Saturday, June 2, 2007

Poll: Most along U.S. coast not prepared for hurricanes

CNN: Most people along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts still lack a hurricane survival plan and don't feel vulnerable to storms, despite Katrina's dramatic damage and pleas from emergency officials for residents to prepare before the season starts, according to a poll released Thursday.

The six-month Atlantic season starts Friday, and forecasters have predicted an above-average year: 13 to 17 named storms, with seven to 10 of them becoming hurricanes and three to five of those major ones of at least Category 3 strength. One forecaster said odds were high that a major hurricane would hit the U.S. this year. ('Active' season predicted)

Nevertheless, 53 percent of those surveyed in 18 Atlantic and Gulf Coast states say they don't feel that they are vulnerable to a hurricane, or to related tornadoes and flooding, according to the Mason-Dixon poll.

Eighty-eight percent said they had not taken any steps to fortify their homes, and 45 percent still believed the old wives' tale that masking tape helps keeps windows from shattering during hurricanes.

National Hurricane Center Director Bill Proenza said a population shift to the nation's coastlines may be contributing to the lack of storm readiness. "We actually have more and more people ... with little or no experience with hurricanes and tropical storms," Proenza said.

…Despite the predictions for a busy season, public safety officials worry that an uneventful 2006 lulled residents into complacency; there were only 10 named storms, and the two that hit the U.S. were weak.

The poll was commissioned by the organizers of the 2007 National Hurricane Survival Initiative. The group includes the National Hurricane Center, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Emergency Management Association, the Salvation Army and others.

The May 10-15 telephone poll of 1,100 people has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The Florida poll of 625 people from May 13-15 had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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