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Hurricane Season Begins

By Natalie Grant, USA, June 2011

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It’s been almost six years since Hurricane Wilma, the Atlantic Basin’s most intense storm on record. Ensuing damage was estimated to be over twenty billion dollars. Ten tornadoes were eventually spawned from Wilma alone, and approximately six million people lost power. Of the dozens of deaths resulting from the storm, almost all of them occurred somewhere in Florida.

The official 2011 hurricane season began June 1st and will end on November 30th. Most people know to keep lots of water and nonperishable foods stored up in case of an emergency. One should also be sure to have rain gear and rain boots, a first-aid kit, flashlights, tools for cooking, any prescription drugs needed, toiletries and hygiene items, extra batteries, and a radio. You’ll also thank yourself later for having playing cards, books, and other things to keep yourself entertained in case you find yourself with a few days to kill. Stock up on extra blankets and pillows as well.

Great advice for residents – but what about visitors? Should you cancel that weekend trip to Miami if there’s a minor storm advisory? Do you go, but leave the kids at home? What exactly is a hurricane, anyway? (A tropical cyclone is classified as a hurricane after it surpasses 74mph. Hurricanes are categorized from 1-5, with 5 being the most severe.)

Truth be told, the chances that your holiday is disrupted by a hurricane are slim to none. Weather patterns are much easier to predict than earthquakes, so at least those residing in or visiting the Atlantic Basin will usually have enough time to make necessary preparations if the situation arises. If there is an ordered evacuation, your hotel will assist you with ways to vacate the area safely and in a timely manner. In this rare case, don’t think about staying put – almost all of the fun activities and necessary businesses on which your vacation is depending will be shuttered and closed. What’s more, visitors are asked to evacuate before a hurricane of any Category, while residents can remain until Category 3. This is because of potentially limited infrastructure that may strain to accommodation everyone at once, and authorities must give local citizens enough time to evacuate without the extra burden of vacationers.

No place on earth is safe from our planet’s natural cycles – living in a developed country, it is at times too easy to forget the importance of humility and perspective. Although disasters will inevitably occur (as they have recently in Japan), a good way to appreciate their importance is to remember the significance of balance: without tropical cyclones, Florida would not have the warm breeze, tempting waves, and luscious seascapes that draw people to its alluring beaches.

For more information, visit the National Hurricane Center (nhc.noaa.gov) or tune in to frequencies 162.400 and 162.425 MHz for NOAA Weather Radio.

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