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Preparation key to surviving active hurricane season

Being situated about 300 miles from the Gulf Coast does not assure safety when hurricanes blow inland.

Those who have lived in Selma and Dallas County remember Hurricane Ivan nearly six years ago when it rumbled onto the Alabama coast from the Gulf of Mexico. Dallas County was one of the hardest hit counties in the state.

The day after the storm hit, 90 percent of people in the county had no power – about 370,000 residents. Power lines fell, roads became impassable and customers of the North Dallas County Water Authority had to boil water briefly until the emergency management agency could get a generator for the group.

On Wednesday forecasters at Colorado State University predicted 18 named storms would develop in the Atlantic, including 10 hurricanes. Five are expected to be major, and there’s an above-average probability of a major storm hitting land in the United States or Caribbean.

In April researchers from the university predicted 15 named storms, including eight hurricanes, because of much warmer tropical Atlantic surface temperatures and cooling Pacific conditions.

Researcher William Gray said there’s a 51 percent chance of a major hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast, which is greater than the long-term average of 30 percent.

Experts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration agree with the prediction.

“If this outlook holds true, this season could be one of the more active on record,” said Jane Lubchenco, NOAA administrator. “The greater likelihood of storms brings an increased risk of a landfall.”

The six-month hurricane season opened Tuesday.

Emergency managers from Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama are in Mobile this week for the 2010 Gulf States Hurricane Conference.

Dallas County Emergency Management Agency Interim Director Rhonda Abbott suggests preparedness is the best protection.

“Preparing for weather is much like protecting your family from a fire. If the smoke detector is in place and in working order, and your family has an evacuation plan, the likelihood of you surviving the fire is much greater,” she said. “This is as much a truth with weather. It is too late to plan once the weather arrives, just as it is too late to put together a family exit strategy when a home is fully engulfed with fire. Preparing for the unexpected makes sense.”

Abbott said memory of Hurricane Ivan, its damage and inconveniences associated with the storm should reinforce the message of being prepared in Dallas County.

“Preparedness is everyone’s responsibility,” she said. People need to realize the importance of taking preparedness measures of their own ahead of time.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.