This may sound like a strange shopping list to some, but anyone who has lived on the Gulf Coast for any length of time recognizes this as some of the items in a hurricane preparedness kit. Emergency officials suggest a family have enough food for three days without power. However, once a storm is approaching, a trip to the grocery store for non-perishable supplies will likely offer little more than two cans of SpaghettiOs,® Vienna sausage and a few bags of chips. Personally, I prefer to stock up now, before the evacuation order is issued, and while I still have a full shelf of canned goods to choose from.
Today is the official opening to the Atlantic season, which will last through November 30. Although most storms occur during this time frame, some have formed during the rest of the year. In the winter following 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, Tropical Storm Zeta, the 27th named storm of the year, formed on December 30 and continued to wander around the ocean for the first few days of 2006. Last week, Tropical Depression One got a head start on the 2009 season by forming in the Atlantic.
As a lifelong native of the Gulf Coast, hurricane season is an unquestioned way of life, taken in stride much like summer afternoon thunderstorms and humidity. Before everyone could go online to watch the animated storms gain strength and make their way toward land, my siblings and I would watch the news at every update to plot the latest coordinates on an “official hurricane tracking map”. The map was distributed each year by local hardware stores and television channels. It was through this we learned about longitude, latitude, and time zones. The technology has changed a lot since then, but hurricane season has not.
There have been storms that, though they canceled school, amounted to little more than a breezy day. Then there have been storms like Katrina. While we were making our preparations, we didn’t know what the outcome would be. It was forecast to be a storm the likes of which we hadn’t seen during my lifetime. I stood in my bedroom at my parent’s home, three weeks before my wedding, and tried to determine what (besides my wedding dress, which I was NOT leaving behind) were the most important things I had to have if we didn’t have a home when we returned. Early the next morning, we evacuated. Although our home is not located in a flood plain and only sustained minimal wind damage, as you know there were many, many others that couldn’t say the same.
The latest forecasts for this year predict 12 named storms, six that will have the sustained winds of 74 mph required to be classified as hurricanes, and two that will be classified as “intense” or “major” hurricanes. Whether the forecast will be accurate or not we will see. Each year, just as we are all readying our supplies at home, Elevator World managers meet to brush up our Hurricane plan. Rest assured that if any storms do head our way, we know what to do.