Friday, July 25, 2008

Hurricane season is here: Do you have a plan?

Hello, Dolly! Hurricane season is here.

It's a long way from Broadway to the Gulf Coast, but Dolly knows how to perform for a crowd, no matter the location. Taking honors as the fourth named Atlantic storm of the 2008 season, Hurricane Dolly -- recently downgraded to a tropical depression -- made landfall this week in south Texas. Despite fame as a musical delight, Dolly reminded people this week that hurricanes are no laughing matter.

The U.S. hurricane season lasts from June 1 to Nov. 30, a full six months of havoc-wreaking potential. Most tropical storms develop during the peak of the season, August through October. In 2008, experts predict that there will be about 15 named storms and eight hurricanes, four of which have the potential of being major hurricanes — category 3 or greater.

With so many potential storms brewing, it's up to each of us to be ready and to protect ourselves, our families and friends. The top tip? Make a family disaster plan. As anyone who lives in a hurricane-prone area knows, residents are often required to evacuate on short notice. Know the local evacuation routes as well as area shelters and carry a list of emergency phone contacts. If you have seniors living near by, check on them and make sure they have a way to leave town, if necessary.

It's also key to create a disaster supply kit. You'll need a radio, first-aid kit, non-perishable food items, water, flashlights, batteries, clothing and a waterproof container with important documents. Put the kit in an easy-to-access area where you can grab it and go during an evacuation.

Hurricanes can be scary for kids, so help them get informed and prepared with these games. It's also a good idea to toss some toys or books for the kids in your disaster kit to help while the time away in a shelter or during a power outage.

More tips, including preparedness for pets and securing your home, are just a mouse click away.

Remember: While the curtain has closed on Dolly, the peak of the season is just around the corner- an ominous reminder to get ready and be prepared.

Photo courtesy Federal Emergency Management Agency. A Brownsville, Texas, resident pushes his stalled car through floodwaters on July 24 following Hurricane Dolly's landfall.

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