County Emergency Center Expects Busy Hurricane Season

By Tamas Mondovics

Residents paying attention to the 2013 hurricane season predicted by meteorologists near and far can safely confirm that the message of a busy and active season is unanimous.

Such was the case during the recent Pre-Hurricane Season Media Day held last month at the Hillsborough County Emergency Operations Center, EOC located at 2711 E. Hanna Ave. in Tampa.

The event brought county officials, members of the National Weather Service Ruskin Office and more than a dozen reporters together to a meet and greet/question and answer as well as interview opportunity  to discuss local plans for hurricane season, along with a chance to test equipment at the EOC.

County Administrator Mike Merrill expressed his appreciation for the hard work by those that are ready to the lead in case of a local emergency situation, but mentioned that it would be best if such events were not a necessity.

“A good year is when we don’t have to be here,” Merrill said, but added that preparation is vital and that the important it is to share responsibility and educate people. “The message is that our residents want to be prepared for a busy season.”

Emergency Management Director, Preston Cook, emphasized that it takes a team to get the job done.

“Our main goal is to communicate with our citizens as quickly and efficiently as possible during a storm or a disaster situation,” he said. Cook’s words opened the floor for Brian LaMarre from the National Weather Service Ruskin Office to address those present and give an update on the upcoming hurricane season.

Not beating around the bush, LaMarre put things in perspective when he said, “We are forecasting an active and above normal hurricane season.”

LaMarre emphasized that with the lack of the El Nino weather system, conditions are favorable for the busy season.

According to NOAA, last year was the third most active hurricane season on record in the wake of 2005 which gave us Hurricane Katrina.

While Tampa always seems to be spared of major hurricanes, LaMarre urged everyone not to underestimate the power and impact of tropical storms that the region does not have a shortage of.

Last year, we have learned that tropical storms can in fact deliver major impact,” he said. “The effects of major flooding are devastating and storm surges are the number one killer during hurricanes and tropical storms.”

Dan Noah, also from NOAA’s Ruskin office, added to the discussion with reporters when he talked about the organization’s continued efforts to update its equipment, improving on its forecasting accuracy while mentioning the importance of using social media as an effective way of sharing vital information, which many can take advantage of including the various news organizations.

To sum up the importance of preparation and the storms’ nationwide impact, NOAA’s 122 offices around the country reported that in 2011 there were 14 weather-related disaster events costing $1 billion each in the U.S.

“We must be diligent to do what it takes to be prepared ahead of time, warn our citizens and ultimately save lives,” Noah said.

For more information about the upcoming hurricane season, how to prepare for a storm event and other vital tips, please visit www.hillsboroughcounty.org. or visit www.weather.gov.