Experts urge early preparation as hurricane season nears

Published: Apr. 14, 2022 at 3:31 PM EDT
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Thursday is the final day of the 2022 National Hurricane Conference in Orlando.

WPTV spoke to emergency officials on the local, state and national level and they all stressed the same thing: start preparing now.

Amy Heimberger Lopez, the emergency management coordinator for Martin County, said it's crucial to know your zone — especially if you live along the coast.

"Our zone A and zone B, which are islands and coastal areas, those are areas that are going to be most impacted especially at first, and we need to get people out of there first," Heimberger Lopez said.

Ken Graham, the director of the National Hurricane Center, said one of the biggest changes has been the timeline to prepare for a storm.

He said every category four or five hurricane to hit the United States was only a tropical storm three days before.

That means you may only have two to three days to prepare your home or evacuate.

"You can't write a plan unless you know what you're planning for, so the No. 1 thing is to know your risk, if you're right on the coast you gotta plan for the storm surge. You're gonna be evacuated," Graham said. "You need to know where you're going to go, have that plan. But even inland, if you're near a river if you're near a lot of trees, that's your risk."

The Gulf Coast has been hit the hardest during the past few hurricane seasons.

Graham said it only takes a slight shift in weather patterns to send a storm to South Florida or the Treasure Coast.

He said to prepare with enough supplies to last a week after a storm.

It's a similar message from the state division of emergency management.

Director Kevin Guthrie said to follow one simple phrase: know your zone and know your home.

"We want people to know what zone they live in to evacuate, but we also want people to know what their home is," Guthrie said. "In other words, was your home built before or after Florida building code standards. That's a very important date."

When a hurricane forms, the cone of uncertainty is one of the first things people look for.

Graham said NHC's cone is smaller this year, but it all depends on scientific studies.

"The penalty, so to speak, for us getting so much better with the forecast is the cone is shrinking," Graham said. "The cone is based on the average error for the past five years, so if we have a couple bad years, guess what? The cone could get bigger."

Guthrie said the state is ready for hurricane season, which begins in June.

"The state of Florida is prepared. We have four warehouses full of stuff ready to respond, food, water, personal protective equipment," Guthrie said.

At the National Hurricane Conference, there has been a lot of looking ahead but also reflecting on the past couple of hurricane seasons.

"You think about how busy the last few seasons have been, we ran out of names in 2020," Graham said. "We ran out of names in 2021 during a pandemic. All of us have been through a lot."

Graham urges Florida residents not to be complacent since many areas of Florida have avoided a tropical system in the last few years.

"You can't compare storms, and you can't compare seasons. Just a little change in the pattern, and it becomes Florida's turn and we have to be ready for that," Graham said.

Now is also a good time to check on your insurance.

If you do have to evacuate, find out how long you'll be covered in a rental home or hotel.

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