Hurricane season is back, which means it’s time to prepare.

After an active storm season last year, NOAA is predicting above normal activity for the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season, with 17 to 25 named storms likely. Out of those numbers, 8 to 13 could become hurricanes, including 4 to 7 major hurricanes. 

"This is the highest number of named storms NOAA has ever issued in its May forecast," says Dr. Rick Spinrad, Ph.D., administrator, NOAA.

Out of 20 named storms in 2023, three reached major hurricane strength, including Hurricane Idalia, which caused significant damage to North Florida and parts of Florida’s west coast.

Idalia made landfall in the Big Bend region of Florida as a Category 3 storm on August 30. It caused record-breaking storm surge from the Tampa Bay area to the Big Bend, which flooded canals and destroyed many homes in Horseshoe Beach.

Twelve people died as Idalia made its way across three states.

As many affected neighborhoods continue to rebuild, local, state and federal authorities all say now is the time to get ready for whatever may come our way this year.

From supply kits to home insurance, preparing for the Atlantic Hurricane season isn’t a one-day project, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Spectrum News 13 has everything you need to know to stay safe.

2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season (June 1 - Nov. 30)

  • In this article:

    • Hurricane supply checklist
    • Tips for securing your property
    • How to file a home insurance claim
    • Explained: Why storm surge is so dangerous
    • County shelter information for Central Florida
    • Recovering from Hurricanes Ian and Nicole
    • Finding out what hazards your home or business faces

Stocking Up

When a storm approaches, store shelves empty out. So, it's best to buy everything you'll need — and want — to have on hand way ahead of time. You don't want to end up with the leftovers after the canned food aisle has been combed through.

Florida's storm season sales tax holiday is also going on June 1 - 14. So if you plan on stocking up, you might as well get it tax-free. A second exemption period will begin Saturday, Aug. 24, and extend through Friday, Sept. 6.

Here's a list of all the basic items you might need:

Supply Kit Checklist

  • Flashlights and extra bulbs
  • Battery-operated radio
  • Battery-operated lanterns
  • Extra batteries (various sizes)
  • Wind-up or battery-powered clock
  • Matches
  • First aid kit
  • Duct tape
  • Rain gear
  • Plastic garbage bags
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Scissors
  • Can opener
  • Clean clothes
  • Extra blankets and pillows
  • Heavy gloves
  • Food
    • Bottled water (one gallon/person/day)
    • Two coolers (one for drinks, one for food)
    • Canned foods
    • Bottled juice
    • Dry pet food

Race Against the Clock

Volusia County residents know all too well that rebuilding takes time. But when another Hurricane Season begins, it’s a race against the clock to get work done, and even get work paid for.

The last year and half since Hurricane Nicole, Ben Kraljiev has worked to fix a seawall for his home, his father’s home, and six other neighbors in Wilbur-By-The-Sea in Volusia County.

While programs and grants can help Floridians rebuild, thousands of Floridians are worried they won’t have a safety net if the worst happens again. 

Florida's Home Insurance Market

Just two years ago, the Florida home insurance market was inching toward collapse, but lawmakers stepped in and put legislation in place to help avert disaster. However, many homeowners say their premiums are too high and they aren’t so sure repairs will be made if a storm causes damage.

According to a recent property insurance stability report by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, counties like Orange, Brevard, and Seminole have average property insurance premiums over $3,000. Other counties like Flagler, Lake, Osceola, and Volusia have averages over $2,000. Marion and Sumter counties have averages over $1,500.

Florida State Senator Jason Brodeur is pushing for property insurance reform and says the market is trending in the right direction, but it will take time to see more relief.

“In the last three years of the reforms that we have done, we are just now seeing the actuaries be able to have enough confidence to say the market has stabilized,” he said.

Brodeur said this is encouraging insurance carriers to do business in Florida, with the state monitoring companies closely.

The stability report details two companies are requesting rate increases that exceed 15% and another is filing a notice to not renew more than 10,000 policies within a 12-month period — 19 companies are subject to enhanced monitoring by the state.

Senator Brodeur said good companies entering the market will ultimately help turn things around.

“Once we have a stabilized market, that people know are going to be a business environment in which they have certainty that’s going to help start bringing those prices down,” he said.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, property insurance premiums increased nation-wide over 40% in 2023, with an average annual premium in Florida coming in at about $6,000, while the average premium across the U.S. is $1,700 — and that is more than 10% higher than the previous year. 

One way to help bring your costs down involves wind mitigation, which means fortifying your home so it’s not as susceptible to wind damage. The biggest threat from a storm in Central Florida is inland wind, so it’s a good idea to make sure you have full wind-mitigation on your home. 

Protecting Your Home

When a storm is forecast to affect Central Florida, it's not a good time to find out your most expensive possession isn't protected. Contact your insurance company before an emergency to make sure you are covered if a storm strikes.

Home Insurance Claim Checklist

  • Have your policy number available
  • Contact your insurance company as soon as possible
  • Make a list of damages and document with photos
  • Fill out and return all claims forms promptly
  • Ask questions if you don't understand the process

Protecting your home and its contents is more than just a financial exercise. It's physical. Before a tropical storm or hurricane storms across Central Florida, homowners should take several simple steps.

Checklist for Securing Your Home

  • Remove outdoor items
  • Trim dead branches from trees
  • Install shutters or board up windows 
  • Fill gas tanks and extra containers
  • Withdraw extra cash
  • Move furniture away from windows
  • Store important documents and valuables in waterproof containers

What is Climate Migration?

For many who don’t live here, Florida is seen as a tropical paradise, but for those who live in the Sunshine State, that image comes with some caveats — especially during hurricane season.

But for many who dream of living by the beach, reality eventually sets in and they might decide to pick up and move further inland — which is called “climate migration” — moving because of climate-related disasters.

The same type of climate migration occurred in 2017 after Hurricane Maria decimated Puerto Rico. The category 5 storm caused nearly 3,000 deaths on the island and crippled their infrastructure for months. It took nearly a year for power to be restored to all customers. Rather than rebuild, thousands of people who called Puerto Rico home decided to move to the mainland, including Central Florida.

Improvements in Technology

Over the past 20 years, improvements in technology have helped to refine hurricane forecasts. During the 2004 hurricane season, the forecast cone of uncertainty was only in its second year of existence.

Will Ulrick, the Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the National Weather Service Office in Melbourne, said errors in the forecast tracks of tropical cyclones in the early 2000s could be as large as three to five hundred miles.

On August 13, 2004, Hurricane Charley made its way up Florida’s west coast, shifting course to come ashore at Punta Gorda.

From there, it basically became an I-4 hurricane, traveling from the southwest to the northeast right over downtown Orlando and up to Daytona Beach.

“When you think of how large Florida is — 250 miles or so from north to south. We’re basically not able to tell you where the storm center of a tropical cyclone is expected to go. Whether it is between Key West to Jacksonville — that is a huge gap,” Ulrick said.

Since the 2004 season, Ulrich says the advancements in forecasting have allowed the range of error in the cone of uncertainty to be cut in half.

While meteorologists still face challenges when it comes to forecasting storms, thankfully the technology is still evolving.

Recovering from Past Storms

During the 2004 storm season, Florida went from being the Sunshine State to the plywood state. And those storms left lasting psychological impacts on those affected.

Many Floridians are still recovering two years after Hurricanes Ian and Nicole devastated parts of Central Florida.

Gov. DeSantis said the amount of water rising in parts of Florida was “basically a 500-year flood event.”

And communities along the St. Johns River know that damage can occur even after a storm has passed and skies have cleared. Hurricane Ian completely flooded State Road 46 in the aftermath.

So it’s always important to determine whether you live in a flood zone. 

Forecasting for the Future

Whenever there’s a storm on the horizon, meteorologists are closely monitoring the models: The Euro, the GFS, and others. But a new experimental forecasting model — HAFS — is already showing unexpected results.

The Hurricane Analysis and Forecast Systems went fully operational last year, and its goal is to accurately predict hurricanes.

One of the fundamental building blocks of the model was the improved grid, or nest, it runs on. That nest provides more accurate and higher-resolution data into the model.

Until recently, most hurricane models have lacked the computer power and resolution necessary to make these forecasts possible. But with the implementation of NOAA’s newest weather and climate supercomputers in 2022, they are now able to create some of the highest resolution forecasts to date.

Since its experimental debut in 2019, HAFS has shown an improvement in track predictions for storms by 10 to 15%.

In 2022, Hurricane Ian rapidly intensified off Florida’s southwest coast to a powerful category 5 storm. The only model to correctly predict that period of rapid intensification was HAFS — while it was still in its testing phase.

With another upgrade in July, researchers hope to see a continued improvement in the model across the board.

Tracking Storms

When a tropical system forms, Spectrum News 13 Weather Experts leverage their combined decades of experience and critical information from the National Hurricane Center to forecast storm tracks and development.

That includes interpreting the forecast cone and spaghetti models to determine a storm's potential path and projected intensity.

Hunkering Down

In the event of an approaching tropical storm or hurricane, counties open storm shelters for people who live in evacuation zones, low-lying areas and mobile homes. 

Emergency management officials say shelters should be treated as a last resort.

Specific shelters are set up for people with special needs. It's important to pre-register with the state.

Not all shelters accept pets, so pet owners need to make additional preparations.

County Storm Shelter Information

Restoring Power

Tropicals systems mean power outages — the more powerful the storm, the more widespread the interruption usually is.

Local crews work around the clock to repair the power grid as quickly as possible, enlisting help from other parts of Florida and across the country, if needed.

When the lights go out, you can check outage maps and see estimated repair times here.

Understanding Storm Surge

It's not the wind. It's the water. 

Most hurricane-related injuries and deaths are the result of water hazards, not the eye-popping wind speeds — and storm surge is among a hurricane's most lethal threats. 

If you live along the coast, and a storm is heading your way, evacuation orders will be issued. Following those orders is paramount because emergency crews won't respond until the worst of the weather has passed.

What Hazards YOUR Home Faces

Of course, hurricanes aren't the only natural phenonemon that can threaten Florida. So, how do you know if your property is really ready to stand up to anything that arises — even seabreeze storms and sinkholes.

A local professor of environmental science and public administration has developed a free tool that allows users to search their home address across the state's 67 counties to receive a score. It's meant to provide homeowners with a sense of how resilient their property is and provide information on the costs of potential mitigations.