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Hurricane Season is Here

The American Red Cross is getting ready for this year’s hurricane season and reminds everyone to take time to get prepared, too.

Hurricane season started on June 1 and already a storm system in the Caribbean had the potential to develop into a tropical storm. The season lasts until the end of November and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts there will be twelve to eighteen named storms, six to ten hurricanes, and three to six major hurricanes this year.

This weekend, Red Cross chapters from the Caribbean to the Canadian border are participating in a hurricane readiness exercise to test their ability to respond if a powerful hurricane makes a direct hit on the eastern seaboard, which could affect as many as 70 million people. Dubbed “Hurricane Earl 2.0,” the exercise will test the Red Cross response if a hypothetical Category 3 hurricane created a four-foot storm surge, causing major flooding for the large cities along the East Coast.

In addition, the Red Cross is also prepositioning relief supplies like cots, blankets and ready-to-eat meals in key hurricane prone areas. By moving supplies in advance, the Red Cross will be better able to help people in the path of tropical storms when the time comes.

Every hurricane season is filled with uncertainty, but making preparations now can be the best protection against dangerous storms. The Red Cross has steps you can take to get ready.

1. Build a disaster supply kit or check the kit you prepared last year. Include a three-day supply of water and ready-to-eat, non-perishable foods. Don’t forget a manual can opener, battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries. Your kit should also have a first aid kit, prescription and non-prescription medications, and copies of important documents.

2. Prepare a personal disaster and evacuation plan. Identify multiple routes you could take in the event of an evacuation. Choose two meeting places—one near your home, and one outside your area—in case you can’t return home. Make plans for your pets. Select an out-of-area emergency contact person and make sure everyone in your family has this person’s contact information.

3. Be informed. Know what a hurricane WATCH or WARNING means.

A hurricane WATCH means that hurricane conditions are possible within the specified area. If one is issued:

  • Bring in outdoor objects such as lawn furniture, hanging plants, bicycles, toys and garden tools. Anchor objects that cannot be brought inside.
  • Cover windows with storm shutters or pre-cut plywood.
  • If time permits, and you live in an identified surge zone, elevate furniture or move it to a higher floor to protect it from flooding.
  • Fill your vehicle’s gas tank.
  • Check your disaster supply kit to make sure items have not expired.
  • Pay attention to local television or radio weather updates.

A hurricane WARNING means that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the specified area. If one is issued:

  • Listen to the advice of local officials, and leave if they tell you to do so.
  • Secure your home by unplugging appliances and turning off electricity and the main water valve. If you are not advised to evacuate, stay inside, away from windows, skylights and glass doors.
  • Do NOT use open flames, such as candles and kerosene lamps, as a source of light.
  • If power is lost, turn off appliances to reduce damage from a power surge when electricity is restored.

Hurricane Fast Facts

Hurricanes are strong storms that threaten life and property with their resulting hazards such as flooding, storm surge, high winds and tornadoes.

On average, five hurricanes strike the United States coastline every three years. Of these five, two are major hurricanes, category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane scale.

Today hurricanes have male and female names, but in years past, only female names were used.

Most hurricanes rage harmlessly in the sea.

Often the worst hurricane damage is caused by a storm surge which is like a giant wall of water pushed onshore by hurricane winds.

When a hurricane is especially devastating, its name is permanently retired and another name replaces it.

Hurricanes do not occur in the South Atlantic Ocean, where the waters are too cold for them to form.

Hurricane damage is not always limited to communities along the coastline. Storms can travel inland for hundreds of miles. In 1972, Hurricane Agnes came ashore in June and ravaged the mid-Atlantic region with the worst damage occurring from central Virginia through Pennsylvania to New York. It is important for everyone to get prepared. For more information on how to prepare for the 2011 hurricane season, visit the Red Cross web site.