FORT POLK, La. — The power of a hurricane, like all natural disasters, is intense, powerful and violent. I should know — I was born and raised in Louisiana; and I’ve been through enough of them. My childhood was spent near the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and my family and neighbors met the storms head on more times than I can count. Anyone who lives along a coastline understands and learns to deal with hurricanes as a matter of survival, just as other parts of the country deal with their own forms of catastrophe.Of the natural disasters — earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tornados, landslides, tsunamis, avalanches, fires, drought, wildfires and floods — I think I prefer having to deal with hurricanes, not because they aren’t horrible, but because it is a slow moving disaster with categories of intensity that people can watch, track and be warned about well before they hit their intended targets.Though tornados have degrees of intensity and can be tracked, they form and move much faster than a hurricane, as do many of the other natural disasters listed above. That speed leaves little time for people to prepare or get out of the way of danger. Tornados, for example, are easily born from the hurricane winds and behave somewhat like a volatile, excitable child on a sugar rush and throwing a temper tantrum. They are the storm within a storm and finding myself in one’s path can be more frightening to me than the hurricane that spawned it.The easiest levels of a hurricane to deal with come in the form of a tropical storm or category one hurricane. Though still dangerous, with ample water and wind, they are storms I feel fairly confident to handle, prepare for and get through — largely unscathed. In other words, they’re “doable,” and much preferable to category 2-5 hurricanes.I’ve lived through category 2 and 3 hurricanes. I don’t really want to do it again — thanks. I’m grateful that I’ve never been through a category 4 or 5 hurricane, nor have I any desire to do so. With what I know, I’d likely pack up and head out before one lands. It seems the wise and prudent thing to do.As hurricanes are spotted far out in the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico, the anticipation of the actual event can be nerve wracking. You watch this monstrosity that grows as it feeds on warm water and the perfect mix of warm and cool air. That’s a simplistic explanation from cool air. That’s a simplistic explanation from someone who isn’t a meteorologist.This waiting period is also the stage that gives you plenty of time to stock up on necessities, if you haven’t already (all those lists of things you should buy to prepare for a hurricane that we keep running in the Guardian) and make your home as ready as you can if you are going to batten down the hatches and ride out the storm. After all, you’re in it for the long haul now.Once the storm hits, whether day or night, there is little relaxation or sleep happening. As I’ve done, you’ll grapple with the storm raging outside your windows. Time seems to slow and stretch painfully and the storm is measured over hours or days, not minutes, depending on the atmospheric conditions.In the middle of the storm, adrenaline pumps through your system and an underlying tension keeps your emotions on edge.As gusts of around 100 miles per hour (depending on the hurricane’s category) blow around your home, and you hear the wind howl as it picks up stray pieces of debris from your yard — anything from stray toys you forgot to pick up to the aluminum sheeting that used to be the roof of your carport (that part happened to my family) — you fight to stay calm. It’s an uneasy balance as you wait out Mother Nature’s sound and fury.If you happen to be in the path of the eye of the storm, you’ll experience an eerie and almost unnatural calm. The skies are still and usually have an unhealthy looking greenish-yellow cast to them. I’ve only been through the eye of a storm a couple of times, but I’ll never forget the feeling of unease knowing it’s just a short break before the hurricane’s winds and rain are back to batter you once again until the storm finally passes.But it’s not all about the wind — it’s also about the water. Hurricanes bring enormous amounts of water due to storm surge on the coast and heavy rains. How fast a storm passes determines the water damage a hurricane can bring inland.If the storm slows and stalls, it can dump enough water on a state to bring on a secondary disaster — floods. What hasn’t been demolished by wind is then destroyed by high water, not to mention the continued danger to human lives.Giving you a small taste of what I’ve experienced as hurricane season gets underway is my way of hoping you’ll better understand and respect hurricanes, especially if you are new to Louisiana and Fort Polk. I’ve talked quite a bit about the category a hurricane takes. Below is an explanation of what those categories mean when a hurricane’s winds whorl:The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane's sustained wind speed.• Category 1 — 74-95 miles per hour — this means the winds are dangerous and will produce some damage to things such as roof shingles, trees and power lines.• Category 2 — 96-110 mph — is extremely dangerous winds that can cause extensive damage. There could be major roof and siding damage with trees toppling across roads or onto homes. Power outages can last from several days to weeks.• Category 3 — 111-129 mph — is listed as a storm that will produce devastating damage. Many of the same issues found in category 2 will occur, but on what could be a wider and more destructive level. Electricity and water will be unavailable from several days to weeks.• Category 4 — 130-156 mph — at a category 4 level, hurricane damage is considered catastrophic. Homes and businesses can lose roofs and/or structural walls completely. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles will be downed. Power outages can last for months.• Category 5 — 157 mph or higher — this most devastating level is also catastrophic. A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed with total roof failure and wall collapse. Power outages will last from weeks to months and the area will be considered uninhabitable.Thankfully, most hurricanes don’t reach the category 3, 4 and 5 ranges. Most of them stay at tropical storm level, such as Cristobal, or fall into one of the first two categories. That’s bad enough, but recent history has shown what happens when you have a one-two punch like Katrina (a category 3 hurricane that hit New Orleans Aug. 29, 2005) and Rita (a category 3 hurricane that hit Louisiana near the Texas border Sept. 24, 2005. Both storms were clocked with winds at category 5 levels while in the Gulf of Mexico only to decelerate enough to hit land at a category 3. The damage and destruction wreaked havoc on Louisiana.As of May 21, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that it expects an above-normal 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, according to forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service.The outlook predicts a 60% chance of an above-normal season, a 30% chance of a near-normal season and only a 10% chance of a below-normal season. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30.NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a likely range of 13 to 19 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5 with winds of 111 mph or higher). NOAA provides these ranges with a 70% confidence. An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms of which 6 become hurricanes, including 3 major hurricanes.That means we are far from out of the woods this season.Read up on your hurricane safety and prepare for the worst-case scenario, and hope that Fort Polk’s luck in missing out on any ill effects from Cristobal was the worst we will see this season.Editor’s note: Scientific information, percentages and statistics were found at www.noaa.gov.