June 1st marked the beginning of hurricane season for folks in the coastal areas of the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico.  More than 35 million Americans live in regions that are threatened by Atlantic hurricanes.

The best defense against hurricanes is public awareness and public preparedness.  Having just returned from Florida, it dawned on me that it would have been wise to seek advise about what to do in case of an emergency such as a tropical storm.  However, it was such a busy and fun time that we weren’t worried or prepared!  Maybe this message will reach some of you that are planning to visit areas where there is a real possibility of a hurricane.

According to NOAA, forecasters from their National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center call for a 50% probability of a near-normal season; however, there is more uncertainty this year due to global weather patterns.  Tropical storms are given names (Ana will be the first in 2009) when winds are sustained at 39 mph.  When those winds reach 74 mph, they become hurricanes and can develop into a major hurricane when winds reach 111 mph.  An average season produces 11 named storms, including 6 hurricanes with 2 major ones.  As if the high winds aren’t enough, other hazards that go along with hurricanes are flooding, storm surges, and tornadoes.

We hope that everyone who lives in these regions is prepared, but to be doubly sure, we want to remind you:

  • Have a family disaster plan.  Be sure to check with family or friends who live out of the danger area in case you may need to stay with them for a few days.
  • Be sure you have a disaster supply kit containing non-perishable foods, water, medications, manual can opener, flashlight and extra batteries.
  • Secure your home.  Reinforce doors, garage doors, shutters, and windows.
  • Listen to a NOAA weather radio.  Pay attention to forecasts.
  • Have a pet plan.  They are important members of your family and must not be left behind if at all possible.  If you have to go to a shelter, most of them won’t accept pets, so please contact a veterinary clinic or make other arrangements for a safe place to leave your pet in case of an emergency.
  • Be sure to keep your cell phone with you at all times.

If you are a tourist, find out what your options are to ensure your safety.  We hope that this season will be a breeze, and that the hurricanes might take this summer season off!