June 1 marks the start of Florida’s annual hurricane season and it will be above average for the seventh straight year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
This week the NOAA forecasted between 14 and 21 named storms (winds of 39 mile per hour or higher), with six to 10 possibly becoming hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher) and three to six as major hurricanes (with winds 111 mph or higher) for the Atlantic season.
Locally, Levy County Emergency Management director John MacDonald says that every year brings several storms, but it’s hard to tell which ones will hit the area hard and that people need to avoid being complacent.
“On the preparedness side of it, having your stuff prepped for going to a shelter, having your supplies if you decide you’re not going to evacuate and you want to stay in your home, just to make sure you have the stuff in place to last at least 72 hours,” he said.
From Nov. 30 through April 1—during what MacDonald calls “the blue sky days”— his department updates its plans for anything it needs to improve from the previous hurricane season.
“That’s when we’re busiest in-house because we’re prepping and doing anything for the next year and trying to get all of our plans and procedures updated,” he said. “If it didn’t work out like we expected, we try to address those and fix those during the non hurricane season. We tried to leave the June through November schedule kind of open because we never know what to expect.”
One thing that MacDonald warns is for people to pay attention to the weather updates as new storms emerge.
“The biggest thing is just make sure that they’re prepared for themselves and their families,” MacDonald said. “And they really, really, really concentrate and listen to the actual weather updates that come out. We do not make the updates or the weather forecasts and all that data, that comes from the National Weather Service, which they get it from the National Hurricane Center, and so on. Those are the folks that give us the information and we’re only as good as the information that’s being pumped out by those sources.”
The Alachua County Emergency Management website has information on how to prepare an emergency disaster kit online, along with links from the NOAA on hurricane preparedness that includes developing an evacuation plan and strengthening your home and/or business against potential damage. The state of Florida also has a link guide to hurricane preparedness.
Here’s a list for regional hurricane shelters and county emergency management links: