A somnolent hurricane season suddenly awakened the past few days, and the lesson to learn — always be ready — should be as easy as A (Ana), B (Bill), C (Claudette).
Earlier this month, the lack of named storms and the promise of a calming El Niño prompted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to update its forecast to a below-normal season.
But then Sunday morning, Tampa Bay residents awoke to discover that Tropical Storm Claudette had suddenly formed a mere 90 miles from Tampa. It didn't head this way. But imagine if it had. There would have been no time for trips to Home Depot or Publix. People would have hunkered down with whatever they already had at hand.
As the busiest part of hurricane season bears down on us, it is tempting to worry only about the "big one," the Andrew (which hit in August) or the Katrina (which also hit in August). Part of that fear is correct. It indeed takes only one.
But it doesn't take a big one to wreak havoc. A small hurricane or tropical storm — just the sort that can brew suddenly in the Gulf of Mexico late in the season — can cause incredible property destruction. They don't have to march all the way across the Atlantic to endanger us.
In fact, the last hurricane to hit Tampa Bay directly came at the end of October 1921. It was likely a Category 2 or 3. Photos and accounts from the aftermath make clear how bad it was.
So with 100 days to go in this hurricane season, get supplies and plans in order. While bureaucrats debate how much of an insurance discount you should get for toughening your home to mitigate storm damage, remember the bottom line: It's your life and your property. It's in your self-interest to do everything you can to protect it, and if you put off preparations, a hurricane could come before you are ready.