National Hurricane Preparedness Week begins today, and a storm that could become a hurricane has already been spotted, 500 miles (804 kilometers) south-southwest of Bermuda, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm is not yet strong enough to have been given a name, and it has only a 30 percent, or medium, chance of starting to rotate. The first Atlantic storm that begins to rotate will be called Alex. The tropical storms and hurricanes that follow it will be named as follows: Bonnie, Colin, Danielle, Earl, Fiona, Gaston, Hermine, Igor, Julia, Karl, Lisa, Matthew, Nicole, Otto, Paula, Richard, Shary, Tomas, Virginie, and Walter.
The storm is not expected to pass over the Gulf of Mexico oil leak.
Although this week is National Hurricane Preparedness Week, meteorologists do not really expect any severe storms to develop until the end of July. Hurricane season itself officially starts on June 1.
The National Hurricane Center has made a change in its hurricane watch and warning policies this year — it will issue watches and warnings for tropical storms and hurricanes 12 hours earlier than it did in previous years.
The National Hurricane Center recommends that families living in hurricane-prone area take the following steps to prepare for a storm:
- Designate a safe room or area in the home for each type of hurricane hazard: storm surges, floods, and high winds. Depending on the circumstances, the safest place may not be at home, but somewhere in the community.
- Think about what escape routes could be used to leave the home in various circumstances, and choose a meeting point.
- Designate an out-of-state family member or friend who can serve as a family contact, so that if family members are separated, each family member will plan to get in touch with the same person.
- Make a plan for what to do with family pets if it becomes necessary to evacuate.
- Post emergency telephone numbers by the phone and make sure that all children in the family know how to dial 911.
- Check insurance coverage to find out what kinds of hurricane damage may be covered by homeowners insurance.
- Keep vehicle fuel tanks full.
- Pack non-perishable emergency supplies and a disaster supply kit including a gallon of water per person, per day, for at least three days; non-perishable food for at least three days; food for family members with special needs; a non-electric can opener; cooking tools and fuel; paper plates; plastic utensils; blankets and pillows; clothing, including rain gear and sturdy shoes; a first aid kit, including prescriptions; toiletries, including toilet paper and feminine hygiene products; a flashlight and batteries; a battery-operated or wind-up NOAA weather radio; telephones; spare cash and credit cards; keys; toys, books, and games; important documents such as insurance, medical records, bank account numbers, Social Security cards, etc.; tools; and pet care items. Families may want to keep a disaster kit in a family vehicle or near the front door, so that it is ready to go in the event that it becomes necessary to evacuate.
If a hurricane warning is issued for a community, the National Hurricane Center recommends securing all outside lawn furniture and anything else that could become a projectile in high winds. During hurricane season, families may want to put family heirlooms and valuable items that are not needed on a daily basis into a secure storage unit that is far enough from the coast not to be vulnerable to storm surges, and that meets building codes for high winds. Usually, the National Weather Service alerts communities at least 24 hours before a hurricane hits the coastline, so there may be enough time for vehicles that are not needed in an evacuation to be secured in a previously identified hurricane refuge, such as a self storage facility or a marina, before a hurricane hits. Many self storage facilities have spaces that are large enough to accommodate cars, motorcycles, and boats, and some marinas offer hurricane moorings for boats.