Hurricane season in the U.S. generally runs from late spring to late fall. Hurricane season in the Atlantic basin, which encompasses the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, starts June 1 and ends Nov. 30. It’s slightly longer for the Eastern Pacific basin, which includes the waters off the nation’s west coast. Its season lasts from May 15 to Nov. 30.
News agencies nationwide, especially those in coastline communities, monitor the weather closely during this period, keeping an eye out for tropical storm watches and hurricane warnings. Tropical storms are milder than hurricanes but still are dangerous because they can cause flooding, knock down trees and power lines and wash out roads and bridges. Hurricanes, on the other hand, can be catastrophic, destroying homes and businesses and leaving some areas flooded and without power for days to months. For example, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was responsible for more than 1,800 deaths and an estimated $151 billion in damages, according to a 2015 report from the U.S. Census Bureau.
A journalist’s role is critical when it comes to reporting on tropical storms and hurricanes. The public relies on news reports for the most up-to-date weather information as well as guidance on how to prepare and when to start preparing for dangerous conditions. In the midst of weather-related emergencies, government agencies look to news organizations for help quickly distributing details about evacuations, school closures, shelters, medical care, transportation, food and clean water.
Reporters who write about weather as part of their beats and even those who only pitch in on such stories occasionally should familiarize themselves with emergency-management procedures in their cities, counties and states. They also should know which local and national organizations monitor weather patterns and issue warnings and advisories. It is a good idea to identify key sources, including media liaisons and press officers, and to establish relationships with these individuals before they are needed.