"We haven't had a major storm batter Alabama since Katrina in 2005, but Fay was an excellent reminder of the dangers of tropical storms," says Gaines Smith, Extension director.

"I want to encourage people to take advantage of the resources Extension has to offer. We have professionals in every county as well as experts at Auburn and Alabama A&M universities who are poised to offer advice on everything from food safety to caring for livestock."

People can locate their county Extension office by looking under county government listings in the phone book.

Smith reminds citizens that heavy rainfall, damaging tornadoes, high winds, hail and even floods can occur during and following the days a hurricane makes landfall.

"I encourage Alabamians to take the time now to gather a basic disaster supply kit that includes at least a three day supply of food and water for each family member," says Smith. "The Alabama Extension Disaster Education Network is a gateway site that provides access to many Web sites related to disaster preparedness and recovery. Citizens can also search our Extension publications for disaster preparedness information."

The Alabama Eden Web site address is http://www.aces.edu/eden.

Another excellent resource for emergency planning is Florida Extension’s Disaster Handbook. It is a comprehensive, easy-to-read guide that is available online at http://disaster.ifas.ufl.edu.

Smith encourages Alabamians to educate themselves on the terminology associated with these storms.

Here are a few definitions from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

• Hurricane Advisory tells where the storm is located, the intensity of the wind speeds and the direction of movement.

• Hurricane Watch is issued for a coastal area when there is a threat of hurricane conditions within 24 to 36 hours. In vulnerable areas, evacuation efforts should begin at this point.

• Hurricane Warning is issued when hurricane conditions are expected in a specified coastal area in 24 hours or less. Hurricane conditions include winds of 74 mph and dangerously high tides and waves. Final actions for evacuation and protection of property should be completed as quickly as possible before high winds and heavy rains begin.

• Category 1 Hurricane means the damage that occurs will be minimal, occurring mostly to unanchored mobile homes, vegetation and signs. Sustained winds will be between 74 and 95 mph with a 4- or 5-foot storm surge.

• Category 2 Hurricane means the damage that occurs will be moderate, occurring mostly to mobile homes and roofs and could include flooding. Sustained winds will be between 96 and 110 mph with a 6- to 8-foot storm surge.

• Category 3 Hurricane means the damage that occurs will be extensive, including damage to small buildings. Low lying roads may be cut off or blocked. Sustained winds will be between 111 and 130 mph with a storm surge of 9 to 12 feet.

• Category 4 Hurricane means the damage that occurs will be extreme, including destroyed roofs and mobile homes, downed trees, cut off or blocked roads and flooded beach homes. Sustained winds will be between 131 and 155 mph with a storm surge of 13 to 18 feet.

• Category 5 Hurricane means the damage that occurs will be catastrophic, including most buildings, vegetation, major roads and flooded homes. Sustained winds will be more than 155 mph with a storm surge greater than 18 feet.

• Tornado Watch means that tornadoes are possible and people should be alert for approaching storms by staying tuned to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radios, commercial radios or televisions for local information.

• Tornado Warning means that a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar and that people within the area should take shelter immediately until an all clear is issued.

• Severe Thunderstorm Watch means that conditions are favorable for a storm to develop. When a watch is issued, people should begin to take action to protect themselves, family members and animals.

• Severe Thunderstorm Warning means that severe thunderstorms have been sighted in a specific area and that the potential for danger is immediate.

Being prepared for hurricanes, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms can reduce the amount of fear, anxiety and loss that accompanies natural disasters.