POLL: Hurricane season is here, but residents not bustling to stock up on supplies

As hurricane season began Monday, Steve Trafton, owner of Marco Ace Hardware on 880 East Elkcam Circle, says now is the time to check shutters and schedule yard maintenance, such as coconut removal. Customers haven't been stocking up yet and he said he doesn't recommend over-doing it by purchasing much more than a flashlight and a full deck of cards.

Photo by KELLY FARRELL, Staff // Buy this photo

As hurricane season began Monday, Steve Trafton, owner of Marco Ace Hardware on 880 East Elkcam Circle, says now is the time to check shutters and schedule yard maintenance, such as coconut removal. Customers haven't been stocking up yet and he said he doesn't recommend over-doing it by purchasing much more than a flashlight and a full deck of cards.

It's that time to make sure you have all the necessary hardware for those hurricane shutters as hurricane season began Monday. Steve Trafton, owner of Marco Ace Hardware on 880 East Elkcam Circle, says now is the time to check shutters and schedule yard maintenance, such as coconut removal. Customers haven't been stocking up yet and he said he doesn't recommend over-doing it.

Photo by KELLY FARRELL, Staff // Buy this photo

It's that time to make sure you have all the necessary hardware for those hurricane shutters as hurricane season began Monday. Steve Trafton, owner of Marco Ace Hardware on 880 East Elkcam Circle, says now is the time to check shutters and schedule yard maintenance, such as coconut removal. Customers haven't been stocking up yet and he said he doesn't recommend over-doing it.

Have you made any preparations for hurricane season?

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— More than half of residents in hurricane-prone areas don’t feel vulnerable to storms, nor do they have a plan in place.

Those are the findings of a Mason-Dixon poll commissioned by American Initiatives and announced Thursday at the International Hurricane Research Center at Florida International University in Miami just in time for today’s start of the hurricane season. Sunday, the day before the season commenced, was a quiet one in Collier County, with no runs on emergency supplies like bottled water or batteries in local grocery and hardware stores.

However, the warnings all over television and newspapers this time of year seem to be having an effect in Southwest Florida, said David Collins, an associate at the Home Depot on Davis Boulevard.

“I’ve been here in Naples 10 years,” said Collins. “I’ve noticed that people here tend to wait until the first storm to prepare. But, there’s been more early preparation this year than a couple of years ago.”

A steady flow of battery sales has increased over the last few weeks, Collins said, and sales of permanent and portable generators have picked up recently after a steady trickle all year long.

“We get people (buying generators) all year long because people come and go all of the time,” said Collins.

The retail push to hock hurricane-season essentials was obvious at the Target store at the corner of Pine Ridge and Airport-Pulling roads Sunday, where both batteries and bottled water were on sale in special displays on the end-caps of aisles and in front of cash registers. All 12-packs of one water brand were gone from the shelf, but plenty of gallon-size containers and 15- to 24-packs remained, many on sale through this Saturday.

At Sunshine ACE Hardware in downtown Naples, water and battery-operated lanterns went on prominent display on Thursday.

Assistant Manager Mike Wood said he had helped two people Sunday who were there to buy hurricane supplies, but said he expected the big push to happen before the first storm.

“Usually when you see the biggest spike is when a storm’s coming,” he said, “when we’re in that ‘cone of probability.’”

But Wood speculated that many people have leftover supplies from last year, which spawned only one tropical storm that swept over the area and caused only minor flooding with a few exceptions.

“I still have a boatload of batteries and stuff,” he said.

The advisory released with the Mason-Dixon poll, though, says seaside residents have gotten too cavalier in their attitudes toward the hurricane threat after the last two quiet seasons.

“Nearly two years after Hurricane Katrina shocked and horrified the nation, far too many residents are still unprepared for storms,” said Bill Proenza, director of the National Hurricane Center, in a prepared release. “Last year’s below normal hurricane season may have resulted in coastal residents being lulled into a false sense of complacency.”

Gov. Charlie Crist has hit the airwaves over the last week to urge Floridians to get prepared, reminding residents that “a storm doesn’t have to be a hurricane to be destructive.”

Old Naples resident Nancy Sanders said living through Hurricane Wilma in 2005 was enough to convince her of the importance of being prepared — she said she heeded warnings and left Naples for that storm. She said she is ready for the start of this year’s season, with plenty of essentials left over from last year, like water, flashlights and battery-operated candles.

“I don’t do major hurricane preparation,” she said. “I’m a single woman. I don’t stock the cupboards, but if one’s coming, you’ll see me at Wynn’s (Market).”

Most important to her is to have a plan, she said, particularly for where she will go and how she will gather together important documents that need to come with her.

That is a major component of the preparedness push Crist and other emergency officials stress each year.

And with a few quiet seasons behind them, said Collins, residents have every reason to be on guard. Over the long-term, Florida averages a hit by one major storm every three years.

“The law of averages is going to strike,” said Collins.

- - -

Visit www.FloridaDisaster.org for help with making plans, tips, checklists for disaster supplies and pet disaster plans.

To read results of the study, go to www.hurricanesafety.org/newpoll

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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