The Atlantic hurricane season begins on June 1 and runs through the end of November. Early summer forecasts suggested that this year’s season would be active. Landfall of Hurricane Hanna in south Texas last week provides an alert that hurricane season is indeed underway.

Continuing uncertainty from the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic increases the importance of anticipation, alertness and preparation for severe weather. Because the area surrounding Dalton can be considered inlands, the damage possible from a hurricane striking coastal areas seems remote. Recent hurricanes have demonstrated clearly the associated damage that can occur, even at inland locations. Severe summer storms, independent of hurricanes are always a possibility.

The University of Georgia Marine Extension and Sea Grant has developed a new handbook about preparing for natural hazards like hurricanes. It is aimed at homeowners and other Georgia residents. Natural hazards likely to affect Georgia, especially in coastal areas, are described and steps residents can take to prepare for and recover from hazardous weather events are discussed.

According to Pam Knox, UGA agricultural climatologist, “I participated in the development of this guide along with many other UGA personnel and other experts.”

Knox indicates the handbook will be available soon on the Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant website (gacoast.uga.edu). If copies are not yet accessible, Knox is willing to provide access to copies for folks who contact her directly. Knox adds “Even if you are not in Georgia, most of the information should be widely applicable to most of the Southeast and might be useful to you.“

Georgia’s Atlantic Coastal area includes 13 named barrier islands and more than 40,000 acres of salt marsh. These unique resources, and more, are concerns of the scientists associated with UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

The organization provides research, education, training and science-based outreach to assist Georgia in solving problems and realizing opportunities for its coastal and marine environments. By advancing research, education and training, and outreach, UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant promotes the economic, cultural and environmental health of Georgia’s coast and works to prepare citizens to become good stewards of coastal ecosystems and watershed resources. UGA Marine Extension assists marine industries by finding ways to increase their efficiency and effectiveness and encourages the development of new, environmentally sustainable industries.

The Georgia Sea Grant College Program is part of a national network of 34 Sea Grant programs located in every coastal and Great Lakes state, Puerto Rico, Lake Champlain and Guam. These programs serve as a core of a dynamic university-based network of over 300 institutions involving more than 3,000 scientists, engineers, educators, students and outreach experts. The network engages with academia and a wide variety of partners to address issues related to the coasts, oceans and marine resources.

Georgia’s coastal zone is rapidly growing in population, development and industry. Between 2000 and 2030, state projections anticipate a coastal population rise of 50%. The coastal zone is the second fastest growing region in Georgia, just behind metropolitan Atlanta. However, even with this potential growth, most of the state’s population lives far removed from coastal issues.

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant work to engage and inform the entire state’s citizenry through efforts to: support sustainable economic and population growth on the coast; provide tools to guide wise and efficient use of coastal resources; build a strong partnership between metro Atlanta and Georgia’s coast; bolster a robust state seafood industry; and assist developers in adopting sustainable building practices.

As inland and coastal communities compete for natural resources and upland growth threatens the health of coastal marshes and estuaries, UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant supports a balanced approach toward land use, economic development and ecosystem health.

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is supported by a mixture of funding from the state and federal government with an annual budget slightly over $4 million. The State of Georgia provides funding for Marine Extension and maintains facilities in Brunswick, Savannah and Athens. Georgia Sea Grant receives approximately $1.3 million from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with approximately 40% of these funds dedicated to research projects at institutions around the state. Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant generates roughly $112 million in economic impact on the state economy annually.

Roger Gates is the agricultural and natural resources agent for University of Georgia Extension, Whitfield County. Contact him at roger.gates@uga.edu.

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