Are the storm shutters up? Do you have a working flashlight? Have you stocked up on batteries, bottled water, nonperishable food and other supplies? Most importantly, do you have a plan of action in case disaster approaches?

It’s that time of year again: The Atlantic hurricane season began Thursday, June 1, and will keep the Cayman Islands in suspense for the next six months, until the end of November.

Tropical cyclone activity really will not start “heating up” in the North Atlantic basin for a couple of months, with hurricane season peaking in August, September and October.

While that observation may provide statistical grounds for our country’s residents to relax a bit, breathe more easily and re-review their lists of emergency supplies, it of course does not preclude the formation of “early” or “late” storms.

There has already been one named storm this year, Tropical Storm Arlene, which surprised forecasters with its formation on April 20, spinning around for a few days on the open ocean somewhere between Bermuda and the Azores before dissipating without nearing landfall.

U.S. government forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are predicting a slightly above-average hurricane season for 2017, with between 11 and 17 named storms, five to nine hurricanes and two to four major hurricanes (Category 3 and above).

(For perspective, the seasonal averages from 1981-2010 are 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes. Last year, the Atlantic region had 15 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.)

Put another way, it can be considered “business as usual” for those of us who live in the Caribbean. We should be prepared, not panicked, but ever-respectful of Mother Nature’s might.

Cayman’s tourism industry is doing its part to mitigate hurricane season’s potential impacts to the local economy, as local hotels and condos are offering guarantees to guests that if a hurricane approaches Cayman, they can cancel their reservations with minimal notice and minimal penalties. A list of participating properties is available on the Department of Tourism’s website.

For readers who may be new to Cayman, who haven’t experienced a tropical storm in quite some time or who like to have all their bases covered, we direct your attention toward this Thursday’s edition of the Cayman Compass, which will include our annual Hurricane Guide.

The comprehensive special publication includes the local outlook for hurricane season, the schedule of storm names (from Arlene to Whitney), tips on “hurricane-proofing” your home, and plans, supply lists and contact information for emergency agencies. If you’re wondering what you need to know in order to be ready for the worst – it’s all in the guide.

While we have no way of knowing what to expect from this year’s hurricane season – as always, we are praying for peace and tranquility – the following words sum up the wisest strategy for remaining safe: Be prepared.

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