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Hurricane Season officially runs from June 1 through November 30. That doesn’t mean we can’t have a hurricane in any other month, but over 97% of tropical storms have occurred during this period. Historically, approximately half of the major hurricanes to make landfall in Southeast Florida have occurred in September, with the remainder split between August and October.
If you see reports of a tropical storm forming in the area, start paying regular attention to the forecasts. The National Hurricane Center gives regular storm updates every 6 hours (5 a.m. Eastern Time, 11 a.m., 5 p.m. and 11 p.m.). All of the news media generally carry the updates. Find out if the storm is forecast to develop into a hurricane, and find out its projected path. The forecasts generally include a line indicating the storm’s projected path, but also a “cone of probability” around the line, which represents a reasonable margin for error. It’s important to focus not on the line, but rather on the cone. If your location is within the cone, get prepared. Otherwise, you probably don’t have too much to worry about. Pay attention, but go about enjoying your vacation.
Most of us locals remain sanguine about Category 1 and even Category 2 hurricanes, assuming you have sturdy shelter away from the beach. Category 3 and up (winds of 111 m.p.h. +) are considered “major hurricanes” and are a real worry. The damage produced increases exponentially with the winds. A Category 4 hurricane could cause 250 times the damage of the Category 1 storm. But it’s important to note, that while forecasters have been doing really well forecasting the storms’ projected paths, intensity (wind speed) is much more difficult to predict, and prone to significant, rapid changes. The Category 1 storm you planned on riding out with a six-pack could quickly morph into a Category 4 monster, and you’ll wish you’d been WAY better prepared.
Unless you are ordered to evacuate, evacuation is likely not your best option. Traffic will be abominable as everyone has the same idea as you. The airports will close as soon as the weather starts getting bad – well before the storm is projected to hit.
If you find you’re in the path of a hurricane and you need to hunker down, get a preparedness checklist (the newspapers and grocery stores should all have them) and start pulling together your supplies. In addition to prescription medicines and sufficient food and beverage for a few days, the most important items, in my opinion, are: Cash, a flashlight with batteries, a battery-operated radio or TV, a full tank of gas, a full charge on your cell phone battery and a car charger. The power will probably go out early in the storm, and working ATM machines and gas stations can be hard to find for some time after the storm passes. In fact, the ATMs, gas stations and even the grocery stores empty out quickly in advance of an approaching hurricane, so don’t waste time. The local news stations do an awesome job of talking you through the entire storm on the radio / TV, and this can be very reassuring when you’re sweating in the dark, full of anxiety.