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FRIDAY, JUNE 1, 2007

Poll says many coastal residents still not prepared for hurricanes

MIAMI (AP) — Many 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 United States this year.

Nevertheless, 44 percent of people who live within 30 miles of the shore in 18 Atlantic and Gulf Coast states say they feel “not too” or “not at all” vulnerable to a hurricane, or to related tornadoes and flooding, according to the Mason-Dixon poll.

The poll also surveyed people farther inland in those states and found those residents were not as concerned or as prepared for hurricanes.

But forecasters warn that flooding and powerful winds from hurricanes can reach well inland, so people should be prepared even if they live far from the coast. Computer models show that a Category 3 storm that hits the New York metropolitan area could spread hurricane-force winds into Vermont and Canada.

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.

Cathy Miller, who lives on North Carolina’s narrow Ocracoke Island, accessible only by ferry, says she won’t evacuate unless it’s a Category 4 or worse hurricane.

“I’ve never evacuated,” Miller said. “Every time I say that, though, I knock on wood.”

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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