It’s June, which means that the Atlantic hurricane season has arrived here in South Florida. This means that we need to remind area residents the importance of incorporating the Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared” into their lives for the next several months.
This is especially important since the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) expects 11 to 17 named storms this season, more than the 30-year average for the Atlantic Basin.
The 30-year historical average (1981-2010) for the Atlantic Basin is 12 named storms, including six hurricanes and three major hurricanes. A major hurricane is one that is labeled a Category 3 or stronger storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
There is no strong correlation between the number of storms or hurricanes and U.S. landfalls in any given season. One or more of the storms forecast to develop this season could hit the U.S., or none at all. But memories of 25 years ago should cause residents of the coastal United States to prepare, no matter the forecast. The 1992 season produced only six named storms, but, one of those was Hurricane Andrew, which devastated South Florida as a Category 5 hurricane. The August storm was the first named storm of the season.
Important things to do as we head into the storm season include creating an emergency communication plan with your family before a hurricane; having emergency supplies in place at home, at work and in the car; checking your insurance coverage, since damages caused by flooding are not covered under normal homeowners’ insurance policies; knowing your local community’s evacuation plan and evacuation routes, how to receive alerts and shelter information; and listening to local officials for storm information.
For starters, residents should find out what types of wind and water hazards could happen where they live. Those on the coast are most at risk for extreme winds and flooding from rain and storm surge. Those inland are at risk for wind, thunderstorms, flooding and power outages. Those living in a storm surge hurricane evacuation zone need to figure out where to go and how to get there if told to evacuate. According to the Department of Homeland Security, you do not need to travel hundreds of miles. Identify someone, perhaps a friend or relative who doesn’t live in an evacuation zone or unsafe home, and work it out with them to use their home as your evacuation destination. Be sure to account for your pets, as most local shelters do not permit them. Put the plan in writing for you and those you care about. Keep your car’s gas tank at least half full in case you need to quickly evacuate, and know your community’s local hurricane evacuation plan. Be sure to identify several evacuation routes.
The time to prepare for a hurricane is before the season begins, when you have the time and are not under pressure. If you wait until a hurricane is at our doorstep, the odds are that you will be under stress and could make the wrong decisions. Plus, that’s when much-needed non-perishable foods and supplies dwindle quickly and may not be available. Take the time now to create and write down a hurricane plan, know where you will stay to be safe for a possible storm, and get your supplies in place.
Emergency managers urge residents to have a 72-hour disaster survival kit. At a minimum, this should include the following: non-perishable food, water (at least three gallons per person), blankets and pillows, cash, cell phone chargers, clothing, a first aid kit, flashlight and batteries, keys, a battery-operated NOAA weather radio, toiletries, toys for children, tools, important documents, prescription drugs and pet care items. Luckily for us, this weekend is a tax-free hurricane supply shopping weekend. Starting Friday, June 2 through Sunday, June 4, certain hurricane supplies will be tax-free in the State of Florida. We urge you to be prepared.
For more tips on getting prepared for the 2017 hurricane season, visit www.nhc.noaa.gov/prepare.