Last year, four hurricanes -- Charley, Frances, Jeanne and Ivan -- struck Florida in rapid succession.

The unprecedented 2004 hurricane season spawned six tropical storms and nine hurricanes, killing 117 Floridians, 3,000 Haitians while damaging, or destroying, one in five Florida homes and 90 percent of Granada's residences.

Property losses were estimated at more than $42 billion.

This year, forecasters predict a similar, or worse, hurricane season.

With a recent history of storm disasters, this year's already weird weather -- lingering snow storms, unexpected bluster and unsettled conditions -- and forecasts for another bad hurricane season, you'd think residents in the path of storms would be prepared for the worst.

But nooooo.

"Adults who live in states that front the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico lack a significant level of knowledge about hurricanes, and how to best prepare for them," according to a Mason-Dixon poll "Coastal State Residents Fail Hurricane Safety Test."

People most prone to the ravages of hurricanes failed the test with an average score of 41.75, out of a possible 100 point score.

Just as Tornado Alley residents neglect building safe rooms and taking other necessary precautions not to land in Oz, and just as Earthquake Country residents don't retrofit their homes or otherwise protect their homes from falling into the ocean, many residents have no disaster plan for the sky-falling hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through November 30.

The Mason-Dixon telephone survey of 1,100 adults from April 20-26 in 12 coastal states, from Maine to Texas, turned in some startling results.

Forty-seven percent of those surveyed said they have no storm emergency plan, 26 percent said they have no plans to make any plans and 14 percent said should a hurricane hit they would not leave, come hell or high water.

Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center called the obstinate approach to not planning ahead and choosing to ride out the storm in place "dangerous folly."

"You can't out-guess Mother Nature. Not at the beginning of hurricane season, and especially not when a storm is bearing down on you. If you live in, or near, a coastal area or in an area prone to flooding from a hurricane or tropical system, you are at risk. Now is the time to get prepared. Flood-prone roads will likely become impassable. Gridlock could also prevent a last-minute evacuation," Mayfield told the Associated Press.

Preliminary forecasts call for an above average hurricane season this year.

William Gray of Colorado State University, who has been forecasting hurricane seasons for the Tropical Meteorology Project since 1999, has forecast 13 named storms and seven hurricanes, three of them major.

The Tropical System Risk climatologists from University College in London, are calling for 14 named storms and eight hurricanes, four of them major.

The seasonal norm is 10 named storms and six hurricanes, three of them major. On the average, only one or two hurricanes a year make U.S. landfall and the U.S. suffers a major storm once every three years, forecasters said.

The Mason-Dixon poll also found:

  • Fortunately, 53 percent had a plan for what to do if a serious hurricane threatened their home.
  • Nineteen percent said they would prepare their home for a hurricane when a hurricane watch was issued; 32 percent would prepare when a hurricane warning was issued; only 22 percent said their home was already prepared and could be secured within a few hours; in the "duh" category, 1 percent weren't sure what kind of preparations they'd make to their home or when.
  • Thirty-three percent said that before a hurricane hit, they would evacuate to a local shelter; 19 percent would relocate to a house of a nearby friend; 27 percent would flee as far as possible, trying to outsmart the path of the storm; the headless chicken contingent, seven percent, weren't sure where they'd go.
  • Twelve percent said they felt extremely vulnerable to damage from a hurricane or related tornado or flooding hazards; 31 percent felt somewhat vulnerable; 32 percent felt not too vulnerable; 24 percent, perhaps believing they are invulnerable, weren't fearing any storm and one percent just didn't have a clue about how vulnerable they were.
  • Most, 96 percent did not know that the garage door is the structural element most likely to fail first in a hurricane.
  • More than half, 54 percent, thought that masking tape -- masking tape -- will prevent windows from shattering.
  • More than a third, 39 percent did not know that during an approaching major hurricane, low-lying roads are usually cut off several hours before the storm makes landfall, blocking late evacuations, even though it generally rains in a hurricane and water has always reacted to the force of gravity by seeking lower ground.
  • Only 15 percent knew that geographically, the majority of hurricane fatalities from drowning in the past 33 years have occurred in inland counties (say, on those low-lying regions that flood quickly), not coastal regions.
  • More than a third, 38 percent believe opening a window on the sheltered side of house lessens the potential for wind damage. Opening any window during a hurricane will provide a real crash course in what not to do in a hurricane.

Get better informed and better prepared. Visit the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center, the National Hurricane Survival Initiative, and check in with your local emergency preparedness center to learn about regional strategies for storm preparedness.

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