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Hurricane Season Is Here: Are You Ready?

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Hurricane season in the Atlantic and Caribbean is underway, along with calls for residents along the coastline to be ready.

Forecasters from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predict a slower than usual season, with six to 11 named storms, three to six possibly hurricanes, and one or two of those Category-3 or higher. Lead meteorologist Gerry Bell says the main player is El Nino.

“Which is a climate phenomenon that’s centered over the Pacific Ocean, but can strongly affect the hurricanes across the Atlantic,” Bell said. “It’s expected to last through the hurricane season.”

That estimate is below the median, about 12 named storms and six and a half hurricanes, according to forecasters at Colorado State University. Bell says there are two factors that go into NOAA’s projection. The first is the water temperature in the Atlantic Ocean; the second are decades-long climate patterns.

“Historically, anywhere from 25-40 years at a time,” said Bell. “And these climate patterns are centered over the Atlantic basin, producing what we call ‘High-Activity Eras.’ We’ve been in a High-Activity Era since 1995.”

“I was going to say ‘so what?’ but we don’t pay a whole bunch of attention to the long-range forecast because all it takes is one storm to hit you, and it’s a very bad year,” said John Dosh, Escambia County’s Emergency Management Director.

“A prime example is 1992,” said Dosh. “The first storm of the year didn’t occur until August, and that was Hurricane Andrew.”

Andrew, which slammed into south Florida, caused 65 fatalities and $26 billion in damage overall. It’s currently the fifth costliest hurricane in Atlantic hurricane history,

One change for the 2015 season for NOAA is an increased emphasis on storm surge, using new products such as graphics. Dosh says storm surge has been a main focus at the EOC for a long time.

“It’s one of the things that causes the most damage and kills the most people,” said Dosh. “Storm surge is huge in our planning and preparedness process.”

It’s been ten years since Hurricane Dennis slammed ashore in Santa Rosa County. Dosh and other officials’ concerns are twofold: residents who have become complacent, and those who have moved to the coast since Dennis. 

Preparation is key. Escambia County’s John Dosh and other officials urge residents to have a disaster plan – including supplies to get by for at least 72 hours after a storm.

“Water – one gallon per person per day for consumption – [and] non-perishable food items,” Dosh said. “You want to make sure you’ve got paperwork. Maybe copies of birth certificates [and] insurance paperwork. Have copies in your disaster supply kit.”

Something new locally is an emergency notification system, Alert Escambia. Residents who sign up can receive notifications via text message, email or phone call, their choice. To subscribe, go to www.myescambia.com/be-ready.

The names for tropical storms and hurricanes for 2015 are: Ana (tropical storm, made landfall last month in South Carolina); Bill, Claudette, Danny, Erika, Fred, Grace, Henri, Ida, Joaquin, Kate, Larry, Mindy, Nicholas, Odette, Peter, Rose, Sam, Teresa, Victor, Wanda

Those names would be followed by the Greek alphabet, if needed, as was the case in 2005.