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2016 hurricane ‘season’ under way

By Staff | Jun 3, 2016

By JIM LINETTE

jlinette@breezenewspapers.com

Meteorologists issued their predictions for the Atlantic Hurricane Season weeks ago. With the season officially having started on Wednesday, all that’s left is to be prepared and ride out the next six months.

Hopefully, it goes quietly, but no one knows for sure so it’s better to be prepared in case a storm heads for Southwest Florida.

While the experts are calling for an “average” season for storm activity, that still means the possibility of 12 storms, five reaching hurricane strength and two of them major events (Category 3 or stronger).

For visitors and residents alike, the rainy season also has arrived, according to National Weather Service forecaster Rick Davis in Tampa.

“Rainy season generally runs from June 1 through mid-September,” Davis said. “We’ve already seen rain and thunderstorms almost daily so, yes, I think we’ve seen the start of rainy season.”

Davis added that residents are encouraged to go online at www.hurricanes.gov for a lot of information on storms and on the preparedness side.

“It has been now over 10 years since the last tropical event impacted us in Southwest Florida, so we are overdue,” said Jesse Spearo, director of Cape Coral Fire Department’s Division of Emergency Management.

Residents should plan ahead. It is important they know what evacuation zone they live in should officials issue an evacuation order.

“We ask that people have a plan for what they’re gong to do,” Spearo said.

In the event of an evacuation, residents should know the routes to get out of the Cape and which ones head north, south or east.

The Atlantic hurricane season covers the North Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea and runs through Nov. 30.

Experts say the probability of at least one storm making landfall in the U.S. is 50 percent, while making landfall on the east coast, including the Florida peninsula, is 30 percent.

“We prepare the same every year regardless of whether it’s an average or an active prediction,” said Lee County Emergency Management public safety director Rob Farmer. “One storm is all it takes. We put more faith in the Colorado State prediction because they have great resources. Our preparations are continuing as it does every year, as though we will have a storm.”

Farmer’s main message to the community is to not get complacent because we haven’t been through a storm since Charley 10 years ago.

“Many people here now were not here 10 years ago,” Farmer said. “We will issue an evacuation order only when it’s appropriate. We don’t issue those unnecessarily. When we do, we mean it.”

The National Hurricane Center issues a hurricane watch approximately 48 hours before a region can expect to experience hurricane conditions. A hurricane warning indicates a storm with sustained winds of at least 74 mph is expected within 36 hours.

Whether an evacuation order is issued or not, household hurricane preparedness kits should contain necessary items such as batteries, flashlights, radios, personal hygiene items, medical supplies, fresh water (one gallon per person, per day) and food to last several days in the event of a power outage. It doesn’t take a named storm to knock out power for an extended period.

Residents also should learn the location of emergency shelters. A complete list can be found in the telephone book and online at www.leeeoc.com

On June 9, the fire department will hold its annual hurricane seminar from 6:30 p.m to 8:30 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall. It is free and open to the public. Registration is not required.

Here is a list of emergency shelters in to Cape Coral: Diplomat Elementary School, 1115 N.E. 16th Terrace; Diplomat Middle School, 1039 N.E. 16th Terrace; Island Coast High School, 2125 Del Navarra Parkway; Mariner Middle School, 425 Chiquita Boulevard; and in North Fort Myers: J. Colin English Elementary School, 120 Pine Island Road; Littleton Elementary School, 700 Hutto Road; North Fort Myers Academy of the Arts, 1856 Arts Way; North Fort Myers Recreation Center, 2000 N. Recreation Park Way.