Get ready for hurricane season

by Kelly Deichert
Air University Public Affairs

6/3/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Hurricane research and a surge of tornadoes devastating the South make preparation for this year's hurricane season more vital than ever.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that the Atlantic hurricane season, which began Wednesday and continues through November, will have 12-18 named storms, with winds of 39 miles per hour or higher. Of these storms, 6-10 could become hurricanes with winds of 74 mph or higher. Three to six of these storms could become major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5) with winds exceeding 110 mph.

These numbers fall within the average annual figures of 15 total storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes since 1995.

Seasonal outlooks predict the number of storms but not where they will hit.

"The tornadoes that devastated the South and the large amount of flooding we've seen this spring should serve as a reminder that disasters can happen anytime and anywhere," Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Craig Fugate reported on the NOAA website. "Now is the time, if you haven't already, to get your plan together for what you and your family would do if disaster strikes."

President Barack Obama declared May 22-28 Hurricane Preparedness Week, urging Americans in high-risk areas to plan for storm damage and evacuations.

"Our nation has seen devastating hurricanes and storms, and we must not let our guard down as we prepare for this year's hurricane season," he wrote in the proclamation. "We cannot prevent a hurricane from making landfall, and awareness of the threat is not enough -- we must translate this knowledge into action, and work together to develop prepared and resilient communities."

National agencies provide guidance on hurricane preparedness. NOAA's National Hurricane Center lists information on formulating an evacuation plan, aiming to save lives and property. The Red Cross posted a checklist on its website guiding people on what to do before and after a hurricane.

Develop a family plan -- A family's plan should be based on their vulnerability to the hurricane hazards. They should keep a written plan and share their plan with other friends or family. Determine escape routes and places to meet in case of emergency. Establish a plan for pet care, too.

Know the lingo - The Red Cross defines a "hurricane watch" as an expected threat within 48 hours and encourages those within the watch to keep informed and be ready to act. A "warning" indicates an expected threat within 36 hours. The Red Cross advises those in a warning to complete storm preparations and leave the area if advised by authorities.

Create a disaster supply kit -- There are certain items people need to have regardless of where they ride out a hurricane. The disaster supply kit is a useful tool when you evacuate as well as making you as safe as possible in your home. Think of items people use every day: cell phones and chargers, medications and vitamins. What are the children's needs: formula, diapers, toys. Those who cannot return home will need items such as blankets, pillows, cash, non-perishable food and a can opener.

Secure your home -- There are things that people can do to make a home more secure and able to withstand stronger storms. Check the insurance coverage. Flood damage is not usually covered by homeowners insurance.

Learn about hazards -- There are websites that can give information about the community's vulnerability to specific hazards. These include hurricanes as well as other weather related hazards. Know a home's vulnerability to storm surge, flooding and wind.

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