In this October 2018 photo, Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center Program Director Allegra Belliard directs member of the Knights of Columbus from St. Agnes Parish where to place donated items for Hurricane Michael Relief. (FC FILE PHOTO BY BOB REDDY)

Be prepared: 2019 hurricane season starts June 1

Venice  |  It is that time of year when the weather turns hot and humid across Florida and a wary eye turns toward the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico for the development of potentially hazardous hurricanes.

The 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season starts in just one week on June 1 and now is the time for people to make sure they are prepared and ready should a tropical system threaten. Emergency managers stress that preparation and vigilance are keys to safety and security from the power of nature.

For 2019, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expects an average hurricane season, 12 named storms (winds in excess of 39 mph), six hurricanes (winds in excess of 74 mph), and three major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher with winds in excess of 110 mph). Therefore, the names Andrea, Barry, Chantal, Dorian and others are something to which everyone should pay attention.

Experts caution that even in the quietest of hurricane seasons, a destructive storm can strike anywhere and at any time. The most poignant example was in 1992 when there were only seven named storms. It is the year that Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida with Category 5 winds (165 mph), causing billions in damage, including in the southern parts of the Diocese of Venice.

Recent history

In 2018, there were 15 named storms, including two historic hurricanes making landfall in the U.S. First was Hurricane Florence hitting the Carolinas in early September with devastating flooding. Then Hurricane Michael struck the Florida Panhandle in early October with what has now been determined to be Category 5 strength winds – the strongest rating – leaving behind a path of destruction. The two storms combine to kill 102 and leave behind $49 billion in damage.

Lest we forget that it was only in 2017 when Hurricane Irma raked across the Diocese of Venice. The storm made landfall near Marco Island and roared its way up the spine of Florida leaving in its wake a path of destruction from which some areas have not fully recovered. Other storms of note in recent memory were Hurricane Charley in 2004 and then Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma in 2005.

Preparedness

While keeping a wary eye on the weather forecast is important, being prepared before a hurricane approaches is just as vital. Preparedness means many things, but a key part is simply knowing where you live in relationship to evacuation zones in your city or county. Also, knowing how well constructed your home is can also impact your preparations and planning in the event an evacuation is ordered.

Before a storm threatens, every family should have a Disaster Supply Kit ready to go. Hurricane Irma should be fresh in the minds of everyone, because the storm spread devastation and misery across large portions of the Diocese. Do not forget the problems many had in getting basic supplies in the aftermath. 

Disaster Supply Kit

The Florida Department of Emergency Management recommends each Disaster Supply Kit should have enough water and food to last three to seven days. That means one gallon of water per person/per day, plus enough non-perishable foods that does not require electricity to prepare and consume safely. Those who care for infants or the elderly also need to think hard about what specialty items will be needed.

Other keys items for a Disaster Supply Kit include: clothing (rain gear and sturdy shoes), blankets/pillows, first aid kit, all medicines and prescription drugs, toiletries, flashlights, battery-operated radio, cash, important documents in a waterproof container, and any items for your pets.

To help encourage the citizens of the Florida to buy their emergency supplies now, the annual Florida Hurricane Preparedness Tax Free Week is May 31 to June 6. This means many key supplies are tax free, including: batteries, flashlights, generators and much more.

If you have a Disaster Supply Kit that went unused in 2018, go through it to ensure all items are fresh and the batteries are still good.

Anyone who has a medical or transportation issue and may need assistance evacuating, such as the elderly or handicapped, they must contact their county emergency management office to register for evacuation help. This system is usually updated each year so registering in the past will not guarantee being on a list for 2019.

Expert tips

Another key action is to make sure your insurance is up-to-date, and photographs are taken of all valuables before the storm. Keep in mind that hurricane and flood insurance can take up to 30 days to go into effect, meaning buying insurance now will mean it could take until July, a month into the season, before the policy can be used.

Lastly, should you decided to evacuate, it is recommended to have multiple routes planned because, as many learned ahead of Irma, traffic will be a problem. This could mean leaving early or simply not going as far, but it is important to plan ahead on where you are going ahead of time. 

Officials discourage travelling out of state to avoid a hurricane, but instead recommend going to the home of a friend/family-member who lives out of the path of predicted storm surge and the most dangerous winds, and then only if you are ordered to evacuate or do not feel your home is safe enough.

By knowing what actions to take before the hurricane season begins, when a hurricane approaches and when the storm is in your area, as well as what to do after a hurricane leaves your area, you can increase your chances of survival. 

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