This Friday, June 1, marks the start of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, and this summer marks the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew’s devastation of South Florida. While the western communities were spared the brunt of that storm, our neighbors to the south were greatly affected — to the point where many of them relocated to our area. Besides showing us what a strong hurricane can do to our region, Andrew also showed us that a life-changing disaster can occur at any time.
The 1992 hurricane season was mostly uneventful. It wasn’t until late August that a named storm made landfall. But because that storm’s name was Andrew, it didn’t matter how much calm there was before the storm. It struck South Florida as a Category 5 hurricane, causing billions of dollars in damage. However, while Category 5 storms like Andrew don’t come along often, that is of little consolation. Even a Category 1 hurricane can cause chaos.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts 2012 will see a less active season than those of recent years. But it doesn’t matter how many storms are predicted for this season. As we learned 20 years ago, it takes only one storm to bring life as we know it to a screeching halt. Because of this, we urge everyone to start planning now, if you haven’t already done so, and be prepared for a possible lengthy power outage. Stock up on the necessities such as water, batteries, candles, matches and non-perishable food items. Ensure that your home will be secure by purchasing hurricane shutters (or plywood, if that will work) and covering up any holes in your roof, garage door, etc.
If you have any prescriptions you can’t live without, be sure to get refills as soon as possible. Never wait until the last minute; that can be as dangerous as any physical threat from the hurricane. Because we’re increasingly reliant on cell phones, and many people no longer have landlines, it’s important to keep all batteries fully charged and have backups as well as car chargers. If you have a yard or patio, be aware of all the possible projectiles you would need to move, and have a plan for quickly storing them away.
And for those who don’t feel safe staying home, it is important to be prepared as early as possible, especially if your plan is to leave town. Figure out which is the best route to your destination and get a head start. The last thing you want to do is race against the storm. For those planning to stay at a local shelter, Seminole Ridge High School and Palm Beach Central High School are the two American Red Cross hurricane shelters serving the western communities. For more information on hurricane preparedness, visit the National Hurricane Center’s web site at www.nhc.noaa.gov.