ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- During hurricane season, you'll be flooded with information about the latest storms and how to prepare.

But when is a good time to start gathering your belongings and buying supplies? Right now. It's never too early to prepare, and no one has been less well off by not preparing early.

More: Check your disaster supply list

The situation becomes more urgent when the National Hurricane Center issues watches and warnings for areas under the greatest threat. Although they vary in meaning, they need to be taken seriously.

Here are the official alerts that can be issued for your area and what you should do:

Tropical Storm Watch: Be on guard! Tropical-storm-force winds in excess of 39 mph are possible within 48 hours.

Hurricane Watch: Be aware! Hurricane-force winds in excess of 74 mph are possible within 48 hours.

--Review plans to prepare your home and possibly evacuate.

Tropical Storm Warning: Watch out! Tropical-storm-force winds are expected within 36 hours.

Hurricane Warning: Take cover! Hurricane-force winds are expected within 36 hours.

--Immediately finish your storm preparations and leave if asked.

Extreme Wind Warning: Stay in shelter! The eyewall of a major hurricane, with winds in excess of 115 mph, are expected in one hour.

--Do not leave the interior portion of a well-built structure.

Keep these alerts in mind during each hurricane season.

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