Hurricane season: What New Yorkers need to know to prepare

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be “above-normal,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

There is a 70 percent chance of 11 to 17 named storms, with winds 39 mph or higher, during the season, which officially starts June 1 and lasts until Nov. 30, NOAA said

Five to nine of those storms could become hurricanes, which record winds of 74 mph or higher, the NOAA said. There could be two to four Category 3, 4 or 5 hurricanes, or storms with winds 111 mph or higher. 

The prediction is based on a weak El Nino, above-average sea surface temperatures and weak wind shear, lead forecaster Gerry Bell said in a statement. 

“Strong El Ninos and wind shear typically suppress development of Atlantic hurricanes, so the prediction for weak conditions points to more hurricane activity this year,” NOAA said. “Also, warmer sea surface temperatures tend to fuel hurricanes as they move across the ocean.”

The average season has 12 named storms, including six hurricanes of which three are major, the agency said. The 2016 season was the most active since 2012, the agency said. It had 15 named storms, including seven hurricanes and four major hurricanes.

To help you prepare for the hurricanes that reach the New York region, here’s a guide based on interviews with experts and reviews of emergency plans.

Before the storm

Be in the know: Sign up for NotifyNYC to receive emergency information from the city. Registration is free. In addition to updates on dangerous weather conditions, you’ll receive alerts on missing persons and traffic disruptions. Another resource is the Office of Emergency Management’s Twitter feed.

Plan ahead: Every New Yorker needs to have a plan for emergencies. This includes making a to-go bag with important documents, extra sets of car and house keys, cash, copies of credit and debit cards, water, a flashlight, medications list, a first aid kit and toiletries. Additionally, the city recommends preparing enough food and water to last at least three days.

Other steps to take include choosing a place to reunite with family if you get separated and knowing how to evacuate your area if necessary. This guide from the city’s Office of Emergency Management can help you plan.

Know your evacuation zone: There are six evacuation zones in the city. If you live near a coastline, you may live in one. Don’t know which one you’re in? The city has an interactive map to help identify the zones. It also lists the city’s evacuation shelters.

Know your flood risk: Find out if your home is at risk of flooding on the Federal Emergency Management Agency website.

Make sure you’ve got insurance: And not just for your home. If your Toyota floats out of the Fresh Direct parking lot in Red Hook during the storm surge, you’re going to want to know you’ve got insurance that covers any damage. The New York Insurance Association recommends reviewing all policies and contacting your insurer to discuss options.

Another great tip comes from Ellen Melchionni, the executive director of the NYIA, who recommended doing a home inventory and keeping it updated whenever new purchases are made. Having a home inventory will accelerate the process of assessing damage if anything happens. The Insurance Information Institute offers an app with online and mobile versions that aims to make it easy to do a home inventory.

The city also recommends moving valuable items from the basement in case of flooding.

Take care of your furry friend: To minimize the risk of pets getting separated from their owners, include your pet in your disaster planning.

Dr. Dick Green, the director of disaster response for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, recommends putting your pet’s important documents in a sealed plastic bag and duct-taping it to its crate. He added that a good to-go kit would include medical and vaccination records, contact information, information on dietary needs, food, an up-to-date supply of any prescription medication and a recent photo of the animal.

Green said this is exactly what he does for his own pets: “If there’s a fire and we need to get out, I can grab the kennel and go.” Also critical, he said, is to make sure that the animal has been microchipped and has its tags.

Bring in lawn furniture: Bring any loose objects that could be swept up by strong winds inside. This includes lawn furniture, garbage cans and other outdoor ornaments. If you have items that are unsafe to bring inside, such as a large barbecue, the city recommends anchoring them down so they don’t become a safety hazard during a storm.

After the storm

When the power goes out: The city’s utilities maintain online power outage maps that you can check to see if there are outages in your area. Of course, this doesn’t help if the power is out. First, unplug all appliances so that the electricity system doesn’t get overloaded when it comes back on. Reconnect them one at a time. Second, invest in a portable radio that is powered by batteries or solar so you can listen for emergency updates. Some radios can be purchased for less than $20.

Be cautious of fallen trees: Storms often bring down trees atop power lines, creating potentially lethal dangers. If you see this, stay away. Call Con-Edison at 800-75-CONED to report downed lines.

If you’ve been evacuated: First, contact the people on your emergency list to let them know where you are if you can. Second, don’t go back home until authorities say it’s safe to return to any areas that have been cleared out because of a storm.

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