On your mark, get set, fret! Hurricane season is almost under way, and you know what that means.
Six months of watching, waiting and worrying.
Six months of satellite maps, computer models and the dreaded cone of concern.
Six months, followed by six short months until it starts all over again.
Here now, an A-to-Z guide to the storm season.
A is for anxiety, the state we'll be in until Dec. 1.
B is for batteries, which have been sitting on my shelf so long I hope they still work. Especially the ones for the remote control, after I get sick of hyperventilating weathercasters.
C is for candles, which also come in handy when the thunderstorm knocks out your power.
D is for depression, as in tropical depression. Used in a sentence: I went into a tropical depression when my windstorm insurance bill arrived.
E is for eclairs, which I like to eat by the dozen when we're in the cone of concern.
F is for Fugate, Craig Fugate, the head of FEMA. Fugate, the former Florida hurricane czar, actually knows his stuff.
G is for government, which everyone likes to complain about. Until there's a storm. Then we want lots of government, as soon as possible.
H is for hysterical, the tone too many strike when two clouds start wrapping around each other in the Lesser Antilles.
I is for ice, which you'll need to keep your hurricane party beer cold. Also comes in handy if a storm actually hits.
J is for June 1, the start of the hurricane season in the Atlantic.
K is for Katrina. You may recall her.
L is for long-range Forecasts, the silliest things ever. Sorry, here's what we should say: Nobody knows how many storms there'll be or where they'll hit, but all it takes is one Big One to seriously ruin your decade. Right, New Orleans?
M is for media hogs, what local politicians turn into when a big storm looms near.
N is for the National Hurricane Center, based in Miami. Another essential website (www.nhc.noaa.gov).
O is for Oreos, which I also like to eat by the dozen when we're in the cone of concern.
P is for plywood. Along with bottled water and gasoline, part of the Holy Trinity of frantic pre-storm purchases. And did I mention gas is now $67 a gallon?
Q is for quick, the speed you'll need if a Cat 5 is coming and you live on the beach.
R is for Read/Rappaport, Bill Read and Ed Rappaport, the National Hurricane Center's top cucumbers who'll coolly guide us through storms.
S is for shutters, which everyone in the world has except me.
T is for Twitter, the hip new way some folks will communicate during a storm (if the cell towers hold).
U is for UKMET, one of the major computer models used to project hurricane paths. If you can name more than three, you've lived in a hurricane zone too long.
V is for vapid, the storm coverage that entails live shots of bending palm trees and surfers on the beach as a television reporter stands outside admonishing people for being outside.
W is for Walter, Whitney, William, Wendy, Wilfred and Wanda, the last names on the storm lists. Beyond that, it's on to the Greek alphabet.
X is for X-rays, what you'll need if you attempt to go windsurfing during a hurricane.
Y is for Yucatan, the peninsula that sees plenty of its own storm action.
Z is for Zantac. At the peak of the season, when your stomach is churning like the Atlantic.