Get prepared now

Published 6:40 pm Monday, May 17, 2010

In 1944, a September hurricane, with winds gusting to 150 miles per hour, cruised through the Hampton Roads area, killing 46.

In 1954, Hurricane Hazel brought with it winds that one “reliable instrument” clocked at 130 miles per hour.

In 1960, Hurricane Donna killed three.

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In 1985, Hurricane Gloria caused in excess of $5 million in damage in Hampton Roads and knocked out power to more than 300,000.

In 1999, Hurricane Floyd came barreling through the area and set off a 500-year flood in Franklin.

In 2003, Hurricane Isabel cut a swath of damage through the Hampton Roads and Western Tidewater area that many still try to shake from their nightmares each night.

This brief list of hurricanes and tropical systems that have touched our area in the past 100 years is simply that — brief. The actual list is much longer and much more destructive than anyone truly wants to depict.

Just because recent hurricane seasons have brought little if anything in the way of tropical systems to the mid-Atlantic, and more specifically Hampton Roads, does not mean this season will continue the trend.

In fact, those who make a living from predicting the strength of upcoming hurricane seasons believe the 2010 Atlantic season to be “above average,” bringing with it a projected 15 named storms.

Because the weather pattern known as El Nino is expected to dissipate in the coming months, experts feel the season will be much busier than in seasons past, as warmer water temperatures in the Atlantic will “lead to favorable conditions for hurricanes to develop and intensify.”

All of this is to say that no one who lives along the coasts of the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico, which have a storied and tragic history when it comes to hurricanes, should be unprepared.

Everyone who lives along these coasts should take the time to develop evacuation routes, hurricane emergency kits and an understanding of just how dangerous even a small, “minimal” Category 1 hurricane can be.

The annual Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday begins Tuesday, May 25, and extends through the following Monday. This holiday is designed to offer consumers a tax-break on materials such as batteries, flashlights, bottled water and first aid kits.

The tax break also applies to items less than $1,000, such as home generators.

It is important that residents of areas prone to hurricane and tropical storm damage take the time now to prepare for the upcoming season and take advantage of the tax breaks offered by the state and municipalities.

It is far better to be prepared now than to face the rush of needing such items when a deadly storm is bearing down on our area.