Hurricane season starts today
Steve Bandy is the managing editor of The Crowley Post-Signal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 337-783-3450.
At the stroke of midnight, the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season official began today.
Beginning June 1, everyone living along the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea or Atlantic Ocean starts to cast a wary eye on the tropics. As the temperatures warm up through summer, so does most of the Atlantic Basin, generating the energy necessary to produce tropical storms and hurricanes.
Following one of the quietest hurricane seasons in decades in 2013, forecasters are predicting a below-average 2014 season.
Depending upon who you believe, forecasters are predicting anywhere from nine to 11 named storms, three to five of which will reach hurricane status with sustained winds of 74 mph or greater.
Of those hurricanes, one or two are expected to attain major hurricane status — Category 3 (or 111-mph winds) or stronger on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
This is slightly below the long-term average of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
The onset of El Niño, a short-term phenomenon associated with above-normal water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, is expected to increase wind shear across portions of the Atlantic basin and thus suppress the development of tropical storms this season.
However, as Acadia Parish Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Lee Hebert reminded earlier this week, “It only takes one to mess things up.”
As hurricane season begins, there are a few things citizens should do — or should already have done — to be prepared.
• Check your insurance coverage to make sure it reflects the current state of your home. Consider adding flood insurance and coverage for additional living expenses in case your home is uninhabitable after the storm.
• Do a home inventory to save time and make filing a claim easier, ensuring you don’t forget anything. Document the contents of your home with a video camera or other home inventory tool. Keep receipts for valuable items and consider separate coverage for these things.
• Protect your property by installing the following:
- Hurricane shutters or keep half-inch outdoor plywood boards for each window. If using boards, be sure to install anchors and pre-drill holes so you can put them up quickly.
- Head and foot bolts on doors for extra protection.
- Hurricane straps or clips to help hold the roof to the walls of your home.
- A safe room that can withstand high winds and flying debris.
Also, be sure to keep up with your landscaping, diseased and damaged tree limbs can become serious hazards in high-speed storm winds.
• Stock your emergency supply kit with basic survival items. You’ll want to have a two-week supply of water and ready-to-eat, non-perishable food for every family member and pet.
If you evacuate, you’ll want a three-day supply of the same. Other items to add to your supply kit include:
- Manual can opener.
- Essential medicines, including eyeglasses and contact lenses.
- Personal hygiene items such as toilet paper, toothbrushes and toothpaste.
- Change of clothing.
- Paper towels, hand sanitizer and eating utensils.
- First-aid kit.
- Battery-powered flashlight and radio with extra batteries.
- Blankets, pillows and sleeping bags.
- Mosquito repellent and citronella candles.
- Two coolers — one for food and one for ice.
- Plastic tarp for roof-window repairs and tools.
- Special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members.
• Have an established evacuation plan to help reduce stress. If you don’t have transportation of your own, make arrangements now with friends or family members and don’t forget about the pets.
You want to make sure the whole family is covered, so identify an out-of-state contact that everyone will call if separated and establish a meeting location at least 50 miles inland.
Lastly, gather important papers to take with you, including:
- Driver’s license or personal ID.
- Social Security card.
- Proof of residency (deed, lease or utility bill).
- Insurance policies (home, auto, flood, wind).
- Birth and marriage certificates.
- Stocks, bonds and other negotiable certificates.
- Wills, deeds and copies of recent tax returns.
- Personal checkbook and any unpaid bills.
• Don’t take silly risks like running back into a home that’s been destroyed or refuse to evacuate when you’ve been ordered to, just to salvage material possessions. Things can be replaced — people cannot.