power across Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee, according to PowerOutage.us. A second round of tornadoes, striking Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Tennessee, and Wisconsin, led to 53,000 customers without power just one week later, on March 31.

Rolling Fork, Mississippi: Damage Assessment Toolkit

Governor Tate Reeves of Mississippi and Governor Sarah Sanders of Arkansas both declared states of emergency in their respective states following these deadly events. On March 26, President Biden approved Governor Reeve’s request for a major disaster declaration making Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Individual (IA) and Public Assistance (PA) funding available for eligible residents in Carroll, Humphreys, Monroe, and Sharkey counties impacted by the March 24 storms. President Biden made additional assistance available for debris removal and emergency protective measures during a visit to Rolling Fork, Mississippi, on March 31.

During his visit to Rolling Fork, the President assured residents that FEMA is “authorizing cash grants for people who lost their homes, whether they own or rent, to pay for things that may not be covered by insurance, like temporary housing, home repairs for those who have homes still standing, or to replace lost personal property, like furniture and appliances.” Following statements made in Mississippi, President Biden approved Governor Sanders’ request for federal assistance, making FEMA IA and PA available to residents in Cross, Lonoke, and Pulaski counties. In addition, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released a statement on April 3, allowing Arkansas storm victims additional time to file federal individual and business tax returns, extended from April 18 to July 31, 2023.

Twitter: NWS

FEMA defines a tornado as “violently rotating columns of air that extend from a thunderstorm to the ground” and notes that tornados can happen at any time or anywhere, will likely bring intense winds, and appear like funnel clouds. Because tornados can occur at any time, it is important to pay close attention to local weather alerts that will inform you of potential dangers. According to NWS, A ‘tornado watch’ indicates there currently are conditions that make tornados possible, and individuals in affected areas should be prepared. A ‘tornado warning’ means that a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar, and residents should act and seek shelter immediately. Ready.gov provides the following guidance for individuals seeking shelter during a tornado.

  • Seek shelter in a safe room, basement, or storm cellar. If you don’t have these options, seek shelter in a small interior room on the lowest level possible and stay away from windows, exterior doors, and outside walls.
  • If you are outside, try to find shelter in a sturdy building, if possible.
  • If this is not possible, you are most safe in a low, flat location. Do not get under an overpass or bridge.
  • Beware of flying debris, and use your arms to protect your head and neck.

It is important to prepare before a tornado occurs. The best option to prepare a safe place to be during a tornado is to construct a storm shelter that follows the International Code Council (ICC) standards for storm shelters. If this is not possible, ensure that a room in your home or business is fortified for use during a tornado. The best rooms will be on the lowest level, away from exterior walls or windows, and underground is the best choice. Manufactured or temporary structures, such as mobile homes or RVs, are unsafe during a tornado. Identifying an alternate shelter is critical if you are in a manufactured structure.

Once the tornado has passed, it is important to continue to monitor local emergency alerts and wait until relevant authorities have given the all-clear before leaving the shelter. If there are impacted or damaged buildings in your area, do not enter until local authorities tell you it is safe to do so. Broken glass, structural collapse, and shifting rubble can be hazardous. If you are trapped after a tornado, it is important to keep your movements to a minimum and cover your mouth with a cloth or mask to avoid breathing in dust and attempt to alert authorities of your presence by making noise, if possible. If you have lost power after a tornado or other severe storm, always remember to only use a generator outdoors and away from windows to avoid poisonous carbon monoxide exhaust from entering a space.

The Hagerty Advantage – Our People: Celebrating Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month—a time dedicated to recognizing the incredible achievements made by women throughout history and to celebrating those working to build a better future for us all. At Hagerty, we value and commemorate our female professionals who lead with integrity, innovation, and excellence while propelling the success of our team. Several of Hagerty’s Deputy Directors, Carla Decina, Nicole Morales, Vanessa Castillo, and Tanya Shannon, are four of these key figures making a difference.

Carla Decina | Deputy Director of Preparedness  

Carla Decina, one of Hagerty’s Deputy Directors of Preparedness, is a project manager with over ten years of emergency management, public health, and economic development experience, supporting state and local governments as they prepare for, mitigate, respond to, and recover from emergencies and disasters. “My roots are a little bit non-traditional in terms of my background and how I got started in emergency management…When I graduated college, I wasn’t set on a specific career path, but I knew from my experience studying abroad that by seeing more of the world, I’d gain a better understanding of what I wanted out of my professional future.”

After several years teaching English in Europe, Carla returned to the United States (US) and received an opportunity to work for the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a global humanitarian nonprofit, as a Program Coordinator supporting refugee resettlement. “I learned a tremendous amount about the challenges this unique population faces—which is essentially a displaced, disaster survivor community in its own right—and how our support was a significant determinant to their success in finding employment, enrolling in education, and navigating our health and financial systems.” Ultimately, this motivated her to obtain a Master of Public Health (MPH).

“I wanted to take the public health lens and apply it to populations that were displaced from natural or man-made disasters. After I graduated, it was a natural fit for me to figure out how to apply public health to emergency management in the US.”

Upon joining Hagerty in the Spring of 2017, Carla noted that she was one of very few individuals that held a background in public health within her division. While no one questions the important role of public health in emergency preparedness now, Carla feels that this relationship has not always been understood and has only recently come into sharper focus with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given her role in supporting preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation activities at both the state and local levels, Carla is experienced in managing all aspects of the disaster lifecycle. This includes bringing diverse stakeholders together to address cross-cutting issues inherent to complex response and recovery operations across a wide range of disasters, spanning wildfire, flood, and earthquake disaster recovery coordination, COVID-19 response, and overall cost recovery within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Public Assistance (PA) program.

Currently, Carla plays a key leadership role in managing Hagerty’s work with several clients across the State of California—her home state. “I come from an area in San Diego that is at high risk for wildfires and have personally experienced what it is like to have to evacuate, so finding an opportunity in my career where I can work within my state and support what I believe is on the cutting edge of disaster management and emergency resilience means a lot to me. I think it hits home when I am able to make a difference in the state I’ve grown up in and the communities I interact with day-to-day,” she said.

When asked about challenges she sees in the workplace, Carla reflected on the hurdles of being a young leader and underscored that leadership development is a winding path. She encourages emerging professionals to “trust your management style and what comes naturally to you—you are going to make mistakes, but each experience is an opportunity to learn, grow, and adapt to future situations.” Leadership is not about perfection, and mistakes have a lot to teach us if we let them.

Nicole Morales | Deputy Director of Response 

Nicole Morales is Hagerty’s Deputy Director of Response and is a disaster survivor turned disaster responder. As a proud native of New Orleans, Louisiana, Nicole experienced firsthand the devastating impacts of natural disasters when Hurricane Katrina hit her community in 2005. “I suspect that probably planted a seed for a path in emergency management early on,” she said. Now nearly two decades later, she serves as a leader at Hagerty by supporting local and state response efforts from coast-to-coast and leads multi-disciplinary teams in Emergency Operations Center (EOC), Command Center, and field-based environments.  

While she finds inspiration in many people around her, there are some that have shaped her role and life’s mission, “Like many, my parents have inspired me. My father was the longest-serving police officer in the country and devoted his entire life to public service. While my mother didn’t follow that same path, she taught me grit, resilience, and strength through her personal acts of community service and advocacy,” Morales said.   

She continued, “There are always moments after a disaster where you find yourself assessing the devastation and wondering, ‘Where do you even begin?’ and there is always a community member who has a vision of hope, of potential, and takes that very first step. Someone who has that resilience, that grit, that ability to see beyond the chaos and destruction right in front of you. Those individuals really inspire me.”   

On the topic of Women’s History Month and the challenges women are facing today, she said, “First, I want to underscore that women have never lacked the expertise, competence, or capability to perform in any job field or industry. We’ve possessed those traits since the beginning of time but have had barriers artificially placed, preventing our ability to fully contribute and participate.”  

“Secondly, I am honored every day to work with women who bring their very best to their jobs and then go home and do other full-time jobs as parents or caregivers. What I would say to women who are balancing all of those responsibilities is to bring those experiences into their emergency management careers. It is often the mothers and caregivers on our project teams that bring valuable perspective and point out considerations impacting those we serve, such as accessibility and childcare needs.”  

“Lastly, my existence here, my role at Hagerty, is the result of strong women who preceded me and made room for me and my voice at the table. If you find yourself at a table where there is no room, pull a chair up for yourself and pull up one for the woman behind you,” Morales said. Concluding, ultimately, the success and innovation of a team depend on its ability to respect and leverage diverse perspectives—and we all play a role in making room at the table. 

Vanessa Castillo | Deputy Director of Mitigation 

Vanessa Castillo, Hagerty’s Deputy Director of Mitigation, did not always plan on working within the emergency management industry. With a background in urban planning, Vanessa’s entrance to the field began with an internship for the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM), where she supported Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (HMP) development for counties and municipalities. This opportunity then led her to Colorado, where, according to her, “It all evolved from there.”   

Within a year, she accepted a job as the Mitigation Specialist for the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (CDEM), where she took a deep dive into implementing mitigation projects and contributed her expertise to the successful implementation of approximately $65 million in the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) for one of Colorado’s largest disasters.   

When asked about what she is most proud of in her career, she reflected on a previous project supporting “wildfire mitigation in an area that desperately needed it.” According to Vanessa, her work is driven by an eagerness to see impactful mitigation projects come to completion so that communities can bounce back from future disaster disruptions and remove themselves from hazard risks.

“I like to think that what we do is preventative medicine.” Mitigation work “helps situate communities in such a way that when the next natural disaster hits, the impacts are less.”  

Since joining the Hagerty team in the Fall of 2019, she has leveraged her technical expertise to support clients nationwide in developing mitigation funding strategies and prioritization for the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program, including projects for drought and heat mitigation, flood risk reduction, wildfire mitigation, and residential property elevations.   

When asked about who inspired her the most in her career, Vanessa responded, saying the women in her life, specifically her female familial members, are her greatest inspirations. “These are women that are strong and, in some cases, raised their families on their own,” Castillo said. One of the challenges she believes some women face in the workplace today is a hesitancy to “own their space” and confidently leverage their knowledge and experience to add value to a project or conversation. If she could offer any advice to women looking to advance in their careers, Castillo says, “don’t be afraid to fill your space.”

Tanya Shannon | Deputy Director of Recovery 

One of Hagerty’s Deputy Directors of Recovery, Tanya Shannon’s interest in public service began at a young age. “My family, of half-Jewish and half-German descent, is from Germany where, during World War II, they sought refugee, or refugee-like, status with the US and were denied,” she said. While, fortunately, her grandmother and great-grandparents were able to seek refuge in a nearby church, Tanya has always been inspired by their story and became motivated to serve in the humanitarian assistance space.

While in college at the University of California, Davis, she served as the Director of the Survivors of Human Trafficking Program funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) at Opening Doors Inc. (ODI). She provided direct case management to victims of human trafficking. From this opportunity, Tanya became fascinated with the natural disaster impact component of her work and soon learned that direct service provision as a case manager was not going to be something she could do long term. “I just wanted to adopt all my kids, and that was not a good move for someone that was making less than $30,000 as a 24-year-old.”

She continued, “However, I learned I liked the puzzle pieces and bringing order to chaos, which is similar to the nature of initial response and recovery efforts.”

Ultimately, this led her to pursue her Master of Public Administration (MPA) in Emergency Management from Florida State University (FSU). Through her work at FSU, in partnership with the FDEM, Tanya designed and facilitated numerous trainings and exercises as the Program Coordinator for the FSU’s Center for Disaster Risk Policy (CDRP). As she progressed in her career, she served various roles at FEMA, including the position of PA Training Section Chief. Since joining the Hagerty team in January 2019, Tanya has supported communities across the Southeast in recovering from COVID-19 and a range of natural and manmade disasters.

When asked about who has inspired her most throughout her career, she said, “I’ve had three great mentors in my life. The first was my boss at Opening Doors, David Blicker. He helped me turn my internship into a career and essentially helped me grow up and understand what I wanted to do with my career. My second mentor was my boss at FSU, Rob McDaniel. He instilled in me the passion and respect that I have for this field. He taught me it’s not just a job; that the decisions made and actions taken have a significant impact on those around you and the larger community. Lastly, my boss at FEMA, John Wilmot, taught me how to navigate the world of politics, think strategically, and advocate for the things you believe in. I owe these three mentors more than I can express.”

On the topic of women in the workforce, she notes, “The field of emergency management has made great strides in terms of beginning to open the door to diverse perspectives. While we are seeing more women at the table, including Deanna Criswell, who is now the first female FEMA administrator, we still have a lot of work to do.”

“My advice for women in the field is to not wait for the opportunity. Something I frequently see in hiring is that women often feel that they must be 100 percent qualified before raising their hands or contributing to a conversation. Do not wait to raise your hand or wait on an invitation—pull up your own seat at the table and help others do the same.”


Historic Series of Winter Storms Impacting California, Prompting State of Emergency in 43 Counties


According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency‘s (FEMA) National Watch Center (NWC), evacuation orders and warnings remain in place for over 100,000 residents in California and Nevada, and more than 200,000 energy customers are still without power as heavy rain and flooding are expected to continue throughout the region. Additionally, a Presidential Emergency Declaration is in effect for the State of California, allowing impacted counties to access Direct Federal Assistance quickly. 

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), the ongoing series of atmospheric river events began on February 24 with “one of the strongest storms to ever hit southwest California,” bringing blizzard-like conditions that caused vast power outages, closed roadways, and had officials call for emergency evacuations. Following this, back-to-back storms brought over three feet of snow to some areas of the State. In some cases, the snow trapped residents in their homes and forced emergency rescues. 

In total, California has experienced 11 atmospheric river events this year prompting dangerous conditions, including downed trees, severe flooding, and mudslides. Flood watches, winter storm warnings, high wind warnings, and advisories persist as rain and snow continue to fall in many areas of the State. Currently, there are numerous reports of flooding across Northern California, particularly in Butte County and parts of the Bay Area; while mudslides and rockslides have been reported across both lanes of California State Route 35 north of Stanford.

Officials anticipate that this week’s precipitation totals will be similar to last week’s atmospheric river event, which brought over two inches of rain to most Bay Area cities and upwards of nine inches to some areas in the Santa Cruz mountains, amplifying the already dangerous conditions, including flash flooding and debris flows.

Twitter: California Department of Water Resources (DWR) 

While the latest system is continuing to produce heavy rain, snowfall, high winds, and flash flooding, it is forecasted to taper today, Wednesday, March 15, as drier air enters the region. Moreover, the NWS Weather Prediction Center (WPC) forecasts another atmospheric river event to impact the region between March 21 and 23. Officials are anticipating another round of extreme conditions with the potential for shallow landslides, coastal erosion, and localized and downstream flooding.

Flood Safety: NOAA NWS 

FEMA urges individuals to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves against these violent storms. An essential preparedness measure is to sign up in advance for your community’s emergency alerts and warnings and to pay close attention to local weather reports for real-time conditions. Ready.gov provides information on how to prepare for, survive during, and be safe after various extreme weather events. 

The Hagerty Blog Team will continue providing information and updates on current events and disasters impacting the nation. Visit Disaster Discourse for the latest information. 

Policy Update: DHS Allocates $350 Million to FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP)

This is an update to our January blog post on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP). In our previous blog, we shared how EFSP works, and new funding being allocated to the program by Congress to support essential services for asylum seekers coming to the United States (US) at historic levels.

On February 28, 2023, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced $350 million in funding under the humanitarian portion of EFSP, entitled EFSP-H. This new allocation is a stopgap measure while a new DHS program, the Shelter and Services Program (SSP), is created. Once established, the SSP will aim to expand federal funding opportunities available to entities supporting asylum seekers. Of the $800 million allocated by Congress in the 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act – signed into law on December 29, 2022 – $350 million will go immediately to EFSP-H while the rest will be initial funding for the new SSP, a competitive grant program whose parameters will be announced later in 2023. For now, the EFSP National Board updated existing guidance to outline specific application and eligibility requirements for this new allocation to EFSP-H. 

What is new? 

  • Funding: The initial $350 million will be used for EFSP-H and distributed via the National Board (EFSP governing body).
  • Deadlines: The application period opened on March 3, 2023, and reimbursement applications and Humanitarian Advance Funding Requests (HAFR) are due by April 2, 2023. In lieu of rolling deadlines previously established, all Local Recipient Organizations and Fiscal Agents must submit requests by the April deadline. 
  • Eligible Period: The eligibility period is from January 1 to December 31, 2023. However, funding can be available from July 1, 2022, and onward, if the applicant is otherwise eligible and meets other criteria – including not having already received EFSP funding for the eligible period from July 1 to December 31, 2022.

Who can apply? 

Eligible applicants can be non-profit, faith-based, or governmental entities providing humanitarian relief to migrants that have encountered DHS. While current or former EFSP participation is not a requisite for participation, prioritization will be given to organizations in the US southwest border states including California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Additionally, organizations outside of these states will be prioritized if they are receiving migrants directly from border states and providing humanitarian services to migrants. 

What can be applied for? 

Broadly, primary services (food and shelter), secondary services (medical care, clothing), and wrap around services (administrative, facility, and transportation) are all eligible. These costs must meet documentation and eligibility requirements, as well as procurement standards to be eligible. See our first blog or full EFSP-H guidance for details.

When are applications due? 

Urgency is key – the application period is March 3 to April 2, 2023, and is only for eligible costs incurred from January 1 to February 28, 2023. However, there are exceptions in which an applicant can request funding for costs incurred between July 1 and December 31, 2022. We anticipate more funding periods may subsequently open, but no firm guidance has been released yet.

Where to apply? 

Eligible applicants must submit through Local Boards (localized versions of the governing body, the National Board) at the EFSP website. 

What comes next? 

Application deadlines are tight, and while we expect more funding after this first round, we do not recommend waiting to apply if you are currently an eligible applicant. The SSP will likely take several months for DHS (along with FEMA and CBP) to establish. In the meantime, FEMA is hosting webinars to help potential applicants. 

We will continue to provide additional guidance and best practices surrounding the use of this EFSP and SSP financial assistance.

Sage Hart is a Senior Managing Associate in Hagerty’s Recovery Division, supporting various natural disaster recovery and COVID-19 response projects in New York, Puerto Rico, California, and other areas of the country. His experience and expertise include program management, policy analysis, finance, and data analytics. Sage holds a master’s degree in international relations from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and a Bachelor’s in finance from the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University. 

The Hagerty Advantage – Our People: Employee Appreciation 2023

A message from our founder, Steve Hagerty:

At Hagerty, we truly believe our advantage is our people. By leveraging diverse expertise and unique perspectives, our firm can deliver innovative thinking and creative solutions to meet clients’ missions and propel organizations forward. Over the past 20 years, Hagerty’s team of emergency management and homeland security professionals have become an indispensable source of support for communities nationwide. As we celebrate Employee Appreciation Week, we would like to recognize the tireless efforts of our hardworking personnel across the nation.

Our professionals sacrifice their time and uproot from their homes and families to serve disaster-impacted areas and promote life-saving preparedness and resilience. In the face of emergencies, our team works diligently to help communities on what is often their worst day as they navigate the complex process of disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.

Our professionals’ commitment to excellence, and commitment to our clients, is unmatched. The following stories highlight just a fraction of the contributions made by the Hagerty team to their clients and their communities.

As I meet with members of team Hagerty, I am often struck by the fact that Hagerty has grown beyond my name. That is because our team members exemplify our values – innovation, integrity, teamwork, and excellence – in all their work. I am grateful for every member of the Hagerty team that chooses to share their talents with our clients and our firm each day.

Preparedness | Remarks by Hagerty’s Director of Preparedness, Kyle McPhee

Hagerty deeply appreciates the consultants in our Preparedness Division who not only support some of Hagerty’s first clients but also lead our work with new clients looking to prepare for future disasters. Katie Toskey and Kathryn Lhota are Senior Managing Associates and two of the division’s most respected mentors.

Katie Toskey supports many of Hagerty’s energy and infrastructure clients in pursuing and implementing federal funding programs to accelerate their disaster preparedness initiatives. With a background in government relations and federal policy, Katie helps clients make the most of their stakeholder engagement strategies and deepen their understanding of their communities and constituents. Empowered with this information, Katie helps clients develop strategic plans they can implement immediately to proactively prepare and mitigate the risks they face.

Kathryn Lhota is a profoundly experienced emergency manager who brings broad experience in disaster response to Hagerty’s Preparedness Division. Leveraging this knowledge and expertise, Kathryn helps clients navigate an after-action review process to learn from past incidents. Applying the lessons learned from a recent water contamination incident, hurricane, and ongoing humanitarian incident, Kathryn helps our clients assess their strengths, identify functions that can be improved, and develop customized recommendations to prepare for future disasters.

The past several years have demonstrated that disasters and emergencies of all types are increasing in frequency and magnitude. I am immensely proud of the work our Preparedness professionals are doing nationwide to prepare our clients for the risks they may face.

Response | Remarks by Hagerty’s Director of Response, Lee Mayfield

On Wednesday, September 28, 2023, Hurricane Ian made landfall in Southwest Florida, bringing extreme winds and catastrophic storm surge to an area of Florida uniquely vulnerable to these impacts. In the days that followed, dedicated public safety professionals stepped up and responded to what will be remembered as one of the worst natural disasters our nation has ever faced. Emergency managers across all levels of government and from around the country quickly mobilized to support residents and responders in Southwest Florida, working together to prioritize resources and begin a massive recovery effort.

Hagerty has a history of supporting hurricane preparedness and recovery efforts with our Florida-based clients, and Hurricane Ian provided us with the opportunity to help in the immediate response phase. Based on requests from our clients in the impact area, over 40 Hagerty response professionals were deployed across Florida to augment local and state Emergency Operations Center (EOC) capabilities. Our team members provided needed expertise in planning, logistics, operations, and field support, with roles constantly evolving based on the changing needs of a complex hurricane response. Hagerty professionals were often asked to deploy within 24 hours with limited information, sometimes sleeping on cots in recreation centers while hotel lodging was identified. Their patience, flexibility, and focus on serving our clients was apparent as our team members embedded in EOCs and tackled difficult issues with a focus on finding solutions.

In early February 2023, the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association (FEPA) recognized Hagerty by awarding us their Corporate Award, highlighting an organization from the private sector that has contributed to emergency management. Hagerty’s Hurricane Ian response was truly a “One Hagerty” effort between our response, recovery, mitigation, and preparedness teams. All who supported this event should be proud of how we assisted our clients in their time of need.

Mitigation | Remarks by Hagerty’s Director of Mitigation, Amelia Muccio

Given the county’s unprecedented drought and the growing toll of climate change, Hagerty’s mitigation team diligently assists states and local communities in developing climate adaptive projects that help communities become more resilient. Hagerty’s mitigation professionals are dedicated to addressing mitigation and resiliency in project planning, design, and operations with a focus on nature-based solutions (NBS) and other methods of green construction. In 2022, Hagerty managed $4.24 billion in total mitigation funding across 233 subapplications for five clients. For the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block Grant Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) program, we provided assistance on two subapplications for $12 million. For the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) mitigation programs, the team supported 162 Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) subapplications totaling $1.5 billion, 59 Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program subapplications totaling $2.5 billion, and 10 Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) program subapplications totaling $275 million. Additionally, we hosted 83 webinars throughout the year, including 30 technical assistance training webinars and 53 capacity-building webinars for our clients.

Recovery | Remarks by two of Hagerty’s Recovery Project Team Leaders

The Recovery Division is an ever-growing team of highly experienced emergency managers striving to help communities on their worst days. As a division, our expertise extends to knowledge of several funding streams, including FEMA Public Assistance (PA), Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR), Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF), Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and others. We are also versed in overseeing program conformance, disaster closeout, audit preparation services, conducting unmet needs assessments, and solving problems at the policy level. Hagerty’s Recovery Division works nationwide. In 2022, our divisional team operated in 26 states with 74 total projects. In one year alone, these projects supported $35.5 billion in FEMA PA funds, $14.4 billion in SLFRF funds, and $2.1 billion in CRF funds.

Incorporated based on what we do, the Recovery team leads with the core values of teamwork, integrity, innovation, and excellence. These values, instilled in every Hagerty Employee, give our clients a meaningful experience. Our Bay County, Florida, Housing team led with innovation, fostering streamlined and effective housing recovery strategies, engaging with State and Local partners, developing the Bay County Local Housing Assistance Plan (LHAP), and helping administer the County’s First-Time Homebuyer Program. These efforts helped the Bay County, Florida, community rebuild and improve its resilience in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. On August 31, 2022, Bay County was recognized at the Florida Housing Coalition (FHC) Statewide Affordable Housing Conference with the “Model for Outstanding Disaster Recovery Assistance” award.

The Howard County, Maryland, team’s accomplishments embody the value of excellence. The team has supported the County’s implementation and management of its $63.2 million ARPA SLFRF allocation. In February 2022, President Biden recognized Howard County for its use of ARPA funds, and in May 2022, the County received a National Association of Counties (NACo) Achievement Award in fiscal management for “Process/Engagement/Transparency Processes for ARPA Funding.”

These examples depict just some of what our division has accomplished recently, as there are many other significant achievements of the Recovery team. We recognize the importance and value of our team, as our people are what makes Hagerty so great. Thank you to our growing team for supporting our clients with integrity, innovation, excellence, and teamwork and for striving to help communities on their worst days.

Healthcare and University Programs | Remarks by Hagerty’s Vice President of Healthcare and University Programs, Jeff Bokser

The Hagerty Health and University team has helped bring more than $1 billion in FEMA Public Assistance (PA) and more than $3 billion in other federal and state funding to over 100 hospitals nationwide. This funding is vital to keeping the doors of hospitals open, creating surge capacity as needed, purchasing medical and surgical equipment for patient care, personal protective equipment to keep employees safe, and making temporary facility modifications for the care and treatment of patients throughout the public health emergency. Thanks to the hard work and tenacity of our team, who spent countless hours working to identify costs often spread out across multiple healthcare facilities, cost centers, and financial systems, hospitals and universities that engaged Hagerty were able to recover financially from COVID-19. We often receive referral phone calls from hospitals and universities seeking our assistance who tell us that a current or former client highly recommended our team. These are the best phone calls to receive and speak to the respect, work ethic, and quality our team members continue to deliver to hospitals and universities across the nation.

When Chris Justis, Managing Associate, first began recovery work with our New England-based hospital client, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) stated that if Hagerty Consulting could help identify $1 million in FEMA PA projects, the engagement would be deemed a success. To date, Chris has identified over $17 million and counting in FEMA PA projects far exceeding the client’s expectations.

When Hagerty’s Midwest-based Children’s Hospital client faced an overwhelming patient surge from Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), Flu, and COVID-19, Kara Koirtyohann, Deputy Director, helped develop language and strategy to provide information to the Governor’s office. This work prompted the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to write a letter to the President of the United States (US) to push for an RSV and Flu disaster declaration.

Madeline Tormey, Senior Manager, helped her Northeast-based hospital client identify eligible COVID-19-related expenses to keep American Rescue Plan (ARP) Rural Hospital Funding, which they thought would have to be given back, for community-based COVID-19 preparedness, response, and vaccination efforts. Madeline made this possible.

Hannah Randolph’s, Managing Associate, contributions to the COVID-19 cost recovery operation at a Texas University-based client have been invaluable. She has prepared several FEMA projects for submission, each with detailed and supportive narratives addressing any questions FEMA reviewers might pose. She effectively leverages her knowledge of the PA process and recent client experiences to identify potential eligibility and documentation concerns proactively. Her attention to developing robust and thorough narratives has led to reduced Requests for Information (RFIs) and more efficient review and obligation of submitted projects. Her knowledge, hard work, and willingness to contribute wherever needed have undoubtedly been key to the success of the University’s cost recovery operations.

The well-orchestrated team of Senior Managing Associate Jeanne Lenz, Managing Associates Katelyn Papura and Marisa McKenna, and Associate Mackenzie Forgacas, were brought on to support a Midwest hospital client previously working with FEMA on their own. As a result of their tedious and tireless work, projects eligible for FEMA reimbursement have grown from $3 million to over $30 million, with additional project opportunities underway.

Human Resources (HR) and Talent Acquisition (TA) | Remarks by Hagerty’s Directors of HR and TA, Sheila Tria and Walter Flores

The success of Hagerty is shaped by the critical role played by its Human Resources (HR) and Talent Acquisition (TA) divisions. These professionals have a range of responsibilities, including recruiting and hiring top talent, developing, and implementing employee development programs, administering benefits packages, and ensuring compliance with labor laws and regulations. With their extensive knowledge and expertise, HR and TA division members have made incredible contributions toward supporting the organization’s mission and driving it forward. Their tireless efforts focus on keeping employees motivated and engaged in achieving company goals. The HR and TA division members have also been instrumental in creating a positive work environment that promotes diversity and inclusion while facilitating employee personal and professional growth. These contributions have played a significant role in attracting and retaining top talent, which is a crucial component of Hagerty’s long-term success. Overall, the hard work and dedication of the HR and TA division members have been instrumental in building a strong and thriving organization that is well-positioned for future growth and success.

Information Technology (IT) | Remarks by Hagerty’s Director of IT, Keith Novak

Hagerty’s IT team members,  Sean Scanlon, Ryan Kelly, and Byung You,  are busy building out and ensuring the functionality of all the operational, infrastructural, administrative, and security systems and platforms that Hagerty relies on to support its departments, staff, and consultants. These resources equip the team to be more effective in serving clients and meeting their needs. Recently, the IT team successfully led a company-wide migration from a Google to a Microsoft workspace. This was an incredibly large lift that the team worked tirelessly to accomplish.

Operations | Remarks by Hagerty’s Director of Operations, Katie Freeman

Over the years, Hagerty has brought on key investments into our internal teams to build our capacity as we continue to grow. Hagerty’s Operations Team – which started with one other professional a decade ago – has grown to fulfill multiple internal organizational functions, expanding beyond our core business development and brand management initiatives. The Operations Team lives Hagerty’s values and brings humor, grace, and style to work with them daily. We would not be as strong as we are today without our people and the excellent work that they do every single day behind the scenes. Tori Abbott, Rachael Chambers, Quinn Musselwhite, and Alex Williams collaborate across the company as we develop proposals for our clients that address their needs across emergency management programs and are currently maintaining one of the highest submission rates in company history. Jordan Azizian, Katie Moy, and Liz Siegel support the whole company with design and graphics and were instrumental in our recent branding refresh. Zach Elkin flexes across the Operations Team, supporting our daily tasks along with integration with IT, Finance, and other corporate functions as we continue to build our internal infrastructure; he is currently focusing on how we advance into the Microsoft SharePoint environment. And our recent additions, Kate Lewis-Lakin and Michelle Masoncup are pushing us further as we advance to implement new financial systems and strengthen compliance (respectively). We truly have the right people in the right place at the right time.

Finance and Accounting | Remarks by Hagerty’s Director of Finance and Accounting, Keith King

The Finance and Accounting team deserves recognition for the daily excellence provided to our clients, internal employees, and subcontractors. I have witnessed the dedication, long hours, patience, difficult conversations, and decisions made over the last three years. This team continues to operate at a level that Hagerty companywide should be proud of and thankful for. Even without the shiny tools that most finance and accounting departments have, they have never wavered and are committed to excellence. Our firm’s success is a direct result of their dedication and upholding the principles of the organization.

I am proud to manage this group of individuals and would like all Hagerty professionals to celebrate their recognition for being the hidden jewels and outstanding employees they are. Please take a bow: Maura Byrdsong, Kim Cortes, Ibon Hernandez, Brittany King, Kiya Lewis, and Sabrina Taylor!

Communications | Remarks by Hagerty’s Director of Communications, Jessi Widhalm (Nalepa)

The small but mighty, Marketing, Communications, and External Affairs team at Hagerty works tirelessly to further the company’s brand and impact both internally and externally. From public relations and event management to internal communications, the team collaborates firmwide to ensure the success of our clients, our people, and our firm. Thank you, Sarah Herchenbach, Ashley Dalton, and Sydney Williams, for your creativity, diligence, and superior customer service – we could not do what we do without you!

Thank you to all our professionals for your continued hard work and unwavering dedication to our ever-important mission: helping our clients prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. 

Winter Storm Elliott Brings Record Low Temperatures and Snowfall Across the Nation, Impacts Continue Although Storm Has Passed

Tuesday, December 27, 2022 as of 2:00 PM ET

On Friday, December 23, the National Weather Service (NWS) reported that over 240 million people faced winter weather warnings or advisories as Winter Storm Elliott plunged temperatures to record lows and caused catastrophic blizzard conditions across the nation. According to the NWS, the storm met the criterion to be considered a bomb cyclone or an area of low pressure that intensifies rapidly. The storm produced strong winds and brutally cold temperatures in the Pacific Northwest before intensifying in the Great Lakes, where strong winds gusts generated whiteout conditions and rare “zero visibility” observations. The storm’s intensity caused thousands of flights to be delayed and canceled and many highways to be shut down. 

Across the nation, many states hit or tied record-low temperatures, with wind chills bringing temperatures even lower. The coldest confirmed wind chill occurred in Elk Park, Montana, where officials clocked a value of minus 75 degrees Fahrenheit. According to NBC News, there have been 63 fatalities attributed to the storm across 12 states, with most occurring in New York State.

 Twitter: Erie County, NY

According to New York state officials, this “once-in-a-generation storm” dropped over 50 inches of snow in some areas, prompting numerous regional driving bans and airport closures. In addition, over six million customers lost power at some point during the storm, according to PowerOutage.us. On Monday, December 26, President Biden approved New York’s emergency declaration, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to begin coordinating the disaster relief efforts in Erie and Genesee Counties.

Twitter: Governor Kathy Hochul

As of Monday, December 26, improved conditions have allowed rescue crews to begin responding to the hundreds of abandoned vehicles along the snow-covered Buffalo, New York highways. Numerous confirmed fatalities have been attributed to Emergency Medical Services (EMS) delay, while others involved prolonged exposure inside stranded vehicles or cardiac arrest. In total, authorities have confirmed 28 casualties in Erie County, New York, as of December 27. Driving bans continue to be in place in Erie County as the county begins to respond and recover from the storm. Individuals at risk are encouraged to remain up-to-date with information from their local NWS office and local government/emergency management office and follow guidance issued by local officials.

When the Snow Falls: Ready.gov

According to FEMA, winter storms can last from several hours to up to several days; disrupt access to heat, power, and communications; pose additional risks for vulnerable populations like older adults, children, those who are ill, and pets; and can “create a higher risk of car accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning, and heart attacks from overexertion.” In order to stay safe, it is important to pay close attention to local weather reports, the Emergency Alert System, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio for the latest warnings, watches, and advisories and to seek shelter immediately when instructed to do so.

In Review: The 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season


The 2022 Atlantic hurricane season officially ended on November 30, 2022, after producing 14 named storms, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Storms are named when they reach wind speeds of 39 miles per hour (mph) or greater and become hurricanes when their wind speeds reach 74 mph. This year, the Atlantic basin saw a total of eight hurricanes in 2022.

The 14 named storms and 8 named hurricanes of 2022. Hurricanes are marked by stars: NOAA

Two hurricanes this year, Fiona and Ian, became major hurricanes when they surpassed 111 mph. Hurricane Nicole, which made landfall as a Category 1 Hurricane in Florida on Thursday, November 10, was considered unusual by experts because it arrived so late in the season.


In May, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC), part of the National Weather Service (NWS), predicted that the Atlantic would see an above-average hurricane season, making 2022 the seventh year in a row to receive the label. Then on May 24, NOAA stated that they anticipated between 14 and 21 named storms, 6 to 10 hurricanes, and 3 to 6 major hurricanes through the 2022 season. On August 4, NOAA released an updated assessment of the season, with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell noting that “although it has been a relatively slow start to hurricane season… [we] cannot afford to let our guard down.” Residents of hurricane-prone areas were advised to stay vigilant and be ready when called upon to evacuate in the event of dangerous winds and storm surge. 

The slow start to the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season gave way in September when two major hurricanes hit the United States (US): Fiona, which made landfall on Wednesday, September 18 in Puerto Rico as a Category 1 and grew to a Category 4 headed for Canada, striking Nova Scotia with 105 mph winds on September 24; and Ian, which hit the Gulf Coast of Florida on September 28 as a Category 4, passing through Florida and making a second landfall in South Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane on Friday, September 30. Lee Mayfield, Hagerty’s Director of Response, echoes Administrator Criswell, saying “The 2022 Hurricane Season started off slow, and I think everyone was hoping for below average hurricane activity as we entered September. Ian’s landfall late that month confirmed that just one storm can make it a memorable season. The catastrophic coastal damage from Ian will make the 2022 season go down in history.” 

Hurricane Ian

On Wednesday, September 28, 2022 just after 3:00 p.m. EST, Hurricane Ian made landfall near southwestern Florida’s barrier island of Cayo Costa as a Category 4 hurricane with winds reaching 150 mph, tying Hurricane Ida in 2021 for the fifth strongest hurricane to hit the US in recorded history. 

Hurricane Ian hit the State of Florida after first strengthening from a tropical storm to hurricane in the central Caribbean on Tuesday, September 26. It made landfall in Cuba the same day, with high winds and severe storm surge that knocked out the island’s power grid. After crossing over Florida, Hurricane Ian re-entered the Atlantic Ocean as a tropical storm, then strengthened to a Category 1 Hurricane and made its second US landfall near Georgetown, South Carolina on Friday, September 30. Storm winds reached 85 mph and caused widespread flooding and damage to coastal regions, including storm surges reaching up to seven feet in some areas, power outages, and infrastructure damage to North Myrtle Beach and Pawleys Island piers.

According to NOAA,Hurricane Ian’s rainfall was a 1-in-1,000 year event for the most impacted areas of Florida. Rain totals reached 15 inches over a 12-hour span in Placida, Florida, just north of Cayo Costa. Lake Wales, Florida, located in central Florida east of Tampa, reportedly received almost 17 inches of rain over a 24-hour time period. Additionally, the cities of Winter Park, North Port, and Myakka City experienced 1,000-year flood events based on an estimated 12, 14, and 14 inches of rainfall in 12 hours, respectively. 

Areas just south of the eye of the storm including Fort Myers and Naples were impacted by record breaking storm surge, rising water levels and fast-moving flood waters that can pose the greatest threat to life and property during hurricane events. Preliminary data from flood sensors show that 60 miles of Florida’s southwestern coastline saw a storm surge between one and two stories high.With eyes on the scene, Hagerty’s Lee Mayfield noted, “The surge experienced on Fort Myers Beach, Pine Island, and Sanibel showed how destructive and dangerous storm surge can be. We should continue to educate the public on how real a threat this can be, especially in areas that haven’t experienced it before.” 

As a result of Hurricane Ian, more than four million customers across the state of Florida experienced power outages, including hundreds of thousands for many days after the hurricane passed. At a Thursday, September 29 briefing, Governor Ron DeDantis announced that emergency response crews had rescued more than 700 people to safety. According to Lee Mayfield, mobilizing mutual aid can be critically important to the success of response operations, “From a disaster response perspective, emergency managers supporting each other via mutual aid systems is a key driver of success. In Southwest Florida, professional emergency managers from Florida and across the country deployed to the area and were embedded in local Emergency Operations Centers for over a month. This support system is crucial and Florida’s jurisdictions are recovering faster because of these partnerships.”

Hurricane Ian hovering over Florida and the Caribbean, September 27: NOAA

The impacts of Hurricane Ian are significant. Ian currently ranks as the eighth-costliest US hurricane event since 1980 with over $50 billion in damages and is the fifth-deadliest US hurricane event since 1963, responsible for 145 direct and indirect fatalities (preliminary toll). 

The US Small Business Administration (SBA) has issued $1.2 billion in disaster loans throughout Florida and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has distributed $919 million in claims. In addition, on Monday, November 28, Governor DeSantis announced the launch of Florida’s first-ever state-led sheltering and housing program, providing temporary sheltering options and housing repair assistance to those in need.

As of Monday, December 5, FEMA has issued more than $3.31 billion in federal grants, loans, and insurance payments to Florida, including $792 million to individual households impacted by the storm and nearly $400 million to the State of Florida’s emergency response efforts. 

Hagerty’s Lee Mayfield is hopeful that these funding streams will bring a coordinated approach to lasting resilience in Southwest Florida. In his eyes, “Long-term recovery is complex and will take time, but there will be opportunity for significant investment in communities at all levels. Just like we collaborate and work together during the response phase, these partnerships will be equally as important in recovery.”

 As important as it is for individuals to stay vigilant and be ready to take action to evacuate, emergency managers and response agencies are key to the success of response and recovery activities in times of crisis. Mayfield notes that “Disaster response and recovery is a team sport. No one team or agency can be successful alone. It requires collaboration and partnerships at so many levels, and that was exemplified by the large number of responders who served and continue to remain focused on recovery across Florida.” 

These events serve as opportunities to learn and develop future plans and best practices, Community investments in long-term recovery, including preparedness planning for future storm events, are going to be essential for moving forward and ensuring that communities are able to respond and recover as effectively as possible.

Historic Winter Storm in Western New York Brings Record Snowfall

Tuesday, November 22, 2022 AS OF 4:00 PM EST

A multi-day lake effect snow event occurred in and around Buffalo, New York, from the night of Wednesday, November 16, to Sunday, November 20. The National Weather Service (NWS) of Buffalo lists unofficial snowfall totaling as high as 81.2 inches in Hamburg, New York. NPR reported snowfall rates as high as three inches per hour due to the Lake Ontario effect. According to CNN, Erie County received the largest amount of snowfall the County had ever received within a 24-hour period on Saturday, November 19. Wind gusts up to 45 miles per hour (mph) accompanied the snowfall and created “blowing snow” even after the snowfall stopped, according to NWS of Buffalo. The event was recorded as the third-highest three-day total of snowfall in New York State.

Twitter: Erie County, NY

As the intense snowfall created hazardous driving conditions, officials issued travel bans in 18 communities on Thursday, November 17, and the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) deployed over 500 snowplows to clear roadways. By Friday, November 19, the storm had caused numerous canceled flights at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport and the emergency closure of Amtrak stations in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Depew. According to Erie County officials, the storm has resulted in three confirmed fatalities.

President Biden approved New York’s emergency declaration on Monday, November 21, ordering federal aid be sent to 11 counties impacted by the severe winter storm and snowstorm. This declaration authorizes the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to begin coordinating disaster relief efforts, including identifying and mobilizing necessary resources.

As of Sunday, November 20, CNN reported that winter weather alerts had been issued for “over five million people from Michigan to New York,” as forecasters predict additional snowfall over the holiday weekend potentially creating hazardous travel conditions for many.

When the Snow Falls: Ready.gov

According to FEMA, winter storms can last from several hours to up to several days; disrupt access to heat, power, and communications; pose additional risks for vulnerable populations like older adults, children, those who are ill, and pets; and can “create a higher risk of car accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning, and heart attacks from overexertion.” To stay safe, it is important to pay close attention to local weather reports, the Emergency Alert System, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio for the latest warnings, watches, and advisories and to seek shelter immediately when instructed to do so.