The 2009 hurricane season is here

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By The Staff

It’s time to take action. The official start of the 2009 hurricane season was Monday, June 1 and it will be with us through Nov. 30. If you’ve been around a while, you know hurricane season used to expire in October. That was bumped up to mid-November and finally the end of month.

So it’s a long siege, and will seem like a long time to keep that extra food, water and battery supply on hand. But a few precautions now can help eliminate or at least reduce worrying and those frantic last-minute trips to the store.

Unfortunately, National Hurricane Preparedness Week, May 24 to 30, has kind of slipped by without much publicity. NOAA and the Department of Homeland Security break down the hurricane experience into manageable steps. The week concludes with Saturday, which is National Day of Family Preparedness.

The effort has produced a great Web site full of valuable information for getting safely through this hurricane season. So even if you’re a hurricane veteran, visit www.hurricanes.gov/prepare and bookmark it.

While the National Weather Service has increased the amount of hurricane season information it makes available, it doesn’t make any commitments. Part of that agency’s 2009 outlook through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center calls for a 50 percent chance of a near-normal season. That translates to six to 14 tropical storms, with four to eight of them becoming hurricanes and one to three of them becoming major hurricanes.

However, in its initial outlook for this season, NOAA warns that global weather patterns are imposing a greater level of uncertainty for the 2009 season than in recent years. And to its credit, NOAA cautions residents to take this season seriously, regardless of the outlook.

Marion County is taking that same approach for this hurricane season and has its new emergency operations center up and running should conditions require county action.

Even the recent heavy rains have showed how vulnerable this region is to flood damage and last season’s brush with Tropical Storm Fay left some areas with long-term effects from the wind and heavy rain.

So get ready for hurricane season early. Visit the Web site, make your plans, then you can really enjoy summer.