For five months each year, the warm climate that makes Florida famous creates the ideal conditions for storms to brew. Florida hasn’t been directly hit by a hurricane in 10 years, and roughly two weeks into hurricane season the tropics seem quiet. So far.
Still, residents and emergency responders alike must be prepared for any extreme weather. Representatives from Florida Power and Light, the National Hurricane Center and the Department of Public Safety recently met in West Palm Beach to discuss what’s expected this hurricane season and what residents need to know to stay safe.
1. If you moved to Florida after 2005, chances are you may have never experienced a hurricane. According to a study done by FEMA last year, most people say they aren’t prepared for emergencies because supplies are too expensive or they don’t know what to get. The National Hurricane Center's director, Richard Knabb, says prepping for a hurricane is much more than stocking up on water and putting up shutters.
“You need to get cash out of the ATM before the power’s out, fill your propane tank, fulfill your prescriptions ahead of time. You gotta get battery-powered, portable sources to keep your phones running,” says Knabb.
2. However, emergency preparedness isn’t just gathering supplies.
Knabb says people tend to focus on items like canned goods and flashlights but forget to review and update their insurance policies, as well as create -- and practice -- evacuation plans and learn how to properly operate a generator.
3. Wind shouldn’t be your biggest fear.
Knabb says people tend to wait for a storm’s category placement to decide whether or not to evacuate, but wind forces don’t always correlate with the bigger issue: water damage.
“The problem is that people make assumptions about how strong the hurricane is, that that’s gonna tell them whether or not it’s dangerous for them... and when you run the numbers, water is the main problem, the main killer.”
Turns out the majority of hurricane fatalities are actually caused by storm surges, which can lead to rip currents and flooding. This year the National Hurricane Center will introduce a new and improved surge map to predict flooding damage and give more accurate evacuation alerts. For example, you’d be able to see how much flood Broward County would see vs. Miami-Dade. You can it find at nhc.noaa.gov.
Hurricane season officially ends November 30. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts there will be six to 11 storms this year.