Preparing for the worst as hurricane season arrives

By Michael Davis

Connie Dodgen never expected that she would have to prepare for a hurricane. A lifelong resident of the Hampton area, she can't remember ever having felt the windy, rainy aftermath of a tropical storm this far inland.

But last year, when the remnants of Hurricane Frances pummeled the metro Atlanta area and Dodgen's power went out about 2 a.m., things changed.

"This time, I'm going to be prepared," the 47-year-old said.

While not usually in the path of hurricanes, residents in the southern crescent last year got a blast of tropical weather on several occasions. Trees were downed, roads were flooded and widespread power outages were reported in the Atlanta area all due to tropical weather events. The campgrounds at Atlanta Motor Speedway were opened to Hurricane Frances refugees who were later drenched by its rains.

And as hurricane season began again June 1, emergency responders had already begun gearing up and taking the opportunity to remind residents to take their preparedness into their own hands.

"Across the board in the southeast, the Red Cross has been preparing since last year's hurricane season," said Tiffany Fell, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Atlanta Chapter of the American Red Cross. "The preparedness message is just as important for folks in the local community as it is for folks in Florida who would be in the direct line" of a storm, she said.

Earlier this week, forecasters revised their predictions of the number of tropical storms the southeastern U.S. can expect during this hurricane season, which runs June 1 to Nov. 30.

A team of experts at Colorado State University said up to 15 storms will be named and eight of those will become hurricanes. Those numbers are higher than initial projections of 13 storms and seven hurricanes and forecasters said the new numbers are based on continued warming of the Atlantic Ocean.

Storms are named when winds reach 40 miles per hour; they reach hurricane stage with winds of 74 miles per hour.

Jeff Myers, a disaster specialist at the southern district Red Cross office in Morrow, said most of the evacuees from last year's hurricanes were sheltered south of Macon, but several shelters were opened in the Atlanta area, including one in Clayton County.

"Ideally we hope people evacuated from the south end of the state will find shelters south of Macon," Myers said.

Last year's storms, three of which hit the metro area, and rocked Florida with a one, two, three, four-punch, killed dozens (more in the Caribbean), injured thousands and cost billions of dollars in damage clean-up.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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