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Be prepared: Hurricane season opens June 1

By Staff | May 29, 2015

Residents are urged to prepare as Monday kicks off the start of the 2015 hurricane season.

The city of Cape Coral will host its annual Hurricane Seminar on June 11 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall. The event is free and open to the public; registration not required.

“We do this every year,” Jesse Spearo, planning chief and emergency management coordinator for the Cape Coral Fire Department’s Division of Emergency Management, said on Thursday.

The seminar will include a message from Fire Chief Donald Cochran, the four-point plan citizens should consider and the Cape police talking about re-entry following a tropical event and how to secure one’s property. A building official will discuss permitting after an event and predatory contractors.

WINK meteorologist Jim Farrell will cover the upcoming season and how hurricanes form.

“One of the things we’re considering for next year is putting on a hurricane expo,” he said, explaining that the half-day event would feature non-profit and non-governmental entities and local vendors.

Hurricane season is recognized as June 1 through Nov. 30. For 2015, national forecasters are anticipating a quiet season, keeping in line with last year’s predicted hurricane activity.

Authorities, however, pointed out that residents need to be prepared – in case.

“It’s been 10 years since the most active and costliest hurricane season on record,” Spearo said, noting that this may cause new and old residents to become complacent. “It only takes one tropical event.”

Citizens should first make sure that they have adequate home and flood insurance.

“Check to see if they are in an evacuation zone,” he said, adding that most of Cape Coral lies within three of the zones. “It’s very important that people know their zone.”

Authorities also recommended that residents follow the city’s four-point plan:

n Make a plan

n Build a go kit

n Get involved

n Be informed

Citizens should plan ahead of time whether they will ride out the storm at home or just leave the area. In the event of an evacuation, they should know what routes to take to get out of the Cape. Evacuation signs are posted on all of the local major roadways; learn the safe routes inland, north, south and east.

Residents should learn the locations of the emergency public shelters in the city, as well as in other parts of Lee County. A list can be found in the phone book, on The Breeze website, (www.cape-coral-daily-breeze.com) and in the Lee County All Hazards Guide.

Those requiring medical assistance, such as oxygen or the monitoring of a medical problem, or any citizens who need help getting to a shelter, can register for the Special Needs Shelters in advance. For details or to sign up early, contact the Lee County Emergency Operations Center at (239) 533-0622.

“We always suggest that people take an all hazards approach – prepare for events year-round, not just hurricane season,” Spearo said. “We ask that residents have a go kit in their home already prepared.”

It should include essential items that allow a person to be on their own for at least 72 hours. This includes water at a level of a gallon per person per day, nonperishable food like canned goods, along with non-electric can openers or devices to use in case of a power outage, and filled medications.

He recommended storing prescriptions in a water-tight container that can easily be transported.

“Make sure you secure your home and have a go kit in a secure location,” Spearo said.

Also include blankets, pillows, sunscreen, mosquito spray, batteries and a NOAA weather radio.

A list of suggested items can be found online at the American Red Cross at: www.redcross.org, the Florida Division of Emergency Management at: www.floridadisaster.org, the Lee County Emergency Management at: www.leeeoc.com and Federal Emergency Management Agency at: www.fema.gov .

As for getting involved, residents are urged to become active in local organizations or community groups like the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Neighborhood Watch or even a church.

“If you have children or pets, you need to plan accordingly for them,” he said.

Have food or formula on hand, as well as water and pet food. Keep games in the go kit, which will keep children occupied, and have access to a pet crate, leash and documentation in case of evacuation. For information on pet shelters, contact Lee County Domestic Animal Services at (239) 533-7387.

“Make sure that you have your car filled up – a full tank of gas,” Spearo said.

“You also want to have some extra cash around,” he added.

Dr. William Gray and Dr. Philip Klotzbach, of Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project, expect that the 2015 Atlantic basin hurricane season will be one of the least active since the middle of the 20th century. They anticipate a below-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the U.S. coastline and in the Caribbean, according to the forecast released in April.

There are seven named storms predicted, with three reaching hurricane strength – only one is anticipated to become a major hurricane. A storm that is major hurricane is a Category 3 or higher.

A Category 3 produces sustained winds of 111 mph to 129 mph, with “devastating damage.”

The Weather Channel’s Professional Division also releases an annual hurricane season forecast. It is calling for nine named storms and five hurricanes, with one major hurricane predicted, as well.

The Atlantic hurricane season covers the North Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.

An average hurricane season consists of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major ones.

According to forecasters, the below-average season is due to a high likelihood of at least a moderate El Nino event in the summer and fall, combined with a relatively cool tropical and subtropical Atlantic.

The Tropical Meteorology Project’s probabilities for at least one major landfall on: the entire U.S. coastline is 28 percent (average 52 percent); East Coast, including Florida, is 15 percent (average 31 percent); and the Gulf Coast from the Panhandle west to Texas is 15 percent (average 30 percent).

The probability of a major storm tracking into the Caribbean is 28 percent (average 42 percent).

The Lee County All Hazards Guide can be found online at: www.leeeoc.com or picked up from the Cape Coral Fire Department/Emergency Operations Center or Cape Coral City Hall. The Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral also carries copies of the free guide, as do the public libraries in the Cape.

Lee County also produces the publication in Spanish for non-English speaking residents.

The Cape Coral Fire Department/Emergency Operations Center is at 1115 S.E. Ninth Ave.

The Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral is at 2051 E. Cape Coral Parkway.

Cape Coral City Hall is at 1015 Cultural Park Blvd.

For information, visit online at: www.leeeoc.com.