Monday is the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs through the summer and typically heats up for this region from about mid-August through the end of October.

The season ends with November, but that’s getting ahead of the point.

For years, The Daily News has published the region’s official hurricane guide at the beginning of the season. You can find copies of this year’s guide in the Weekend edition published Saturday.

The guide will be in all copies, those delivered to subscribers and those available at our news racks and from retail vendors.

Most years, we note the guide is especially useful for newcomers who are about to go through their first season — people who’ve never had to think about getting their homes ready and themselves out of the way of a bad storm.

This year, we’d argue the core audience is everybody.

After experiencing the evacuation debacle of Hurricane Rita in 2005, the great storm-surge inundation of Ike in 2008 and the horrific rain-driven floods of Harvey in 2017, we thought we had seen it all.

We were wrong about that.

COVID-19 has added a new and unexpected twist and new layer of concern to the old problem.

This year, we’ve got to ask new questions.

How, for example, can several hundred thousand people evacuate inland during a time of social distancing?

Where are all those people supposed to go if jamming them together on cots in emergency shelters is not an option?

Will it be safe even to put two or three families in a single-family home somewhere inland?

How do you get hundreds of aged and infirm people who can’t evacuate themselves out of harm’s way without packing them onto buses, as has been the method?

The good news is emergency management officials at all levels of government have been asking those same questions and have plans about how to conduct a mass evacuation during a virus pandemic.

The guide provides an overview of those plans and advice about how to get ready for hurricane season during the pandemic.

A lot of uncertainty remains, however.

The season starts now, for practical purposes, but probably won’t really get roiling until later in the summer.

Will the COVID-19 pandemic be better then, be over, be worse?

Who knows?

One thing that has not changed and is certain: The single most important thing you can do is to get your family together and make a plan.

If you haven’t done that, now’s the time.

Waiting until there’s a storm in the Gulf tracking this way is waiting too long.

• Michael A. Smith

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206; michael.smith@galvnews.com

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(2) comments

Bailey Jones

A COVID twist, but also a global warming twist. For the 6th year in a row, we've had our first named storm before the opening of hurricane season - it seems we may need to extend hurricane season to accommodate all of the storms. Six consecutive years of early storms is the longest streak since records have been kept.

The seven storms that have occurred early in the past six years are : Ana (2015), Alex (2016), Bonnie (2016), Arlene (2017), Alberto (2018), Andrea (2019), Arthur (2020)

Better start looking for toilet paper now.

Carlos Ponce

Ana was a tropical storm that hit South Carolina.

Alex formed in January. Landfall on Terceira Island, Azores.

Andrea was a tropical storm that made landfall at Steinhatchee, Florida.

Arthur hit North Carolina.

Bonnie, A tropical storm making landfall near Charleston.

Arlene, a tropical storm making landfall in the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico and the Florida Keys.

Alberto, a tropical storm making landfall near Laguna Beach, Florida.

All hit the Atlantic, not the Gulf Coast. It could happen here but very unlikely.

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