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Don’t be complacent: The peak of hurricane season is coming

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Published:   |   Updated: August 28, 2013 at 10:06 AM

 It’s been a quiet hurricane season so far this year but forecasters say that doesn’t necessarily mean much since the period hits its peak on Sept. 10.

“August, September and October are typically our busiest months so there’s plenty of time left,” said meteorologist Dan Noah of the Ruskin Weather Service. “And while it seems quiet now, once it gets going things can become active very fast.

Wilma was the last major hurricane to hit the state in October 2005 with winds of around 120 miles per hour, Noah said. So after eight years of relative peace, the danger lies in folks becoming complacent about forecasts, preparation planning and evacuating.

Even though it’s almost half over, the 2013 season still calls for up to 19 named storms of tropical storm force or higher, including three to five major hurricanes.

“Plan for one,” Noah constantly tells people. “Even a Category 1 hurricane with winds of 74 to 95 miles per hour can uproot trees, snap large limbs and cause large power outages.”

That’s not all. Moderate storms can also wreak havoc on manufactured homes and damage roofs, siding, doors, fences and windows. Large, wind-driven debris can makes roads impassable. And storm surge and flooding are always threats.

“Even a Category 1 hurricane can bring a storm surge of 5 feet, depending on factors like where and when it hits and how fast it’s traveling,” Noah said, adding a Category 3 hurricane like Wilma could produce a surge of 15 feet with a direct hit and onshore winds.

“It would over-top barrier islands and wipe some clean,” he said. A large portion of South Shore would be affected.

While Sun City Center isn’t in a storm-surge zone, its homes remain vulnerable to wind, freshwater flooding and tornadoes. Low-lying coastal communities like Ruskin, Apollo Beach and Gibsonton definitely face potential storm surge. Noah said the state is so wet right now that freshwater flooding from rains alone would be immediate.

That’s why it’s important to have a plan, he said. Noah recommends visiting www.ready.gov, where you can download a family emergency plan, print it, and then fill it out offline. The site includes helpful information for seniors, children and infants, pet care and more. Once completed, the plan can be used for any kind of emergency, he said.

“Although we have 160 years of hurricane data, it’s still not enough to use statistics to truly understand the threat,” Noah said. “So just prepare for one storm each year, and then don’t worry about it.”

lkindle@tampatrib.com

(813) 731-8138

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