Preparedness touted as hurricane season gets under way

McKenzie Jackson | 6/5/2009, 2:10 a.m.
Like 35 million other Americans, metro Atlantans live in regions threatened annually by Atlantic hurricanes....

Like 35 million other Americans, metro Atlantans live in regions threatened annually by Atlantic hurricanes.

Now that the 2009 hurricane season is officially under way, the word is preparation for those who could be in the path.

Four to seven named hurricanes are expected during this years hurricane season, which kicked off June 1 and lasts through Nov. 30. One to three of them will become major hurricanes.

This seasons first tropical storm will be named Ana when it reaches sustained winds of at least 39 miles per hour. Tropical storms become hurricanes when they reach 74 mph. Major hurricanes come about when winds increase to 111 mph.

With fresh memories of hurricanes like Katrina, which demolished New Orleans in 2005, and Ike, which devastated Galveston, Texas in September last year, forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, FEMA and other weather forecasting agencies are preaching preparation early.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke says timely and accurate warnings of severe weather help save lives and property.

Public awareness and public preparedness are the best defenses against a hurricane, he said in a recent statement.

Georgia is one of 13 U.S. states and territories that are prone to hurricanes.

Charley English, director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and Homeland Security, said the Atlantic hurricane season brings threats of high winds, storm surge, tornadoes and inland flooding to all Georgia communities, but a majority of Georgians have not conducted a hurricane evacuation drill or created a ready kit.

It only takes one storm to devastate your community, English said. Being prepared makes you your own first responder if that storm should hit this year.

To help Georgians prepare, the states Homeland Security agency has created www.ready.ga.gov.

The website offers a list of items to include in hurricane preparedness kits. Items are inexpensive and easy to find and include water, food, a can opener, battery-powered or hand-crank radio, flashlight, extra batteries, first-aid kit, whistle, face mask, local map, wrench or pliers, garbage bags and moist towels.

The website also allows visitors to download family emergency plans or create a customized plan.

English said being prepared before a hurricane hits is the only way to ensure that you will be ready.

You can try to make preparations in the midst of the storm's formation, but it might be too late, he said.

Forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations weather service climate prediction center predict there is a 50-percent probability of a near-normal season, a 25-percent probability of an above-normal season and a 25-percent probability of a below-normal season.

Dr. Gerry Bell, one of the agencys lead seasonal hurricane forecasters, said the prediction is a guide.

The outlook is not just about the numbers, he said. Its also about taking action.

Prepare for each and every season regardless of the seasonal outlook. Even a near- or below-normal season can produce landfalling hurricanes. It only takes one landfalling storm to make it a bad season.