On the heels of an unwelcome visit by a surprisingly strong Tropical Storm Isaias, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has revised its forecast for the hurricane season, concluding that conditions are favorable for a record year.

The new outlook predicts “19 to 25 named storms (winds of 39 mph or greater), of which 7 to 11 are expected to become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or greater), including three to six that could become major hurricanes (winds of 111 mph or greater).”

This has already been a very active season in the Atlantic. Extremely warm ocean waters have fueled the formation of nine named storms so far — an average season produces two such storms by August — and forecasters expect that to continue.

That’s obviously not ideal for Hampton Roads, which is uniquely vulnerable to storm surges and flooding. North Carolina protects this region, often taking the brunt of storms that form in the Caribbean and points further east, but a direct hit is always possible — and would be devastating.

Tropical Storm Isaias reminded us that even weak storms can cause widespread damage and chaos — even the loss of life — and that preparation is nothing to take lightly. So check those storm supplies and keep an eye on the forecasts. Get ready for the worst, and hope for the best.

Sales tax holiday

Speaking of storm supplies, this is Virginia’s sales-tax holiday weekend, which offers residents a small, but welcome, financial incentive to purchase items that can help them in the event of an emergency.

The sales tax weekend began Friday morning and concludes Sunday night, making the purchase of school supplies, storm gear and energy-efficient appliances exempt from the commonwealth’s sales tax, which is about 6% in Hampton Roads.

While it might not be necessary to buy a lot of back-to-school clothing for kids who will unfortunately begin their year in online learning, the weekend still affords residents a chance to make those purchases a little cheaper.

Same goes for storm supplies, most of which is included in the holiday. That means batteries, flashlights, weather radios, tarps, water containers, chainsaws and generators can all be had without paying sales tax. (That’s your clue to stock up on many of these items if you don’t already have them on hand.)

The holiday also exempts Energy Star and WaterSense high-efficiency appliances, which can reduce household energy and water bills. A lot of folks are tackling home improvement projects in the pandemic, and this might provide added incentive.

There are qualifying restrictions and legal rigmarole involved; check the state Department of Taxation website (tax.virginia.gov) for all the details.

Storm cleanup

One last bit of storm-related business worth mentioning today: This region owes a debt of gratitude to the utility line workers and public works employees for their exhaustive efforts this week.

Tropical Storm Isaias wasn’t expected to make much of a mess when it came through Tuesday morning, but the system’s strong winds felled trees, toppled power lines and spawned tornadoes that caused widespread damage.

But before the storm’s last bands had passed through the region, Dominion Energy workers deployed to help the more than 400,000 homes that lost power. That proved to be slow, arduous work in some places, and it took days for many people to regain power.

At the same time, municipal employees fanned out into their communities to help with tree removal, debris cleanup and general maintenance — valuable hands helping those in need at a very difficult hour.

It’s easy to get frustrated by the pace of that work. Someone without power finds little reassurance from promises that workers are doing their best and will get things up and running soon. But we recognize the diligence and professionalism of these workers and are thankful for their tireless efforts.

To everyone who went above and beyond in the aftermath of this week’s weather, a grateful region thanks you.

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©2020 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)

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