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Tryin’ to Reason With Hurricane Season

Tom PattonWho says we don’t have seasons in Florida? 

Of course we do.  Winter, Spring (which fell on a Tuesday and Wednesday this year … not consecutive)Tourist, Fire, and Hurricane. This year, fire season may be a bit less severe because of the 10 days of rain that dumped a goodly portion of the Atlantic Ocean on the area, but June 1st is always the start of hurricane season, and it’s not something to be taken lightly.

It comes to mind because a Mason-Dixon Poll released last week showed that coastal residents are “grossly unprepared” for a big storm.

The poll shows most residents in coastal states still do not feel vulnerable to the catastrophic destruction and deadly force that can be brought on by a storm and most have not adequately prepared for coming storms. More than half of those polled reported that they would not leave home if a major storm was approaching or would only evacuate if ordered by local officials.

Other findings from the poll are no less … and I can’t think of a better word for it … shocking:

  • 83% said they have not taken any steps in the past year to make their homes stronger, even after last year’s active season.
  • 66% have no hurricane survival kit.
  • 62% don’t feel vulnerable to a hurricane or related tornado or flooding.
  • 55% do not have a family disaster plan.

Not this past year, but 3 years ago we purchased flexible storm shutters for our house.  They’re made of a Kevlar-type material that will not prevent windows from being broken, but will keep most of the wind out should a hurr1window or door be breached.  The main reason houses lose their roofs in such storms is 100+ MPH winds getting into the house and lifting the roof off. Our shutters are Miami-Dade rated, so I feel pretty good about them.  And they go up with wing nuts on bolts permanently anchored into the window frames.  I can have the whole house shuttered in about an hour, and not have to worry about lugging around big  sheets of plywood or razor-sharp metal in a gathering storm. I really like the flexible shutters, and I hope I never have to put them on the house for real.

I have federal flood insurance. I don’t have to. The mortgage company for some strange reason doesn’t require it, but I have it. I live on a barrier island, for goodness sake. It’s pretty inexpensive, too. I guess it’s because our elevation here at the house is 8 or 9 feet, rather than the 2-3 feet of most of the land around here. Looking at the maps, we’re not required to evacuate until there’s the threat of a Category 2 storm, but we’d be surrounded by water if we didn’t, so we’d probably go.

We have our hurricane kit, but it’s not yet stocked the way we want it to be. There will be no tax holiday for hurricane supplies this year, so we’ll need to just go stock up on batteries and water and store them in the garage. I have a two burner Colman stove and a camp coffee pot, though my penchant for grinding my own beans would leave me wanting for an electric coffee grinder, so some ground coffee has to go in the kit, along with canned and dry food. There’s no way we would rely on anyone to get ice to us out here at the beach. Just toss the contents of the fridge and re-stock when the stores open again.

Our family disaster plan consists of going as far inland as needed to be safe, and getting back to the beach as soon as we can. We have a couple of options for someplace to go, but for the first time since I’ve lived in Florida, I won’t have to worry about staffing a radio station. I’ll miss that, actually, but it is what it is. We’ll have mom to worry about, since Fleet Landing doesn’t have its evacuation contract any longer, so we have some additional planning to do.

But the most surprising statistic is that 62% don’t even feel vulnerable to a hurricane or related weather. Either the main storm, or a possible tornado or flooding.

hurr2I know we haven’t had a direct hit here since 1964 … which was before Andie was born. But as much as we want to believe it, there is no geographic feature or kink in the gulf stream or anything else that protects us here other than just luck, and as these pictures I took last year during tropical storm Fay point out, it doesn’t take a full-blown hurricane to cause some pretty severe weather problems.  And back in 2004, when we had so many storms, the weather radio would screech all night long warning of tornadoes. You’ve got to take it seriously.

So, if you live in a coastal region anywhere from Maine (and yes, I’ve experienced a hurricane in Maine) to Brownsville, Texas, it’s hurricane season.  I read something on Yahoo news the other day where New York was studying the feasibility of enormous hydraulic sea walls to protect the city should the big one come calling.  But they’re not going to build those tomorrow, if ever, and most of us won’t have the luxury.

Living at the beach has a lot of appeal.  It’s why so many of us have chosen to put ourselves in harm’s way and take the risk.  The risk for most of us really pretty small, when taken in the aggregate.  But no place has NO risk.  The remnants of a hurricane last year tore up through the Midwest and knocked out electricity at Miami of Ohio in Oxford.  My daughter had worse weather from that storm at college than we had here in Neptune Beach. 

Get your plan together, get your kit together, and cross your fingers that this year’s “average” season isn’t the one that introduces you to Ana, Bill, Claudette, Danny, Erica…

1 Responses »

  1. I love the last line - cross your fingers. What a great way to sum up the season! Accuweather.com experts are calling for fewer storms to hit the U.S. coast, but they will be more randomly scattered. You're absolutely right, Tom - literally anyone from Texas to Maine is susceptible this year. And all it takes is one storm to set the tone for any given season. Remember Andrew in 1992? That was a below average year, too... People need to prepare for the worst because it's possible, plain and simple (especially if you stick out like a vulnerable sore thumb in Florida)!