hurricane-preparedness_web.jpgFORT LAUDERDALE — Predictions for the 2011 North Atlantic hurricane season are “above average,” Amy Godsey, a Florida Division of Emergency Management state meteorologist, has said.

“Anyone living on the coast should be prepared for possible impact,” Godsey said during an interview at the recent 2011 Governor’s Hurricane Conference. “We can see things months ahead because the atmosphere gives us clues.”

The conference took place at the Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the North Atlantic season will produce 12 to 18 named storms with winds 39 mph or greater. Six to 10 of those will be hurricanes with winds of at least 75 miles per hour. And, of those, meteorologists expect three to six to be major storms with winds of 110 mph or greater.

South Florida is predicted to be impacted in the latter part of the season. Where landfall could happen is not known.

“We can’t forecast that until at least two weeks in advance,” Godsey said.

South Florida has the notoriety of being hurricane alley, Godsey said, adding, “Without a major storm since 2005, people get comfortable. But everyone should plan as if they will be impacted. It only takes one major storm to feel the power.”

When planning, water should be a main staple, especially for those who do not plan to evacuate, she said.

“It’s easy for a water main or supply station to experience damage,” she said.

One gallon of water per person per day is recommended. Tubs and sinks should be filled prior to the storm.

“This water can be used for flushing or bathing. And, oftentimes, the water, after the storm, is not safe,” Godsey said.

Residents should contact their public utility company for testing after power has been restored, especially when using a well system. Godsey also suggests having flashlights handy and stockpiling batteries, a cooler for medication and a NOAA radio for storm updates.

If advised to evacuate, Godsey said, residents should do so immediately, going north and inland, preferably at least 60 miles from the coast. Winds can surge six to 12 hours ahead of the storm.

“The rule is to hide from the wind and run from the water,” Godsey said.

The state Division of Emergency Management has conducted studies to determine how soon people should evacuate and who should evacuate. It takes several hours to prepare, she said, so residents should “take the evacuation order seriously. Identify and go to a shelter if necessary.”

Those who choose to stay at home should seek shelter in an interior room or hallway, putting as many walls between them and the outside as possible.

“If the walls collapse, a teepee will form around you. That’s the best protection,” she said.

At the same time, storms can cause unpredictable damage, resulting in a state of emergency being declared. If a county determines that an emergency or disaster is beyond its ability to effectively respond, the governor may declare a state of emergency through an executive order or proclamation, said Lauren McKeague, Florida Division of Emergency Management’ external affairs deputy.

Such a  declaration serves to activate the emergency mitigation, response and recovery aspects of the state, local and inter-jurisdictional emergency management plans applicable to the area in question.

In dire emergencies, McKeague said, the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund serves to protect and advance the state’s interest in maintaining insurance capacity in Florida by providing reimbursements to insurers for a portion of their catastrophic hurricane losses.

“Whether you stay or evacuate, the important thing is to plan,” Godsey said.

Cynthia Roby can be reached at