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It's hurricane season: How to prepare for a mega-storm

Monday marked the first day of the 2015 hurricane season, and no matter which coast you are on, now is as good a time as any to prepare for a potential onslaught.

Believe it or not, the U.S. is in the midst of a nine-year-long hurricane drought, the longest such lull since the mid-1800s.

In some areas, such as Tampa, which hasn't seen a major hurricane since Prohibition, the quiet could lead to a rude awakening when the next storm does hit.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Prediction Center, this year's hurricane forecast looks relatively calm for the Gulf and East Coast regions -- but more active that usual on the Pacific coast.

Lessons from mega storms like Andrew and Sandy, which pummeled regions that went long periods without hurricanes and wrought millions in damage, taught us that it pays to be prepared.

The American Red Cross recommends several tips for individuals to get a resilience plan in place:

  • Get flood insurance; it is not usually included in basic homeowner policies
  • Create a specific hurricane evacuation plan for the household
  • Stock up on pantry supplies and water
  • Check the National Weather Service's National Hurricane Center for updates throughout the season

If there is a hurricane heading your way, there are a few extra steps you need to take:

  • Board up windows with shutters or plywood (do not tape them)
  • Fill your car's gas tank and shut off propane tanks
  • Unplug small appliances
  • Set the refrigerator to its coldest level; this will keep food fresh longer in the case of a power outage
  • Get a list of local shelters and safe havens for family under medical care, as well as pets

If a hurricane hits, do not rely on personal judgment or a past experience waiting out a smaller storm. Follow evacuation orders and always avoid flooded bridges and roads, even if the water doesn't seem that deep.

Hurricane season ends Nov. 30.

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