In today’s media environment, with the constant pressure to keep eyes on screens and you clicking on sites, it’s hard to know when something is an actual threat vs. something there is no need to worry about. After all, if your revenue stream is based on interactions, telling people it’s OK to have a life and go for a walk or relax isn’t in your best interests. So how is the average person supposed to navigate that environment? With tropical systems, it’s actually fairly straightforward …
First, and I hate to have to say this, but unless a storm is actually threatening your area, with a few exceptions I can’t recommend most local news or their apps. They are under too much pressure to keep you amped up and tuned in, and most apps are thinly disguised attempts to siphon off as much of your valuable personal data as possible. The “threatening your area” exception is so you can keep up with local closures, evacuation plans, etc. Otherwise, far too many broadcast weather people just can’t bring themselves to say “don’t worry about this, check back tomorrow.” Certainly check the local news at least once a day to keep up with what is going on locally, but don’t get too excited by weather news if there is no actual watch or warning up. And as for Those Weather Channels, the less said the better. By far your best source for hurricane information is the US National Hurricane Center (NHC).
The primary source for the average person to keep up with the tropics is the Tropical Weather Outlook (TWO). It has both text and graphics versions – don’t skip the text (scroll down under the graphic) as the graphics are not the whole picture! The TWO is produced four times per day, at 2am, 8am, 2pm, and 8pm. There is no need to hang on every update of invest areas if they are more than a couple hundred miles from your location – and even then, unless the NHC TWO (tropical weather outlook) specifically says “Interests in (your area) should monitor the progress of this system.” there is no need to worry. They are extremely conservative (on the safe side) with these bulletins, and will include a caution that watches/warnings might be needed on short notice if there is a chance of that.
My advice for the average person is to check the TWO in the morning, if there isn’t a live storm or anything within your ~600 mile range, don’t worry about it until the next day. If there is, or it does say “monitor”, and if it’s an invest, go to twice a day (8am/8pm) and maybe check the 2pm update if it’s really close (say around the Bahamas or northeastern Gulf for the southeastern US, or the Gulf/northwestern Caribbean for Florida). If you’re a night owl or working shifts, there is a 2am update for TWO’s. Once a storm develops, the advice really doesn’t change, only the times, since storm bulletins are published at 5am, 11am, 5pm and 11pm. Then watch the NHC’s “Key Messages” product for that storm. There aren’t any examples at the moment, but I try to always post a link to those in any posts about live storms in NHC’s area of responsibility. It’s a great, no-hype summary.
There is no need to get stressed out over hurricane season if you have a plan (and a reminder, make sure your insurance is up to date well in advance because policy changes are generally frozen once an active storm is being tracked). FEMA/DHS has a good site for checklists (link). Checking the TWO’s once a day makes sense – just don’t get worked up over invests (or live storms for that matter) until you need to.