The 2011 hurricane season officially began on June 1st. Tropical storm Emily is the fifth named storm of this season and it is currently working its way in a west-northwesterly direction in the Atlantic. The National Weather Service has reported that as of Tuesday night, the tropical storm’s outer bands of rain have reached Puerto Rico. So far, Emily has winds of 50 miles per hour but as the storm takes aim on the eastern portion of Florida, its wind speeds are expected to increase.
Experts believe that Emily will continue to grow stronger over the next day or so and forecasters are watching to see if the storm will disperse or weaken as its center makes it way over the mountainous region of Hispaniola. While Emily is only the 5th named storm of the 2011 hurricane season, people should remember that 95% of all hurricanes occur after the first of August. In order for a tropical storm to become a Category 1 hurricane, it must have sustained winds of at least 74 miles per hour.
The potential of Emily reaching land in Florida should be a wake-up call for people of the Sunshine State. Now is the time to prepare a hurricane emergency kit which contains medications, first aid supplies, fresh water, canned food, flashlights, a portable radio and extra batteries. It is also time to sit down with family members to devise and go over emergency plans. It is important to designate a place where family members will meet if separated during a forced evacuation and it is also time to decide what to do with elderly family members and pets.
Forecasters have projected twelve to eighteen named storms for the 2011 hurricane season which runs through November 1st. At least six to ten of those storms are expected to become hurricanes with three to six being at least Category 3 through 6 storms.
Florida homeowners should prepare their yards before a hurricane hits. Now is the time to dispose of yard waste and to check and clear gutters and downspouts on homes. Tree branches hanging over or near homes should be cut and removed from the property. It is also time to ensure that weather stripping and caulking around doors and windows are solid and as impenetrable to wind as possible. Roofs should be inspected for loose shingles and homes should be checked for wood rot and termite damage at joints and trusses.
It is also the time to photograph your home and personal property for documentation and to store those photos in a watertight container. Remember that in Florida, it is not a matter of if a hurricane will strike but rather when.