According to the National Weather Service in Mobile, Alabama, 17 named storms formed this year, including 10 hurricanes and six major hurricanes (defined as Category 3 and above).

With the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season officially ending Thursday, local officials are looking back on the most active hurricane season in more than a decade and looking forward to how to best prepare for storms in the future.

According to the National Weather Service in Mobile, Alabama, 17 named storms formed this year, including 10 hurricanes and six major hurricanes (defined as Category 3 and above). Four storms — Harvey, Maria, Irma and Nate — affected the United States, three of them as major hurricanes.

“Comparatively speaking, it was a very active season,” said Jason Beaman, a meteorolgist with the National Weather Service. “We had 17 named storms and your normal amount of storms is 12, so we were five storms above average there. We also had 10 hurricanes while we usually average around six in a season. And on average, typically two of those are major, but we had six this year, so that was what the big difference was.”

While Northwest Florida essentially was spared from the worst of the storms’ impacts, emergency management officials nonetheless worked around-the-clock tracking their projected paths and preparing for worst-case scenarios.

Randy McDaniel, chief of emergency management in Okaloosa county, said he was expecting an active hurricane season because officials had predicted as much, and his office was prepared for a major storm from the very beginning.

“We approached this season like we do every season, which is like it’s the season that we will be hit by a major hurricane,” McDaniel said. “Everything that we do, from hurricane exercises to emergency support functions, it’s all in preparation for that major category 3, 4 or 5 hurricane strike.”

Walton County Emergency Management Director Jeff Goldberg said he knew it would be a “coin toss” as far as where the hurricanes would go, but said Irma and Nate affected the Panhandle the most.

“We had Nate, which affected more of Alabama and the western part of our state, and we had Irma that came close,” Goldberg said. “We saw some storm surge effects from Nate because of where it made landfall to the west of us, as opposed to Irma where it sucked a lot of the water away from our shores.”

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Okaloosa, Walton and Santa Rosa counties opened up host shelters during Hurricane Irma to house evacuees from the southern part of the state. Each county also opened up its own risk shelter during Hurricane Nate for those who wanted to voluntarily evacuate from their homes.

Despite not seeing a direct hit, McDaniel and Goldberg said there was a lot to learn from this year’s hurricane season.

“I think this year was a big wake-up call for a lot of people,” Goldberg said. “People were stocking up well ahead of Irma to the point where it was almost a panic. We were trying to tell folks to stock up early, get their stuff well ahead of time. But people were calling us saying, ‘Walmart is out of water.’ Well, you had all year to stock up on water.”

“Make sure you’ve got your plan on what to do and you’ve got your disaster supply kit ready well ahead of June 1 (the beginning of hurricane season),” he added.

McDaniel said he was looking at how other parts of the state handled the hurricanes and their aftermaths. Following the deaths of 14 senior citizens in Hollywood after their nursing home lost power and air conditioning during Irma, McDaniel said he developed action plans for local nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

“We’ve already begun working with them on their generators and what’s required of them and their planning,” he said.

Goldberg said a team of Walton County emergency management officials deployed to other parts of the state in Irma’s aftermath and learned things from officials there.

“We saw what some of those areas have done and issues they have, and now we’re coming back saying 'What can we do to avoid those issues here?' ” Goldberg said. “Whether it’s debris management to management of donated goods, we’re looking at how we can fix a variety of things.”

As far as next year, officials aren’t ready to make any predictions just yet, But regardless of what happens, they say they’re ready for anything.

“To be quite honest, we don’t care about the predictions, because whether they predict one hurricane or 100 hurricanes, we’re going to prepare the same exact way,” Goldberg said. “And it’s important to remember that storms can happen after hurricane season and before hurricane season, so like always, we’re going to be watching what’s going on out there, planning and training, and when something happens we’ll spring into action.”