Finally, a less dire hurricane forecast

But weather watchers warn homeowners not to become complacent

Published: May 22, 2014 03:00 PM
Photo: Consumer Reports

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The anticipated development of El Niño this summer may result in a calmer 2014 hurricane season, according to today’s forecast from the the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. For the six-month hurricane season that begins June 1, NOAA predicts a 70 percent likelihood of 8 to 13 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 3 to 6 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 1 to 2 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5 with winds of 111 mph or higher).

Those numbers are near or below the seasonal averages of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes, based on the average from 1981 to 2010, reports NOAA. The Atlantic hurricane region includes the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. With memories of Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy still vivid, NOAA also announced that it will issue new storm surge maps and warnings for coastal areas in the days before a tropical storm or hurricane is expected to arrive.

Despite the favorable forecast, NOAA urged those who live in hurricane-prone areas not to become complacent. “Even though we expect El Niño to suppress the number of storms this season, it’s important to remember it takes only one land-falling storm to cause a disaster,” said Kathryn Sullivan, NOAA administrator.

Indeed, after a series of disastrous storms in recent years, Consumer Reports has stepped up its tests of generators and chain saws, two crucial tools that homeowners need in the event of a power outage or downed trees. If you need to buy or replace your equipment, check our recommendations. Plus here’s some advice from our experts on what to do with the equipment you have now.

Troy-Bilt XP7000 30477

What to do now. If you own a generator, now’s a good time to make sure it starts. Some stationary generators automatically make periodic checks but if you own a portable generator try to start it before you actually need it. Especially if you left gas in it last time you used it, which is a no-no.
Need a new one? In our ongoing tests of generators,  Consumer Reports found 13 that performed so well that they made our list of top generator picks. Our top-rated portable generator is the Troy-Bilt XP7000 30477, which at $900 is a CR Best Buy. Kohler topped our list of both large and small stationary generators with the large Kohler 14RESAL, $3,700, and the smaller Kohler 8.5 RES-QS7, $3,200.

Chain saws
What to do now. As with all outdoor power equipment, proper maintenance will ensure that you’re not left in the lurch when you need it most. If it won’t start, check your fuel.
Need a new one? Topping our tests of gasoline powered chain saws is the Stihl MS 180 C-BE, $230, which at 11 pounds is easy to handle. If you hate the hassle of gas, consider the corded electric Worx WG303.1, $100, which is the same weight as the Stihl. The trade-off is you give up a little in cutting speed so consider the size of the trees you may have to clear.

National Hurricane Preparedness Week starts Monday. To get ready, check the guides from NOAA and Consumer Reports.

—Mary H.J. Farrell

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