Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A Hurricane Primer

For those that are interested there will be a Hurricane preparedness siminar on July the 8th at the Mandarin Community Center. Since the tropics are getting active I thought it would be wise to give a small self test I recently came across so you can see if you're truely ready. Get your #2 pencils out....and no cheating.

You turn on the TV or radio and hear the following warning"

“A Hurricane Warning has been issued for the coast, including the Jacksonville beaches. At 12 Noon, the center of Hurricane "Chris" was located 360 miles southeast of the first coast, and is moving toward the northwest at 15 mph. Highest sustained winds are about 100 mph. Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 60 miles from the center and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 180 miles. On its present course, the center of the hurricane will be near the Jacksonville beaches by noon tomorrow.”

Given the above information, which of the following do you think are true?

  1. Even if the storm strikes the First Coast directly, the strongest winds I can expect would be 100 mph.
  2. Since the storm is only traveling 15 mph, and the center is 360 miles away, I have a full 24 hours to complete my preparations.
  3. I will be safe if I evacuate to my friend’s house 25 miles inland (Orange Park), since hurricane warnings only apply to coastal areas.
  4. I will be safe if I evacuate to another place that’s at least 50 miles up or down the coast from where the hurricane is expected to strike.
  5. None of the above.

    A. False

    “Sustained wind” is an average of the wind speeds registered over one minute’s time. Hurricane "Chris's sustained winds are currently 100 mph. Hurricane gusts, which are sudden, brief increases in wind speed, can be considerably higher. For example, this 100 mph hurricane would very likely contain gusts of at least 135 mph. These speeds are a full two categories higher on the Saffir Simpson scale which measures hurricane damage potential! Winds that strong are even more dangerous since most codes only require buildings to be able to withstand winds up to about 120 mph. Most mobile homes couldn’t even take that much.

    And think about it…this weather report tells about the strength of the winds now. Just because the highest sustained winds are 100 mph now, doesn’t mean they might not be considerably stronger by the time it reaches the coast!

    B. Sorry, wrong again

    The winds will become dangerous well before the center reaches the coast. Once winds increase to more than about 40 mph (tropical storm force), it becomes very difficult to do things like putting up storm shutters, bringing in lawn furniture, or even traveling over bridges. At the storm’s current forward speed, 40 mph winds could start affecting the coast as early as midnight… a full 12 hours before the center arrives! So, even if the forecast of the hurricane’s motion is completely accurate, your preparations must be done well before midday tomorrow.

    Also, remember that it gets dark by about 8 PM during the peak of hurricane season. This means that even if you started getting ready right now, you’d only have about 8 hours of daylight to complete all your preparations… and that’s assuming the storm doesn’t start moving any faster as it approaches!

    C. Nope, not this one either

    While the strongest hurricane winds usually do occur along the coast, damaging winds can reach well inland. In 1896, a hurricane that made landfall on the Gulf coast near Cedar Key blew down buildings in Nassau County ( thats Yulee , and it's along way from Cedar Key) In 1995, Atlanta, Georgia experienced hurricane force winds from Hurricane Opal which made landfall on the Florida panhandle over a hundred miles away.

    So… moving 20 miles inland might get you away from the strongest winds, and probably out of the storm surge area. But, your friends should have their house prepared for the hurricane as well! You might be safe there, but only if you are prepared.

    D. Yet another bad choice

    There are two big problems here. First of all, remember that hurricane force winds extend outward up to 60 miles from the center. In some storms it can be even farther. This means, if you move up or down the coast a bit you’ll still get 75 mph sustained winds. Gusts could be even stronger than that. Still pretty dangerous!

    Then, there’s the question of forecast accuracy. The average forecast of where a hurricane will be 24 hours from now is incorrect by about 90 miles! So, there’s still a good possibility that the center of the storm, where the worst conditions are, could move inland at exactly the place you’ve chosen. Of course, since that error works in all directions, the center might actually land even farther away from you rather than closer… but are you really willing to bet your life on it?

    E. Right, congratulations!

    You are smart enough to recognize some of the common mistaken beliefs that many folks have about hurricanes. Odds are, if you live in Florida very long, you will experience a hurricane. When that time comes, you will probably be “stormwise” enough to make the right decisions to protect yourself and your property. You will have a Disaster Kit prepared, and you will prepare your home, too. You will use your NOAA weather radio to monitor the storm’s progress. You will listen, and if there is a call for evacuation, you will know the correct route to do so. Remember, to Prepare and Stay Aware, and you can be safe if and when a hurricane comes your way.

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