The 2015 hurricane season blew in on Monday, and this week is a good time to start assembling a survival kit and creating or updating an evacuation strategy -- if you haven't already accomplished these important annual tasks.
This year's reminder about being prepared comes amid predictions of another slow storm season -- the various forecasts show only six to 11 named storms with three to six reaching hurricane strength (12 is typical). Those predictions should not fuel complacency. Playing those odds is risky business. As experts point out, the odds of being hit don't change year to year, they are the same every year, akin to flipping a coin.
Remember, just one hurricane can exact catastrophic damage. Hurricane Andrew proved that during the slow storm season of 1992, crippling South Florida. The Category 5 monster slammed into the Sunshine State in August as the first hurricane of that season and only the fourth tropical cyclone.
With winds that reached 175 mph and heavy rain peaking at almost 14 inches in one place, Andrew caused about $25 billion in damage and 44 fatalities in Florida alone.
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This is the 10th anniversary of Katrina, which landed as a Category 3 hurricane -- first in Louisiana and then in Mississippi. The storm took the lives of 1,800 people, mostly in New Orleans after hurricane surge protections failed. One report blamed many of the deaths on complacency, with residents playing "hurricane roulette." It is all too easy to misjudge a storm's power and downplay the threat, but not grasping the enormity of the situation can be fatal.
Florida's surging population, especially in coastal communities where storm surge heightens the threat, is a concern for emergency management officials. With the addition of 2 million more people since the last hurricane landfall in the state in 2005 -- with more than 50,000 now calling Manatee County home -- those newcomers should come to grips with their own vulnerability and the dangers of these storms.
Experts call the lack of hurricanes hitting the United States over the past nine years -- an unprecedented streak -- simply a matter of luck. That breeds complacency, the enemy of emergency management. Our luck will run out; it's only a question of when.
Preparedness does not require a monumental effort. Most people already possess many elements of a storm survival kit. Flashlights and batteries, candles and waterproof matches, duct tape and pocketknife are among those likely around the house.
One gallon of water per person per day is recommended, with filling empty and cleaned 2-liter soda bottles a cheap option. Plenty of nonperishable food and a can opener should be set aside, too.
Cash, travelers checks and vital documents (birth certificates, passports, insurance policies and property records, to name some) should be easy to reach should an evacuation be ordered.
If you missed the Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch Herald's Hurricane Survival Guide 2015, published on May 24, all the information is available online through a link on the Bradenton.com home page. The evacuation map lists routes and shelters, plus find your residence's storm surge zone.
In addition, you'll find live hurricane tracking, breaking storm news and updates on county emergency alerts at Bradenton.com/hurricane.
Remember, too, that an approaching hurricane will bring a rush at grocery and hardware stores. Bare shelves could result. Play it smart by preparing.