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Hurricane season starts Friday — 6 months of storm season ahead, but plenty of time to prepare

A 2018 Hurricane Season predicted to spin off up to four major storms begins Friday, and although activity isn’t expected to peak until the end of summer, preparedness has already begun — or should have.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting this year’s season to be “near-normal” to “above-normal,” with 10 to 16 named storms, five to nine hurricanes and one to four major hurricanes of Category 3 or greater. And while Lincoln County is far enough inland to be generally protected from the worst of leading-edge tropical weather, it’s up to citizens to get themselves ready to cope with the thunderstorms, flooding and power outages common when hurricanes blow through the area.

“If you think it’s coming, get ahead of the game. Get you a little milk or bread or whatever you think you need so you’re not at the store at the last minute,” said Lincoln County Emergency Management Director Clifford Galey. “You can put together a hurricane preparedness kit that will last several years if you rotate items out. The key to coming out the best you can is being prepared.”

Galey recommended all families keep a simple emergency bag handy throughout hurricane season. A basic kit would include fresh water and food for up to three days, a weather radio, flashlight, first aid kit and extra batteries. A more advanced preparedness kit would include medicines, hygiene items, cash, petfood and a deck of cards, board game or other form of entertainment for the sometimes-long wait until electricity is restored.

More suggested preparedness items and strategies are available online at ready.gov. More area-specific information is available at MEMA’s website at msema.org. The Mississippi Department of Transportation also has a detailed checklist available for download under the emergency services section of its website at mdot.ms.gov.

Another popular luxury item during times of power failures are gas-powered generators, but Galey urged anyone planning to employ a generator have it professionally installed.

“If you do it yourself, make sure you do it right so it can’t backfeed through the meter. If first responders come out to deal with power lines, and you’ve got a generator feeding through, it will get them electrocuted pretty quick,” he said. “We have to make sure no one has a generator backfeeding the line before we start working because we don’t want to get anybody hurt.”

Anna Wolverton, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson, said although hurricanes bleed off energy when crossing land, big storms can still bring powerful tropical energy to inland areas. She said places like Lincoln County need to be ready to deal with strong winds and — most importantly — torrential rain in the event a hurricane comes this way in 2018.

“Rainfall is usually the biggest threat and leaves the biggest damage path in this area,” Wolverton said. “We advise people not to get out and drive during a hurricane, but if you do, don’t drive through any flood waters. Twelve inches of water can take out any vehicle and float it downstream.”

Hurricane season ends Nov. 30, with peak season between August and October. All of last season’s major hurricanes affecting the United States — Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate — occurred during peak season. Harvey caused severe flooding in industrial areas of east Texas from Aug. 23-30, and Maria did long-lasting damaging to the Caribbean from Sept. 16-30.

Hurricane Katrina, which did billions of dollars in damage and cost nearly 2,000 lives 13 years ago, was also a late-August storm.

This season’s first storm has already come and gone, getting in its licks a few days early. Subtropical Storm Alberto made landfall on the Florida coast Monday, becoming the first tropical storm to hit in May since 1976.

The World Meteorological Organization’s list of names for storms this year will go in alphabetical order from Alberto and will include Beryl, Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence, Gordon, Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Kirk, Leslie, Michael, Nadine, Oscar, Patty, Rafael, Sara, Tony, Valerie and William.