Make an emergency kit and have a plan because it only takes one hurricane to cause major damage to your home or community.
This week marks Hurricane Preparedness Week, and as the June 1 start of the Atlantic hurricane season approaches area residents are reminded of the importance of having emergency supply kits and updating plans for their families in case they need to evacuate or seek shelter elsewhere.
Forecasters with the Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project have predicted a near-average season, with a total of 12 named storms, five hurricanes and two major hurricanes expected this season in the Atlantic.
Onslow County has been fortunate not to see major widespread damage from a tropical storm in recent years but there’s no way to say when the next may make landfall in the area.
“It only takes one to hit your area to make it a bad year,” said Cindy Wheeler, Disaster Action Team coordinator for the Onslow County chapter of the Red Cross.
Wheeler said it’s important to be prepared year-round for a tropical storm or any disaster but the approach of the hurricane season is a good time to check supplies and update plans.
Supply kits should include flashlights, battery-powered radio, non-perishable food items, medications, important documents such as insurance and identification information, a change of clothing, games for kids and food and supplies for your pets.
Also have plans for your family, such as where you plan to go in the case of an evacuation or where shelters are located in your area. It’s also important to keep gas in vehicles and have cash on hand in the case of power outages when ATMs won’t work and banks may be closed or stores are operating without the use of cash registers.
The Onslow County Chapter of the Red Cross will be among the organizations participating in Saturday’s Hurricane & Severe Weather Expo, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the gymnasium at the Jacksonville Commons Recreation Center.
The event is free and open to the public.
Wheeler said the Red Cross will have check lists available on what to include in supply kits and what other plans to make and will also have a mock shelter set up so that residents will know what to expect if they ever need to go to one.
While the focus now is on hurricane season, Wheeler said the area sees many other severe weather events throughout the year.
“It’s important to be prepared for whatever comes our way,” she said.
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, with the peak of the season from mid-August to mid-October. However, North Carolina has been impacted by tropical storms as early as May and as late as November.
This year marks the third year of the Hurricane & Severe Weather Expo and it has been pushed from June to the third Saturday in May to raise awareness about storm preparedness before the start of the season.
“We felt the first weekend in June was a little late. We wanted to move it up so that we could raise awareness and people would have time to make preparations before the start of the season,” said Mike Wetzel, senior services supervisor with Jacksonville Recreation and Parks, one of the organizers for the event.
Wetzel said the expo is designed to be informational and participants will include a number of businesses and agencies, such as the Red Cross, PetSmart, law enforcement and first responders, amateur radio groups, public health officials, home improvement businesses, and local meteorologists.
Wetzel said the annual event is a way to share information with residents old and new. While some residents may be familiar with preparing for a tropical storm, others moving to the area from other regions may not.
“We’re a transient community and we have people moving here from other locations. It’s important to reach everybody,” Wetzel said.
Wetzel said it’s important that everyone make preparations, regardless of the predictions for the season.
“We can’t predict exactly where they will hit,” he said.
The impacts of tropical storms can also be unpredictable.
“I can remember during Hurricane Floyd people leaving the area and not being able to get back because of the flooding (outside the area),” Wetzel said. “Hurricanes can be major or they can be minor. We need to be prepared.”
The City of Jacksonville reminds residents they can sign up for JacksonvilleConnect to receive free emergency alerts from local government about events such as hurricanes and severe weather. Sign up online at JacksonvilleNC.gov/Connect or call 938-5200.
More information on hurricanes and emergency preparedness can be found on the ReadyNC mobile app and online at ReadyNC.org.