Hurricanes: Be aware, Be Prepared, Not Scared

While hurricanes threaten the East and Gulf coasts, Flagler Co. is not high on the probability list. Fires and intense thunder storms are more common.

Palm Coast, FL – June 20, 2011 – June 1st marked the opening of the 2011 hurricane season. The season will last until the end of November. In 2004, Florida was hit by four separate storms. But many don’t realize that Northeast Florida, which includes Palm Coast and Flagler County, is not considered among the areas most vulnerable to storms. I first wrote about this fact September 29, 2006, but at that time, was less than one month old. Only 5 people visited the website that day (I was probably 4 of them) so I assume most of you missed it. For those who did, here it is again.
As you read this report and as the tempo of hurricane related news accelerates (predictions, tracking charts in the newspaper, etc.) in the days to come, remember this; a meteorologist is a scientist who accurately predicts 12 out of every 5 hurricanes. Only when we are alarmed, do we take cautionary measures, so meteorologists should not be faulted. But as 1998 and 2011 demonstrate, fires pose a greater risk to our area.

Where is America most vulnerable to a hurricane strike? The International Hurricane Research Center (IHRC) — the official center for Florida’s 11 universities that works alongside the National Hurricane Center — created a list of the nation’s 10 most vulnerable areas. To create the list, the IHRC looked at 12 criteria, though historic hurricane frequency, storm intensity and levee/dike failure were primary determinants. Other considerations include factors such as storm surge and freshwater flooding potential, coastal erosion trends and island breaching history. Socioeconomic factors involved populations at risk, evacuation distance and routes. Of the 10 areas that made the list, Florida netted four spots, though the greatest danger — no surprise here — is to New Orleans. The rankings, in order, include:
Most Vulnerable to Hurricane Strike
New Orleans
Lake Okeechobee
Florida Keys
Coastal Mississippi
Miami/Fort Lauderdale
Galveston/Houston, Texas
Cape Hatteras, N.C.
Eastern Long Island, N.Y.
Wilmington, N.C.
Tampa/St. Petersburg
Here are some interesting facts from the U.S. Census Bureau: In 1950, the Weather Bureau first began naming hurricanes. At that time, 10.2 million people lived in the coastal portions of states stretching from North Carolina to Texas. It is estimated that by July 1, 2007, that population had grown to 35.3 million. Florida accounted for 15 million of the increase. The population density of Florida’s coastal areas is 354 per square mile.
The name of the first Atlantic storm of 2011 will be Emily. The second Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico/Caribbean storm will be named Franklin. There were 19 named storms during the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season. 12 were hurricanes.

Hurricane HugoNow I’m no stranger to hurricanes. I lived in Charleston, SC in 1989 when Category 5 hurricane Hugo ripped through. The eye of the storm passed directly over my location. It was a horrific experience, one for which no level of preparedness less than evacuation could have mitigated. I didn’t heed the evacuation warnings. I will next time, but being caught in an evacuation isn’t a whole lot better. I still remember a later evacuation where a one-term S.C. Governor surveying the scene from a helicopter received hundreds of one-finger salutes from motorists stranded on Interstate 26 below.
Be prepared but don’t obsess. The chance of a hurricane striking Palm Coast is less than twice that of one striking NYC. And recently adopted Florida building codes are designed to minimize storm damage. A hurricane could still hit but fires, not hurricanes, represent our greatest danger.
According to NOAA, a Category 5 hurricane will come within 87 miles of Palm Coast every 220 years on average. I’m 67 years old. Do the math.
Everyone should have a Disaster Preparedness Plan. You should know the evacuation routes. Visit the Flagler County Emergency Operations Center or go to their website [http//]. And be sure to read the Flagler County/Palm Coast Disaster Preparedness Guide found there.

5 replies
  1. Jeanie
    Jeanie says:

    What about the other name?

    Hi Toby, Just curious, why is it that you say the first named storm will be Emily. What happened to Arlene, Bret, Cindy, and Don?

    Keep up the good work. We love your reports.

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