Plan now to be safe

Published 8:26 am Friday, May 29, 2015

Forecasting the severity of the Atlantic hurricane season almost seems like a losing proposition. As it did on Wednesday, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration annually publishes a prediction of the number of tropical storms that are expected, the number that are likely to become hurricanes and the anticipated number of storms that will make landfall in the United States.

The information is especially important for emergency planners in municipalities and states along the Gulf Coast and eastern seaboard, and it helps officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency make educated guesses about the disaster resources the nation might need to have in place for the season. For an especially active season, for example, FEMA might make sure to increase stockpiles of emergency supplies and stage them in more strategic locations.

But NOAA’s announcement Wednesday of a forecast for below-normal tropical storm activity this hurricane season can be deceptive. Meteorologists predicted a 70-percent likelihood of six to 11 named storms with winds of 39 mph or higher, of which three to six could become hurricanes, including up to two Category 3, 4 or 5 hurricanes.

Such a season would be short of the normal pace, officials say, but they also urge caution about becoming nonchalant about hurricanes because of the prediction.

The simple fact is that just one major hurricane can cause major devastation, as Hampton Roads has experienced time and time again throughout its history. One Category 5 hurricane — an admittedly rare, but not impossible, phenomenon for this part of the coast — would be, perhaps, one of the four or five most important and deadly events in all of Hampton Roads’ history.

Given those stakes, it makes sense to quite literally prepare for the worst.

The first thing to do, according to the government, is to make a plan. Where will you go if you’re ordered to evacuate? What route will you take to get there? How will you keep in touch with family members, both within the evacuation zone and outside of it?

The next step is to begin preparing your evacuation kit. You’ll need, at the least, a full tank of gas in your vehicle, enough food and water to last three days, a flashlight, a first aid kit, a can opener, maps, cash, a cell phone and charger and some basic tools. Any special needs — like prescription medications, baby diapers and formula and food for pets — should be considered, as well.

In this age of Doppler radar and other advanced weather equipment, most folks in the U.S. have plenty of warning about a coming hurricane. But things can start to get ugly very quickly once the storms arrive on our doorstep. Take the time now to make sure you’ll be safe then.

For more information and suggestions, visit