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Hurricane season opens

As hurricane season opened Wednesday, experts worsened the forecast.


"The only reason these become disasters is because people aren’t prepared."

—Lesli Remaly

As hurricane season opened Wednesday, experts worsened the forecast and warned people to prepare.

Meteorologists were already saying this year’s Atlantic hurricane season will be above normal - but this week they increased even that.

Dr. William Gray, a Colorado State University (CSU) meteorologist, updated his much-anticipated hurricane predictions the day before the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season.

Gray is now predicting 15 named storms, with four of them being intense hurricanes. His two earlier predictions had called for 11 named with three intense, and 13 named with three intense, respectively.

According to the official released prediction from Gray and fellow CSU meteorologists: “We have increased our forecast from our early April prediction due to continued Atlantic Ocean warming and a decreased likelihood of the development of an El Niño this summer/fall.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also released an Atlantic hurricane prediction earlier this month, calling for seven to nine hurricanes – with three to five of them becoming major hurricanes.

Regardless of which prediction proves to be closer to the truth, government agencies and disaster relief organizations are encouraging the public to be prepared no matter what.

“The only reason these become disasters is because people aren’t prepared,” said Lesli Remaly, a disaster response and recovery liaison for Church World Service.

Remaly has spent the last year helping to create and work with interfaith disaster recovery organizations across Florida in response to the devastating 2004 Atlantic hurricane season. She thinks the psychological trauma from last season will keep the public on edge for this season.

“We know people will have a strong reaction this time around with the hurricane season,” Remaly explained. “We’ve been suggesting to the interfaiths that they make preparedness become a focal point this season – with the emphasis being that when you’re prepared, it’s not as traumatic.

“There’s been discussion not only about having your physical homes ready but also to prepare folks emotionally for the notion that the season is upon us.”

Remaly added that she knows that the topic is weighing heavily on Floridians’ minds right now, having heard conversations between people in local grocery stores and other public places.

“It’s on everyone’s minds right now,” said Remaly, who lives in Miami. “We’re keenly aware of the vulnerability of Florida.”

The American Red Cross (ARC) in Florida is also helping the public become prepared by promoting participation in its “12 Days of Hurricane Season” plan. The goal of the program is to encourage the public to buy one part of a disaster preparedness kit each of the first 12 days of the season. The items include a water container, a weather radio, a fire extinguisher, plastic sheeting, canned food, a generator, and a flashlight, among other items.

Remaly said ideas like that of the ARC in Florida are excellent and very much needed to remind people that preparation not only makes one’s family safer – but also one’s community.

“When you prepare your house, your neighbors are safer,” she said, noting that keeping track of possible hurricane-wind projectiles in your yard is crucial during the season.

She also encouraged families to help out their neighbors with preparation as well. “It behooves everyone to be able to take care of everyone else in your neighborhood,” explained Remaly. “The same goes for churches. It behooves the church to prepare the church building so it can become a haven for folks in the neighborhood after the storm.

“Churches, temples, synagogues, community centers – everybody has the responsibility to prepare for the community.”

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