2009 Hurricane Forecast: An Average Year

Today marks the start of this year's hurricane season. With more than 35 million Americans living in regions threatened by Atlantic hurricanes, now is the time to prepare.

"Today, more than 35 million Americans live in regions most threatened by Atlantic hurricanes," U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said a few days ago. "Timely and accurate warnings of severe weather help save lives and property. Public awareness and public preparedness are the best defenses against a hurricane." So begins the 2009 hurricane season, with a bit of good news for those 35 million and others: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center predicts a normal season. The center's initial prediction about a week ago called for a 50 percent probability of a near-normal season, a 25 percent probability of an above-normal season, and a 25 percent probability of a below-normal season.

NOAA is part of Locke's Commerce Department. NWS offers this checklist of family preparedness guidance:

  • Discuss the type of hazards that could affect your family. Know your home's vulnerability to storm surge, flooding and wind.
  • Locate a safe room or the safest areas in your home for each hurricane hazard. In certain circumstances, the safest areas may not be your home but within your community.
  • Determine escape routes from your home and places to meet. These should be measured in tens of miles rather than hundreds of miles.
  • Have an out-of-state friend as a family contact so all your family members have a single point of contact.
  • Make a plan now for what to do with your pets if you need to evacuate.
  • Post emergency telephone numbers by your phones and make sure your children know how and when to call 911.
  • Check your insurance coverage; flood damage usually is not covered by homeowners insurance.
  • Stock non-perishable emergency supplies and a Disaster Supply Kit.
  • Use a NOAA weather radio. Remember to replace its battery every six months, as you do with your smoke detectors.
  • Take first aid, CPR, and disaster preparedness classes.

"This outlook is a guide to the overall expected seasonal activity. However, the outlook is not just about the numbers, it's also about taking action," said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. "Prepare for each and every season, regardless of the seasonal outlook. Even a near- or below-normal season can produce land-falling hurricanes, and it only takes one land-falling storm to make it a bad season."

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