The official start of the Atlantic hurricane season is June 1.

From then until the first cold fronts of the fall blow through, people who’ve been here awhile will be keeping a weather eye on the waters to our east.

If you’re a new resident of the coast, you’ll hear a lot of talk that might well be alarming.

Take it from people who’ve been through it before: The single most important thing you can do is to get your family together and make a plan.

Decide now what you’re going to do.

It’s easier to make decisions when things are relatively calm. When a storm is bearing down on you, it’s a little harder to think clearly. It’s a little harder to remember all those little details of things you’ll need when you hear the evacuation order.

That’s why The Daily News produces this annual Hurricane Guide. We want to provide you with information that you can use to make an informed plan.

The guide has a lot of useful information from emergency officials and from people who have weathered bad storms.

Start your plan by making lists of things you want to do and supplies you need. It helps to put things in writing.

Think in terms of needs — what will you need, what will your family need, your pets, your house.

Think about essentials — special medications and foods, contact lenses and insurance papers.

What does your car need? Will it hold up to creeping along for hours in heavy traffic and blistering heat? Are the tires good? Is the spare? Is there a spare? A jack? A handle? Do you know how to use them?

If you’re stuck, you could start with some advice that old coastal dwellers used to give to newcomers.

Find a big container or duffel bag. Declare that it’s your disaster kit. As you think of things you’ll need, start stuffing them into your kit.

Seeing your kit every day for a couple of weeks will keep you and other members of your family thinking about what must be done when a storm enters the Gulf.

The point of that big container or duffel bag is that it’s a place to start. And that’s really the point about all this talk about the start of another storm season. It’s a reminder that you need to get started on your plan.

Michael A. Smith is editor of The Daily News.

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206;

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