"For the North Atlantic...Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of mexico: Tropical cyclone formation is not expected during the next 5 days." With that undramatic announcement, the National Hurricane Center began it's reporting on the 2014 hurricane season. The statement is in line with long-range forecasts that predict the 2014 season will be nothing special in terms of the overall number of storms or the number of storms expected to hit the U.S. coastline.
During this hurricane season this column will to try to avoid making such predictions since the harsh fact is that just one storm in the right (or wrong) place can turn a quiet season into a terrible one for people who happen to be in the way. But efforts will continue help explain in clear English the scale of a particular threat to any given area.
Forecasters are going to be using new tools to help more accurately forecast the course of storms. They also will be emphasizing more strongly than ever the potential storm surge threat to warning areas. The hope is that fewer people will be unnecessarily included in warning and watch areas. That has the potential of lessening complaints that forecasters and emergency managers are too often "crying wolf" when threats don't materialize. The added emphasis on storm surge also directly addresses the grim fact that storm surge and not wind is often the greatest hurricane-generated threat to life and property.
Ultimately the responsibility for their safety belongs with each individual. Forecasters and local emergency managers will do their best to keep the public informed about any potential threats those efforts will come to nothing if the message doesn't get out. Keeping yourself informed through sites like this one is a good start toward staying informed, but anyone who finds themselves under a direct threat of a hurricane or other severe storm, the best and most immediate information will come from your local weather service and media outlets.