It’s that time of year again!
As many of you probably know, today, June 1, is the start of the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which lasts until November 30. NOAA’s initial outlook for this season, issued on May 24, is for a “near-average” season, with 9-15 named storms (winds 39 mph or greater). 4-8 of those are forecast to become hurricanes (winds 74 mph or greater), with 1-3 of those hurricanes attaining major hurricane status (winds 111 mph or greater). This forecast is based on the probable development of El Nino in the coming months, which means cooler than average ocean temperatures, potentially inhibiting some tropical cyclone development.
It’s important to point out though, that we have already had two named storms even before the official start of Hurricane Season, Alberto and Beryl, with Beryl making landfall just below hurricane status near Jacksonville, FL. Seasonal outlooks can be useful prediction tools when used correctly, but we want to emphasize that it only takes one storm to cause severe damage and loss of life.
This year is also the 20-year anniversary of the landfall of Hurricane Andrew, one of the very few Category 5 hurricanes to hit the United States. The year 1992 was significantly “below average” with only 7 named storms, but that didn’t stop Hurricane Andrew from making landfall near Homestead, FL and causing catastrophic damage in Florida, Mississippi, and Georgia, valued today at around $26.5 billion.
So what can you do to prepare? Start by making a plan! If you live on or near the coast of the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico, see if you live in a hurricane evacuation zone, and decide what you will do and where you will go if a hurricane or tropical storm comes your way. Another key is to make sure all insurance is up to date, especially flood insurance if you live in a storm surge zone or flood plain near the coast. An excellent resource for making a plan and emergency preparedness kit is http://www.ready.gov/hurricanes.
Remember, don’t wait to prepare until a hurricane is knocking down your front door! Preparing early and having an emergency plan in place is the key to a safe hurricane season. Enjoy the summer, and let’s all hope we can breathe a sigh of relief come November 30!