As they face down an above-average hurricane season, South Florida residents need to be especially prepared this year, officials said.
A report released in late May by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration states that this year’s hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, is expected to be especially heavy, with as many as 17 storms forming. An average year brings 12 named storms.
And out of these storms, five to nine could become hurricanes with two to four becoming a Category 3, 4 or 5, the report stated.
Robert Molleda, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Miami, said the report is not a forecast of how many storms will affect residents.
“We’ve been hit by hurricanes in South Florida in years where we had low numbers of storms,” Molleda said. “In 1992, for example, we only had seven storms form that entire hurricane season…and one of those seven was Hurricane Andrew which was a devastating Category 5 hurricane that hit South Florida.”
Residents should have been preparing before the season started, he said. And if they haven’t, they should start doing so.
Assistant Chief Raul Herbello of the Sweetwater Police Department also thinks preparing ahead of time is key to being safe.
The police department, he said, likes to “be ahead of the ball game” and started its administrative preparations for the season in the middle of May.
These preparations, he said, include checking equipment, revising and reviewing the operational plan, back up plan and contacting key players.
The department also reaches out to the community. Once a hurricane is confirmed to be heading toward Miami, he said, the department contacts the elderly members that are part of its assisted-living “Home Alone” project.
Besides preparation instructions, members are offered an alternate housing location for the storm and if they accept, an officer will escort them.
Those that prefer to stay in their homes are placed on a list, Herbello said, so if an incident occurs, the department can check to see if someone is there.
Residents should also take the time to assess their property at the start of the season, said Molleda, to ensure their home is hurricane ready.
Some things residents should look out for are: hanging powerlines, trees that need to be cut, windows that need to be covered and if anything needs to be secured or removed in the area around their home.
Residents should also make sure they have enough food and water for at least three days, according to Molleda, but Herbello thinks residents should have enough supplies for one to two weeks just to be safe.
Once a hurricane warning is announced, residents should check the forecast at least every six hours, according to Molleda, and once the storm is “making a direct threat” they should check the advisories at least once an hour.
Residents who live near large bodies of water also need to have an emergency plan in place in case an evacuation is ordered.
And these evacuations should be taken seriously, according to Molleda, as the risk of storm surges—the “leading killers” during hurricanes—increases in those areas.
“The water is often times more dangerous than the wind,” Molleda said.
People can refer to websites such as readysouthflorida.org, hurricanes.gov and their county’s website for more information on hurricane safety, Molleda said, but it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t be preparing for a specific storm but for the “probability” of one.
“Hope for the best but definitely prepare,” Molleda said.