Big Bertha a reminder to prepare for storms

Jul 9, 2008

Fearsome Category 3 hurricane churns far out at sea

Florida Today--July 8, 2008

Hurricane Bertha on Monday was little more than a reminder to Floridians that it’s storm season.

"We have the first storm of the Atlantic-basin hurricane season, Bertha, some 2,000 miles out in the Atlantic," said Mike Stone, spokesman for the state’s Division of Emergency Management. "We watch the activity in the tropics the same way we watch events around the state on a daily basis."

Stone said Director Craig Fugate told division staff that Bertha, now a Category 3 storm with winds of 120 mph and gusts of up to 150 mph, offered the state — and residents — a chance to do a personal dry run of hurricane planning.

"What it means to Floridians is this: It’s hurricane season. The conditions are there," Stone said.

Those conditions include a high-pressure system north of the storm that’s steering it north-northwest, state meteorologist Ben Nelson said.

"There’s going to be a weakness, a trough of low pressure off the United States east coast later this week," Nelson said. "The strength of that system will determine how quickly, or whether, Bertha threatens the United States."

The Division of Emergency Management goes into increased alert when forecasts and conditions call for local governments to begin to prepare or react to disasters.

"What gets us engaged, what drives our activity at the state, is the need for local governments to ramp up and start doing protective actions," Stone said.

Stone said personal disaster plans can still be worked up 37 days into the official hurricane season with help at