Island residents are among the most informed, if not well prepared, around Southwest Florida. Most who were here can remember the turmoil and upset caused by Hurricane Charley in 2004.
There have not been any direct hits, like Charley, since even though Sanibel and Captiva always seem to experience beach erosion and some flooding when even a lesser tropical storm blows by. Just last year, two tropical storms left their mark on the beaches and passes, which are being dredged and renourished.
One only needs to drive along Periwinkle Way these days - minus the tree canopy overhead - to be reminded of what storms can inflict on a community.
Forecasters in April released their prediction for an above-average hurricane season with 18 tropical storms, nine of them of hurricane strength with four possibly major storms (Category 3 or higher). Records dating back to 1950 indicate a typical season has 12 tropical storms, seven becoming hurricanes with winds of at least 74 mph.
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to December 1. The nation recognizes the week of May 26 through June 1 as National Hurricane Preparedness Week.
Re-entry passes are required to return to the island in the event that a evacuation has been issued. These passes are available for Sanibel and Captiva residents and businesses at the Sanibel Police Department at no charge. However, to save money, anyone that still has a hangtag from last year does not need to apply for a new one for 2013, according to Sanibel Police Chief Bill Tomlinson.
Hurricane kits containing necessary items such as batteries, flashlights, radios, medical supplies, fresh water and food to last several days in the event of a power outage are highly recommended for every household whether there is an evacuation order or not. It doesn't take a named storm to knock out power for an extended period.
For anyone new to the island, attendance at one many hurricane seminars are ideal events at which to become more familiar with storms, warnings, tracking and weather radar, storm surges, tornadoes associated with storms, shelter locations (even pet friendly ones), and evacuation routes. Watch media outlets for dates and times of these seminars held at area libraries, schools and other meeting facilities both on and off the islands.
The city of Sanibel conducted one two-hour seminar already at 1 p.m. on May 31 at Big Arts. Seminar admission is free and features several guest speakers from meteorologists, police, fire and emergency management personnel.
If an evacuation is ordered, it is prudent to have a family plan to stay with friends or relatives, book a hotel room out of the path of a storm, or as a last resort in designated public shelters. Those with special medical or physical requirements can apply in advance for space in a special care shelter. Special needs applications can be found online at www.leeeoc.com or by calling (239) 533-3640.
Curious about the names for storms for 2013? Well here they are: Andrea, Barry, Chantal, Dorian, Erin, Fernand, Gabrielle, Humberto, Ingrid, Jerry, Karne, Lorenzo, Melissa, Nestor, Olga, Pablo, Rebekah, Sebastian, Tanya, Van, and Wendy.