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South Florida officials remind residents to prepare as experts predict busy hurricane season

Climate Hurricane Forecast
FILE - Debris from destroyed homes and structures float in a canal in Horseshoe Beach, Fla., Aug. 31, 2023, one day after the passage of Hurricane Idalia. Nearly all the experts think 2024 will be one of the busiest Atlantic hurricane seasons on record. Rebecca Blackwell / AP

As experts predict one of the busiest Atlantic hurricane seasons on record, officials in South Florida want residents and visitors to prepare and be safe.

Miami-Dade County officials and emergency management workers held a news conference Thursday to offer a reminder on hurricane preparedness. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting between 17 and 25 named storms this summer and fall, with 8 to 13 achieving hurricane status, with at least 75 mph (120 kph) sustained winds, and four to seven becoming major hurricanes, with at least 111 mph (178 kph) winds. An average Atlantic hurricane season produces 14 named storms, seven of them hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava took the impending hurricane season as a chance to point out other potential threats.

"The reality is that here in Miami-Dade County, we're not only susceptible to hurricanes, but other kinds of hazards that come as a result of extreme weather, like heat, storms and floods," Levine Cava said. "And we know that climate change is only making things worse."

Last month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new law that bans local governments from requiring heat and water breaks for outdoor workers. It was a direct response to Miami-Dade County's effort to require shade and water for construction, farm and other outdoor workers. And earlier this month, DeSantis signed a bill that deprioritizes climate change and removes the term from many state laws.

Levine Cava said the county has instituted heat-related breaks for its own workers, and they're continuing to educate the public and businesses as South Florida is hit by record-high temperatures.

Climate Hurricane Forecast
FILE - A home which came off its blocks sits partially submerged in a canal, in Horseshoe Beach, Fla., Friday, Sept. 1, 2023, two days after the passage of Hurricane Idalia. Nearly all the experts think 2024 will be one of the busiest Atlantic hurricane seasons on record. Rebecca Blackwell / AP

While hurricane winds can cause massive damage, Robert Molleda, the head meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Miami, told reporters at a news conference Thursday that flooding can be an even greater threat.

"Storm surge is the leading weather-related killer for hurricanes in the United States," Molleda said. "And South Florida certainly is no exception to that."

Miami-Dade emergency management director Pete Gomez reminded residents that the best time to prepare for a hurricane is before a storm is heading toward the state. He encouraged people to pay attention to advisories on following evacuation notices.

"When we say evacuation, we don't expect you to leave the state of Florida," Gomez said. "We just want you to get away from those areas that are most at risk. Just come in somewhere inland where the areas are safe."

During Hurricane Irma in 2017, Florida highways turned into parking lots as thousands evacuated from their homes and headed to other parts of the state or out of state completely.

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