EDITORIAL: Hurricane season — hope for the best, but plan for worst
When we wake up today, we may not feel any different. The sun will probably be shining, it will be hot and tourists will be pouring into our beautiful coastal area via highways and airports.
But June 1 marks the official start of hurricane season, a day it’s easier to ignore after a decade of relatively quiet tropical activity.
There have been times when just the date on the calendar was enough to set folks on high alert. In the years immediately following Hurricane Erin and Hurricane Opal, local folks had lots of stories to tell and had become almost accustomed to living on the edge of a weather emergency.
A few relatively quiet years followed and then we were hit by Hurricane Ivan, Hurricane Dennis and Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans. All of those storms left their mark. They destroyed homes, flooded neighborhoods, tore up roads and left beaches littered with debris and depleted of sand. Even Katrina, a few hours to the west, filled local shelters and hotels with refugees, some of whom stayed to become full-time residents.
After that, it became almost second nature for Emerald Coast residents to own generators and keep gasoline on hand, as well as supplies of batteries, food and water. Important papers were kept close at hand and many families had an escape route planned.
And then it went quiet.
It’s been years since this area faced a serious storm threat. We’ve been lucky. And we hope that this season promises more of the same.
Forecasters are calling for a “near-normal” Atlantic hurricane season, but also admit it’s difficult to predict how many tropical storms and hurricanes will arise over the next six months. An average season is one with 12 named storms, including six hurricanes — three of which will be major ones.
We should hope for the best, but plan for the worst.
After all, we’ve already had one named storm before the season even began and a low-pressure system near the Bahamas last week became a tropical depression.
Forecasting has come a long way even in the last 10 years. It’s almost certain that if a storm is heading our way, we will have time to prepare. But the best way to prepare is to do it before an emergency is heading your way. Start now and let’s keep our fingers crossed that this year slips quietly by us again.