Hurricane Season

The storm names for the 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season. If there are more than 21 tropical cyclones, the National Hurricane Center utilizes the Greek Alphabet - the last time this occurred was during the 2005 hurricane season. Alex, Bonnie, Colin, Danielle, Earl, Fiona, Gaston, Hermine, Igor, Julia, Karl, Lisa, Matthew, Nicole, Otto, Paula, Richard, Shary, Tomas, Virginie, Walter.  Yes, the spelling is correct. :-)

In 2004 and 2005, the Gulf Coast went through one of the most hellacious two-year stretches on record. Four hurricanes slammed the United States in 2004; and the following years, a record number of storms formed, with Katrina, Wilma, Rita and Ike smashing ashore in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

You would think people got the message to be prepared.

With a new hurricane season starting today, a new study concludes too many of us are woefully under-prepared, under-educated, and under-motivated.

And worse, we don't know it.

"Too few people in the most dangerous areas realize they're at risk, and too many people in relatively safe locations think they are at greater risk than they are," Florida State University geography professor Jay Baker, a veteran of such studies, said last week.

Baker's study, commissioned by the Florida Division of Emergency Management, found that nearly two-thirds of residents in zones that would be evacuated in a major storm - of at least Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale - don't believe they'd be at risk from both wind and water, or didn't know.

And nearly as many inland residents believed their homes also would be unsafe, which leads to unwarranted evacuees clogging roads.

Survey figures are down from 2006, when 44 percent said they were better prepared for a disaster than they had been in the 2004-2005 storm seasons. In 2010, only 38 percent said they were better prepared than in 2000-2005.

Last week, a national Mason-Dixon poll of people from Virginia to Texas similarly found that nearly half the people in America's hurricane strike zone say they don't feel vulnerable to a hurricane or other severe weather; and one in three of us has no family disaster plan or hurricane preparation kit.

The poll came the same day federal forecasters predicted an "active to extremely active" hurricane season, with a 70 percent probability of 14 to 23 named storms, eight to 14 hurricanes and three to seven major hurricanes. The seasonal average is 11, six and two.

Baker's most recent survey asked the same questions as those in a survey he did in the spring of 2006, with storms still fresh in people's minds, he said from Tallahassee.

Among the highlights from respondents:

• About half of residents did not have a definite evacuation plan, up slightly from 2006.

• Very few people, knew the lead times for watches and warnings, and even fewer were aware those lead times are changing this year. Both will be announced 12 hours earlier than before, meaning tropical storm and hurricane watches will be issued when conditions are possible on the coast within 48 hours, and warnings will be issued when conditions are expected within 36 hours.

• Coastal residents said they had emergency lighting, important papers, prescription medicines, battery-powered radios, and adequate gasoline in their cars, but were less likely to say they have enough water and ice, about the same as 2006.

• Most people believe it is reasonable for agencies and organizations to have relief supplies available within 48 hours of a hurricane. When asked whether they expect that, a larger number said no; instead, they expect to be on their own for at least three days. That's similar to 2006.

• Two-thirds said they expected they'd be without power for a week or less after a storm, with 19 percent predicting 24 hours or less. The 2006 responses were similar, but people now were slightly more optimistic about how soon power would be restored.

• Eighty to 90 percent said they've seen broadcast and print information. About 70 percent said they have access to the Internet, but only about a third had gone to local or state emergency management web sites or the National Hurricane Center's web page. That's similar to 2006.

• Most said they have some sort of window protection, more than in 2006; but most had a system that had to be put in place when a storm threatens. The reported amount of window protection was higher in 2010 than in 2006.

Check out our Industry Links Tab for ideas on how to prepare for Hurricane Season.
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