The six-month hurricane season officially began June 1, and forecasters are predicting a mild summer.
That pronouncement from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center is good news for those living on the coasts along the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. Still, residents there know that it just takes one storm to do extensive damage, so the push to prepare for the season is underway.
Around here, the threat of a hurricane isn't the same. Yet summer storms, with strong winds and heavy rain, can be almost daily occurrences in humid Maryland — case in point, the county was under a tornado warning Monday evening — and these storms can be destructive and just as deadly.
In Carroll County, the memory is still fresh and stinging from last July's tragedy at River Valley Ranch, where 12-year-old Justin Diggs was killed when a tree fell on him as a severe thunderstorm and high winds raced across Millers and Lineboro.
For many, that incident serves as a reminder that we all must be aware and be prepared.
Doug Brown, the county's emergency management coordinator, says the fact Carroll isn't prone to hurricanes doesn't lessen the importance of readiness for weather emergencies.
He notes that while Sandy in 2012 was the last hurricane that affected Carroll in a large way, numerous storms carrying high winds and large amounts of water have caused significant damage in the county, threatening property and lives.
The county has launched its annual campaign to promote readiness, and several resources are available at the department's website, ccgovernment.carr.org/ccg/emermang.
Among them is a Citizens Guide to Emergency Preparedness, a downloadable document that offers a blueprint for what to do and how to prepare for weather emergencies. The guide covers topics including communication, power outages and flooding.
Brown says that at a time of year when families are out enjoying activities — from youth camps and concerts to sporting events and the long parade of fire department carnivals — it's crucial to have access to weather alerts. Radio and television are traditional sources, but today there are a wide range of cell phone apps that can alert users to weather emergencies.
Simply put, there's no reason not to receive timely warnings.
Brown says three other practices are key: follow warnings that are issued, get indoors when severe weather approaches, and stay put in a secure location for the duration of storms.
Beyond those tips are common-sense family practices, namely making sure everyone in the family has a way to stay in touch, and arranging for a rendezvous point when attending a large event. Inclement weather or not, those practices are a good idea for every family.
You can't fight a powerful storm, but knowledge is power, too. The start of storm season should serve as a reminder to Carroll County residents that we're not immune from devastating effects of rain, high wind and other calamities.
We can, however, be ready by taking simple steps to protect our properties — and the people we hold dear.