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      Are you ready to take hurricane season by storm?

      COLUMBIA (WACH) - The 2012 Hurricane Season is officially underway.

      Although we've already had two named storms, forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center say we will have a "normal" hurricane season, estimating nine to fifteen tropical storms, 4 to 8 of which will strengthen into a hurricane. Of those, they anticipate 1 to 3 could develop into major hurricanes, with windspeeds greater than 111 mph. As we all know, it only takes one severe storm to cause major damage, so now is the time to make sure your household is ready for the worst case scenario.

      BEFORE the storms hits, make sure your family is prepared and informed. Know the types of hazards for your area and any vulnerabilities that exist in or around your home. The first thing you will need is a NOAA weather radio to keep you informed of the storms path. It's also important to have 3-7 days supply of water and non-perishable food items for everyone in your home, including your pets. You will want a first aid kit, all necessary medications, and a cash stash of small bills in case the power is out for days or longer. Keep your car gassed up and your phone charged. The idea here is to be self-sufficient. Click here for a checklist of items and precautions necessary for the survival and comfort of your family. You may also want a seperate emergency kit to keep in your car. It's a good idea to call a family meeting and make three emergency plans: 1 for staying at home, 1 for finding a local shelter, and a third in case evacuation is necessary. Determine a meeting place in the event your family gets seperated.

      DURING a storm, stay informed! A "watch" means conditions are favorable for strong storms, and a "warning" is your notice that severe weather is imminent. Turn off electric appliances and gather family members in an interior section of the lowest level of your home. Avoid rooms with windows and do not bathe during a strong storm. If a tornado warning has been issued, take cover in closets or under a desk or sturdy table. Helmets and padded athletic equiptment are great for keeping children protected. Put your pets in crates or carriers and keep them with you. Dial 911 if you experience injuries or serious damage.

      AFTER the storm, stay indoors. If you must go outside, watch carefully for flooded roads or downed power lines. Wait until you know the area is safe before letting children or pets play outside. If your home suffers major damage, take plenty of photos for your insurance provider and contact your local Red Cross chapter for aid.

      The South Carolina Emergency Management Division has a guide for the 2012 Hurricane Season with everything you need to prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.