Storm season already deadly

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Selma Times-Journal

We have seen already the first named tropical storm of the season – Arthur.

It formed on Saturday afternoon and immediately made landfall in northern Belize on the Yucatan Peninsula, also becoming the first deadly storm of the year.

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At least four people drowned in Belize in flash flooding caused by the storm.

Seems like a far away occurrence.

Think again.

Hurricane season officially began June 1, and it’s time for everyone to prepare, even in Dallas County.

In September 2004, Hurricane Ivan pummeled the Alabama Gulf Coast and rumbled up through the state, resulting in $735 million in disaster assistance coming down to help individuals and businesses rebuild.

It wasn’t the size of a Katrina, which also left damage in its wake here in Alabama, but it affected Dallas County.

“Up until Ivan, we really didn’t have any problems,” said Pam Cook, director of Dallas County Emergency Management Agency and Homeland Security.

But that September day, people in Dallas County saw winds in excess of 120 miles per hour, she said.

“That’s rare,” Cook said. “That’s rare for it to come that far inland with that amount of strong wind.”

Forecasters at the National Weather Service in Mobile say since 1995, the Alabama coastline has experienced hurricanes at a frequency well above what they normally would expect for that time period.

The names ring out like a who’s who of destruction: Dennis, Katrina, Ivan, Frederic.

All of them struck the coast within 75 miles of Mobile Bay. All were Category 3 storms, meaning winds ranged from 111 to 113 mph.

Generally, return periods of hurricanes of that magnitude are 33 years. But Dennis and Katrina hit the Mobile area in 2005; Ivan in 2004 and Frederic in 1970. That’s well above the norm.

“We need to prepare,” said Cook.

Key supplies for hurricane season:

EMA officials all agree individuals need an emergency supply kit to prepare for storms.

Here are the basic requirements: