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Hurricane Rita's lessons lead to storm surge watches in 2015 (Daily Advertiser)

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The line of severe thunderstorms with high winds and heavy rains that raced through Acadiana Monday is a good reminder that hurricane season is upon us.

"This was basically a tropical storm," U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, said during a hurricane preparedness forum during the storm in Lafayette. "It's a good reminder we're entering that time of year."

The Atlantic hurricane season, which includes the Gulf of Mexico, runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.eparedness forum during the storm in Lafayette. "It's a good reminder we're entering that time of year."

The forum featured Boustany and representatives of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's National Incident Management Systems and Advanced Technologies Institute, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service.

Boustany took office in 2005 just months before Hurricane Katrina struck east of New Orleans and Hurricane Rita made landfall in Southwest Louisiana. Failed levees allowed storm surge to flood much of New Orleans and claim lives. A month later, Rita rolled ashore near Cameron Parish, pushing storm surge inland and taking homes and businesses with it.

Recovery was still underway in 2008 when Hurricane Ike swamped the Gulf coast, including the entire Louisiana coast, with storm surge before making landfall in Texas.

Federal agencies have been working on storm surge maps and models to better predict when, where and how much storm surge an area might expect based on an approaching hurricane.

A prototype storm surge watch and warning system is being introduced this hurricane season, said Andy Patrick with the NWS in Lake Charles. Designed to help with local evacuation decisions, the watches and warnings will highlight areas where life may be threatened by storm surge, he said.

Forecasters are predicting "a very down year" for hurricanes because the Atlantic Ocean is cooler than usual and there's a moderate El Nino, Patrick said. But historic Hurricanes Audrey, Betsy and Andrew occurred in El Nino years, he said.

The 1992 Atlantic Hurricane Season saw little activity, but it produced Hurricane Andrew, said Tim Osborn with NOAA's Office of Coast Survey in Lafayette.

"The bottom line is, you just have to prepare every year," Patrick added.


Hurricane season preparations

Hurricane season starts June 1. Here are some things you can do now to prepare.

* Stock up on bottled water. Lots and lots of water.

* Stock up on batteries of various sizes, especially C and D batteries for flashlights and portable radios.

* Stock up on canned food like tuna, Spam, potted meat and Vienna sausage, if you like that sort of thing. Otherwise, buy peanut butter and crackers.

* Trim trees and branches away from rooftops, gutters, windows and awnings.

* If tree branches are touching power lines, call your electrical company and ask them to trim them. Don't try to do it yourself or you might not live to see the end of hurricane season.

* Put a little cash aside each paycheck to cover expenses if you have to evacuate.

Article by Claire Taylor, cxtaylor@gannett.com, The Daily Advertiser.

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