Consider yourself warned: Hurricane season is here

info@islandpacket.comMay 31, 2013 

Every type of major weather event comes with its own set of hazards, but one thing that can be said for hurricanes is that we know well in advance when they're coming.

Unlike the 16-minute warning for the devastating tornado May 20 in Moore, Okla., we often have several days of watching potential storm tracks to get ready for a hurricane's landfall.

So why are so many of us who live near the coast unprepared? The simple answer is because we choose to be.

Emergency management officials do their part to get us ready. At the start of every hurricane season (June 1-Nov. 30), they cite chapter and verse on what we need to do:

  • Make sure our insurance is up to date. Take photographs of our belongings.

  • Have an evacuation plan. Where will we go and what will we take with us if an evacuation is ordered? Have a plan for our pets.

  • Have a recovery plan. What will we do if we can't return to our home or property for weeks after a storm?

  • Be prepared for power outages. Stockpile enough food and water to last several days. This advice can be helpful even absent a direct hit. It doesn't take a full-blown hurricane to cause problems, as many of us know from past close calls.

  • Most importantly, when officials tell us to leave, we should leave -- and the sooner, the better. One advantage is that you won't be bound to specific evacuation routes as you will be under a mandatory evacuation. You also are much less likely to sit in backed-up traffic and much more likely to find a place to stay.

    Starting last year, the state no longer calls for voluntary evacuations. When the governor issues an order to evacuate, it is mandatory. If an evacuation order is issued, all of Beaufort County is subject to that order. In years past, an approaching Category 1 storm meant areas such as Hilton Head Island would be evacuated, but not more inland areas.

    Strong winds are but one of the dangers associated with these storms. Storm surge, particularly at high tide, can bring devastating flooding even miles inland. A slow-moving storm can produce heavy rainfall. Tornados are also possible.

    Forecasts for the 2013 hurricane season bring all of this into sharp focus. The National Hurricane Center forecast calls for 13 to 20 named storms, with seven to 11 becoming hurricanes and three to six becoming major hurricanes (a storm with winds stronger than 110 mph).

    Complacency is our enemy. It's been seven years since a major hurricane made landfall in the United States, but it will happen again, and there's no excuse for our not being ready for it.

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