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Hurricane season predicted to be a strong one

By: Ora Nelson

June 1 was the first day of what is expected to be an active hurricane season.

“The prediction center did predict an above-average number of storms for the year,” said Susan Harris, director of the Covington County Emergency Management Agency (EMA). “There will be 13-19 named storms this year and we expect 3-6 major hurricanes.”

Hurricane season typically lasts from June 1 to November 30.

Covington County does not currently have any shelters dedicated specifically to hurricanes.

“We don’t have any hurricane shelters we can open up as the EM,” said Harris. “We sometimes have to use tornado shelters but those are different from hurricane shelters. For a hurricane [shelter], you have to have places people can sleep because it can take several days.”

The EMA has almost completed its emergency operation center (EOC) where they will move to in the event of a hurricane to continue providing information and updates to residents of Covington County in real-time.

“We got the grant for the facility about four or five years ago,” said Harris. “I hope to have an open house later on for the public to come in and see [the facility] but we still have a bit before it’s complete. We can move into the building if we need to for a strong storm or hurricane.”

For those who plan to take shelter at home, it is advised to pick up items in your yards that can be blown away in medium- to high-level winds and to prepare supplies for at least 72 hours of staying sheltered.

According to Ready.gov, a website run by the Department of Homeland Security, it is important to “listen for emergency information and alerts and to make sure everyone in your household knows and understands your hurricane plan.”

“There are several phases in getting ready [for a hurricane],” said Harris. “You should have several ways to get weather info, be it from a weather radio or your cell phone or a normal radio. Have a safe place to go to. Make sure to have supplies and that your home is prepared before the hurricane.”

Some good things to have would be canned goods, a can opener that isn’t electric, water in bottles, and medications,” said Harris.

“Make sure to never get low on medications when a hurricane is coming,” said Harris.

Pharmacies, cautioned Harris, may be unavailable or unable to refill medication after a hurricane.

The EMA can be contacted at 334-428-2670 if people need more information after a hurricane has happened. This is a non-emergency line. Anyone in an emergency should call 911 and not the EMA.