June 1 brought the official beginning of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season and forecasters from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) are predicting above normal activity this year.
NOAA’s expert forecasters believe there will potentially be 13 to 17 named tropical storms with seven to 10 becoming hurricanes. Of those, three to five could register as Category 3 strength or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale of measuring Hurricanes. Hurricane researcher Dr. William Gray with Colorado State University also predicts there is a 74 percent chance that a major hurricane will hit the Atlantic coast of the U.S. this year.
What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You
Despite this year’s grim predictions, a recently released Mason-Dixon poll, commissioned by the National Hurricane Center, reveals that many residents of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts still do not have a hurricane survival plan. The poll finds that more than 44 percent of people who live within 30 miles of the shore in 18 Atlantic and Gulf Coast states say they feel "not too" vulnerable or "not at all" vulnerable to a hurricane.
The poll concluded that despite the major impact of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma during the 2005 season, 88 percent of people surveyed have not taken any further steps to safeguard their homes and that 16 percent would defy orders to evacuate.
In 2003, Hurricane Isabel devastated several areas along the east coast proving that coastal residents are not the only ones who need to prepare for the worst. Reaching as far inland as West Virginia, Isabel knocked out power for days and caused widespread flooding and wind damage to unsuspecting and ill-prepared residents.
A Red Cross volunteer stands among the wreckage of a house destroyed by Hurricane Isabel in 2003. Isabel caused much damage along the Atlantic coast and reached as far inland as West Virginia. Even if you don't live near the coast, take the time to prepare yourself and you loved ones this hurricane season.
(Photo Credit: Stock Photo/American Red Cross)
Prepare Before the Storm
With so many residents of coastal areas unconcerned about hurricanes, it is likely that people who live even farther inland are even less prepared, although they often suffer heavy flooding and power outages after hurricanes make landfall. It is important, no matter where you live, to prepare your family and your home for this hurricane season.
Assemble a disaster supplies kit for your home now, before the storm hits. Make sure to include a first aid kit containing essential medications and at least three gallons of water per person in your home. Canned food and a can opener are a must along with protective clothing and raingear. Be sure to also include a battery powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries in case of a power outage and store supplies in a waterproof, easy-to-carry container, such as a plastic tub with handles. You can also buy your already assembled kit from the Red Cross online store.
Everyone in your household should identify ahead of time where to go if ordered to evacuate. Choose to go to a friend or family member’s home in a nearby town or even a motel and keep the telephone numbers to these places handy along with a road map of your area. You may have to determine alternate routes out of town if main roadways are closed or congested with traffic.
Listen to your local radio and tv stations for important evacuation information and instructions. If you are advised to evacuate, do so immediately and take only the most important items such as:
- Prescription medications and medical supplies.
- Bedding and clothing, including sleeping bags and pillows.
- Bottled water, battery-operated radio and extra batteries, first aid kit and flashlight.
- Car keys and maps.
- Documents including driver’s license, Social Security card, proof of residence, insurance policies, wills, deeds, birth and marriage certificates, tax records, etc.
Know the Difference
Before a storm hits, forecasters will issue a hurricane watch or warning depending on the severity of the storm. A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible in your area usually within 36 hours. A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected within 24 hours.
If a hurricane watch is issued, listen to your local radio and tv stations for updates on the storm. Remember to bring lawn furniture, trash cans, outdoor decorations or anything else that could be picked up by the wind inside your home. At the first sign of bad weather you should fill up your car’s gas tank in case you receive an evacuation order from local authorities. Last but not least, be sure your disaster supplies kit is up to date and fully stocked with water, canned food and first aid supplies.
If a hurricane warning is issued, listen to local officials and evacuate immediately if the tell you to. If you are not advised to evacuate, stay indoors away from windows and glass. Be aware that tornadoes can form miles away from the storms eye and can occur during the storm and even after it has passed from your area. You will be safest near the center of your home in a closet or bathroom without windows.
Remember, disaster can strike at any time and without warning. Being prepared for life threatening events such as hurricanes can mean the difference between life and death. Whether you live on the shore or in the mountains, take the time to prepare now and you’ll thank yourself later.
All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can help the victims of thousands of disasters across the country each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to victims of disaster. The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster, please do so at the time of your donation. Call 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org.