Hurricane Survival Information
1.1. Hurricanes. There are no other storms like hurricanes on earth. Born in warm tropical waters, these spiraling masses require a complex combination of atmospheric processes to grow, mature, and then die. Views of hurricanes from satellites (Figure 1.1.) located thousands of miles above the earth show how unique these powerful, tightly coiled weather systems are. Figure 1.1. Hurricane Elena.
1.1.1. Each year on average, ten tropical storms (of which six become hurricanes) develop over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or Gulf of Mexico. Many of these remain over the ocean. However, about five hurricanes strike the United States coastline every 3 years. Of these five, two will be major hurricanes (category 3 or greater on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale).
1.1.2. Today, hurricane damage costs billions of dollars. Damage from Hurricane Andrew (1992) alone was estimated at more than $25 billion in South Florida and Louisiana and undoubtedly would have been higher had the storm hit Miami directly.
1.1.3. Thankfully, the number of people injured or killed during tropical cyclones in the United States has been declining, largely because of improvements in forecasting and emergency preparedness. Nonetheless, our risk from hurricanes is increasing. With population and development continuing to increase along coastal areas, greater numbers of people and property are vulnerable to hurricane threat. Large numbers of tourists also favor coastal locations, adding greatly to the problems of emergency managers and local decision-makers during a hurricane threat.
1.1.4. Hurricanes cannot be controlled, but our vulnerability can be reduced through preparedness. Local decision-makers must make difficult choices between public safety and possible economic losses when faced with a hurricane, but these decisions will be solid if they are based on an understanding of hurricanes, their hazards, the value and limitations of forecasts, and a good decision-making process.
1.2. Areas at Risk.
1.2.1. Coastal Areas and Barrier Islands. All Atlantic and Gulf coastal areas are subject to hurricanes or tropical storms. Due to the limited number of evacuation routes, barrier islands are especially vulnerable to hurricanes. People on barrier islands and in vulnerable coastal areas may be asked by local officials to evacuate well in advance of a hurricane landfall. If you are asked to evacuate, do so immediately! 1.2.2. Inland Areas. Hurricanes affect inland areas with high winds, floods, and tornadoes. Listen carefully to local authorities to determine what threats you can expect and take the necessary precautions to protect yourself, your family, and your property.
1.3. The United States Hurricane Problem.
1.3.1. Population Growth. The United States has a significant hurricane problem. Our shorelines attract large numbers of people. From Maine to Texas, our coastline is filled with new homes, condominium towers, and cities built on sand waiting for the next storm to threaten its residents and their dreams. There are now some 45 million permanent residents along the hurricane-prone coastline, and the population is still growing. The most rapid growth has been from Texas through the Carolinas. Florida, where hurricanes are most frequent, leads the nation in new residents. In addition to the permanent residents, the holiday, weekend, and vacation populations swell in some coastal areas 10 to 100 fold. A large portion of the coastal areas with high population densities are subject to the inundation from the hurricane's storm surge that historically has caused the greatest loss of life and extreme property damage.
1.3.2. Perception of Risk. Over the past several years, the warning system has provided adequate time for people on the barrier islands and the immediate coastline to move inland when hurricanes have threatened. However, it is becoming more difficult to evacuate people from the barrier islands and other coastal areas because roads have not kept pace with the rapid population growth. The problem is further compounded by the fact that 80 to 90 percent of the population now living in hurricane-prone areas has never experienced the core of a major hurricane. Many of these people have been through weaker storms. The result is a false impression of a hurricane's damage potential. This often leads to complacency and delayed response actions resulting in the loss of lives.
1.3.3. Frequency of Hurricanes. During the 70s and 80s, major hurricanes striking the United States were less frequent than the previous three decades. With the tremendous increase in population along the high-risk areas of our shorelines, we may not fare as well in the future. This will be especially true when hurricane activity inevitably returns to the frequencies experienced during the 40s through the 60s. In the final analysis, the only real defense against hurricanes is the informed readiness of the community.
1.4. Family Preparedness.
1.4.1. Family Disaster Plan. The threat of hurricanes requires that everyone be prepared to respond. Hurricanes can force you to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your home. What would you do if basic services, such as water, gas, electricity, or telephones were cut off? Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone right away. Families can and do cope with disaster by preparing in advance and working together as a team. Knowing what to do is your best protection and your responsibility.
1.4.2. Disaster Supplies Kit. After a disaster, local officials and relief workers will be on the scene, but they cannot reach everyone immediately. You could get help in hours, or it may take days. Basic services, such as electricity, gas, water, and telephones, may be cut off, or you may have to evacuate at a moment's notice. You probably won't have time to shop or search for the supplies you'll need. Your family will cope best by preparing for disaster before it strikes.
1.5. Informational Resources. If more in-depth information is required, please contact your local emergency management office, local National Weather Service office, or local American Red Cross chapter. Additional information, brochures, or materials about disaster safety can be obtained through the websites identified in Attachment 1.