Summer is around the corner and temperatures are rising. Floridians know more than most that this means hurricanes. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Prediction Center released the much-anticipated 2021 Hurricane Season Outlook to the press by webinar late Thursday. NOAA predicts a 60% chance of an above-normal season, a 30% chance of a "near-normal" season and unfortunately, only a 10% chance of a season that is below normal.
"In summary, conditions as of now favor another season of above-normal activity, but unlikely to reach last year's level of record activity," NOAA's Meteorologist Tony Hurt told the Highlands News-Sun.
With 70% confidence, forecasters say there will be 13-20 named storms with wind speed up to 39 mph, six to 10 hurricanes wind speeds of 74 mph, and three to five major hurricanes that have wind speeds of at least 111 mph.
Hurricane season officially runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.
"After last year's record-setting hurricane season in the middle of a global pandemic, I assure you we are more prepared than ever for the threats that may come along this year," FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said during the webinar.
Criswell urged everyone to prepare now, ahead of the storms.
"First, preparing yourself and your family can often prevent serious injury, or even mean the difference between life and death," she said. "Preparing your home for hurricanes can mean the difference between minor damage or complete destruction."
She said to make an emergency plan that everyone in the household knows and can understand. Criswell also suggested getting the FEMA app.
"Don't forget to plan for the office, for your kids' daycare and for anywhere that you spend a lot of time," she said. "Review your important documents. Make sure your insurance policies and your personal documents, like your ID, are up to date. Make sure you make copies or digital copies, and keep them in a secure password-protected digital space."
Another safety tip she shared was to know what kinds of effects are possible in the area as hurricanes are not just a coastal problem. In Highlands County, residents are well aware of potential damages from past storms.
Hurt recommended a hurricane kit and said, "It's never too early to assemble kits and supplies in the event that a watch or warning is issued for a particular area, which imply the possibility or likelihood of tropical storm or hurricane conditions within 48 and 36 hours, respectfully."
The Florida Senate shows the "disaster preparedness" sales tax holiday will began Friday, May 28 and runs through June 6 this year.
"Some examples of tax-free items include: flashlights and lanterns costing $40 or less; radios costing $50 or less; tarps costing $100 or less, coolers costing $60 or less, batteries costing $50 or less; and, generators costing $1,000 or less," according to the flsenate.gov website.