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Get ready — really — for a hurricane

The Eastern Seaboard could be looking at 11 hurricanes this season.

Brian O'Connell
by Brian O'Connell, MainStreet contributor

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — This could be a stormy year, hurricane-wise.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook calls for a 70 percent chance of up to 20 storms with winds forces of 39 miles per hour or stronger.

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Up to 11 of those storms could officially become "hurricanes" — storms classified as having wind force of 74 miles per hour or higher. Up to six of those storms could be "major" hurricanes, with winds of 111 miles per hour or stronger:

Three climate factors that strongly control Atlantic hurricane activity are expected to come together to produce an active or extremely active 2013 hurricane season.

These are:

  • A continuation of the atmospheric climate pattern, which includes a strong west African monsoon, that is responsible for the ongoing era of high activity for Atlantic hurricanes that began in 1995
  • Warmer-than-average water temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea
  • El Niño is not expected to develop and suppress hurricane formation.

Americans along the Eastern Seaboard need to be ready, the agency says. 

"The start of hurricane season is a reminder that our families, businesses and communities need to be ready for the next big storm," says Joe Nimmich, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Administration associate administrator for response and recovery. "Preparedness today can make a big difference down the line, so update your family emergency plan and make sure your emergency kit is stocked."

Those preparation tips are just for starters.

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Travelers, the Hartford, Conn.-based life insurance company, is out this week with some helpful tips to prepare against this year's potential version of Hurricane Sandy, which caused damage estimated at starting at $50 billion.

"While most severe hurricanes form later in the season, waiting to prepare could leave you without a plan for managing your risks, which includes reviewing hazards around your home or business, taking steps to help minimize damage and having necessary insurance coverages," says Marty Henry, senior vice president at Travelers Risk Control. "Planning for storm season is not something that should be taken lightly."

Here's what Travelers advises in preparing for a busy hurricane season:

Have an evacuation plan. Families need to have a reliable, well-practiced evacuation plan ready to go before disaster strikes. That plan should include a communications element so family members can keep in touch. Cellphones may be out during a hurricane, and you can't depend on them. Stay close, but establish a safe meeting place to go if a storm hits and you get separated.

Create a "content inventory" kit. Homeowners should film or at least take photos of the items in their home before a hurricane. That establishes what is owned, what their items are valued at and can help streamline insurance claims after the storm. For more-valuable items, photograph the items' make and model number. Don't forget the stuff in drawers and closets.

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Create a hurricane survival kit. Every house should have a hurricane survival kit to help get them safely through the storm. According to Travelers, that kit should include:

  • Canned food and other nonperishable food, along with a non-electric can opener
  • Enough water for a gallon of water per person, per day
  • Toiletries and personal items
  • Flashlights and plenty of batteries
  • A portable radio and/or television
  • Prescription medications
  • Extra clothing and blankets
  • A first-aid kit
  • Emergency cash and credit cards
  • A copy of your insurance policy
  • A copy of an inventory of your home's contents
  • Other personal documents

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Travelers also advises conducting some outside-the-home due diligence to prepare for a storm, including trimming trees close to the home, cleaning any gutters filled with leaves and other debris and checking that drains and sump pumps are operating in peak fashion.

Also, charge your cellphone in the event you do have service during a hurricane.

Americans shouldn't take hurricanes lightly — certainly, residents of New York and New Jersey hit by Sandy never will again.

 

Brian O’Connell has 15 years of experience covering business news and trends, particularly in the financial, health care and career management sectors. He has written 14 books and appeared on CNN, Fox News, CNBC, C-Span, Bloomberg, CBS Radio and other media outlets and in such publications as The Wall Street Journal and The Street.com. He is a former Wall Street bond trader.