June 12, 2012
Contact: Ken or Kate Gooderham, ASBPA executive directors -- (239) 489-2616
Harry Simmons, ASBPA president -- (910) 200-7867
A hurricane season quiz
As every coastal resident knows (or should know), hurricane season started June 1 – although Alberto and Beryl were so eager to visit they wouldn’t wait for the season to start this year. Amid the talk of predictions and preparations, we offer a brief test of your hurricane knowledge:
1) A quiet hurricane season means less chance for a storm to hit your coastline.
FALSE: While fewer storms can mean fewer making landfall anywhere in the U.S., it doesn’t really lower anyone chances of being the target. For example, 1992 was a considered a “quiet” hurricane season… but one of the storms that did blow up turned into Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 hurricane that the people along Florida’s southeast coast will never forget.
2) Coastal residents aren’t the only ones who should worry about hurricanes.
TRUE: While coastal dwellers have obvious reasons to be concerned (as any sane person should be when wearing a bull’s eye on their home), inland residents have equal reason to cast a wary eye skyward when warning flags are hoisted. After a storm makes landfall and begins driving inland, expect considerable rainfall (and the subsequent flooding), tree and powerline losses (while wind speeds fall off, there’s still plenty of punch left to do damage to denser forests) and potential injury (in Hurricane Irene as many people died in Pennsylvania, far from the coast, as died in North Carolina, where the storm made landfall).
3) The National Flood Insurance Program encourages people to build in harm’s way by subsidizing high-cost housing along the coast.
FALSE, at least by our definition of “subsidy”: The program caps its coverage at $250,000 for structures and $100,000 for contents – nothing to sneeze at, but hardly “high-cost” in a coastal context. This and other conditions placed on the policies undercut the case that this could be construed as a “subsidy” – but, instead, the program both protects at-risk property and forces coastal (and other) communities to address the risk of flooding in very constructive ways to allow their residents access to the program.
4) The only people who need to fret about coastal storms for the next six months are along the Atlantic and the Gulf.
FALSE: The West Coast (i.e. Eastern Pacific) has its very own hurricane season – and it even starts earlier (May 15) and lasts all the way to Nov. 30, just like the Atlantic/Gulf season. It also has its own set of storm names (actually, hurricanes in the Eastern Pacific and typhoons in the Western), doled out in alphabetical order (unlike the Central and Western Pacific lists).
5) The Atlantic is the busiest place on earth for tropical cyclones.
FALSE, and not even close. The Western Pacific holds the record for most storms in a year (39), the most intense storm (190 mph), the wettest (91 inches of rain) and the deadliest (with fatalities estimated at 100,000). It also has recorded storms in every month of the year, although the peak remains aligned with the Atlantic in August and September.
6) The recent spate of hurricanes in the past few years has not generated a concurrent rise of public interest about storm preparation.
TRUE (unfortunately). While the past few years have been exceptionally busy ones for numbers of storms, they have been record-setting for the lack of landfall along the U.S. Coast. Florida has gone the longest period of time ever recorded without a direct hurricane strike. The hurricane seasons of 2010 and 2011 were among the most active for hurricanes (19) on record – but only one hurricane (Irene) actually made landfall and, arguably, it did its most serious as a tropical (and then extra-tropical) storm when it inundated inland portions of New England during its travels northward.
7) If you’ve been through one hurricane, you know what to expect.
FALSE (emphatically). No two storms are alike, with the impact of any landfalling system dependent on mean factors (wind speed, direction, forward motion, size, amount of potential surge and rainfall, just to start the list). Because of this, each storm’s impact is inevitably unique. This doesn’t mean don’t prepare for it – quite the contrary. It really underscores the need to be over-prepared for anything, and to be pleased when the eventual outcome is a disappointment when compared to the potential storm being forecast and your anticipation of it.
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ABOUT ASBPA: Founded in 1926, the ASBPA promotes the integration of science, policies and actions that maintain, protect and enhance the coasts of America. For more information on ASBPA, go to www.asbpa.org, facebook or www.twitter.com/asbpa.