|Prepare to Survive the Storm
August 26, 2010 - The peak of Hurricane Season is early to mid-September. Earlier this month, government scientists predicted there could be up to 20 named storms before the 2010 season ends. Historically, many of the past major storms began forming in late August and on into October.
History teaches that a lack of hurricane awareness and preparation are common threads among all major hurricane disasters. By knowing your vulnerability and what actions you should take, you can reduce the effects of a hurricane disaster.
Hurricane hazards come in many forms: storm surge, high winds, tornadoes, and flooding. This means it is important for your family to have a plan that includes all of these hazards. Look carefully at the safety actions associated with each type of hurricane hazard and prepare your family disaster plan accordingly. But remember this is only a guide. The first and most important thing anyone should do when facing a hurricane threat is to use common sense.
Storm surge is simply water that is pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds swirling around the storm. This advancing surge combines with the normal tides to create the hurricane storm tide, which can increase the mean water level 15 feet or more. In addition, wind driven waves are superimposed on the storm tide. This rise in water level can cause severe flooding in coastal areas, particularly when the storm tide coincides with the normal high tides. Because much of the United States' densely populated Atlantic and Gulf Coast coastlines lie less than 10 feet above mean sea level, the danger from storm tides is tremendous.
Hurricane-force winds can easily destroy poorly constructed buildings and mobile homes. Debris such as signs, roofing material, and small items left outside become flying missiles in hurricanes. Extensive damage to trees, towers, water and underground utility lines (from uprooted trees), and fallen poles cause considerable disruption. High-rise buildings are also vulnerable to hurricane-force winds, particularly at the higher levels since wind speed tends to increase with height. The strongest winds usually occur in the right side of the eyewall of the hurricane.
Hurricanes can also produce tornadoes that add to the storm's destructive power. Tornadoes are most likely to occur in the right-front quadrant of the hurricane. Some hurricanes seem to produce no tornadoes, while others develop multiple ones. Studies have shown that more than half of the landfalling hurricanes produce at least one tornado. When associated with hurricanes, tornadoes are not usually accompanied by hail or a lot of lightning, clues that citizens in other parts of the country watch for. Tornado production can occur for days after landfall when the tropical cyclone remnants maintain an identifiable low pressure circulation. They can also develop at any time of the day or night during landfall. However, by 12 hours after landfall, tornadoes tend to occur mainly during daytime hours.
While storm surge is always a potential threat, more people have died from inland flooding from 1970 up to 2000. Intense rainfall is not directly related to the wind speed of tropical cyclones. In fact, some of the greatest rainfall amounts occur from weaker storms that drift slowly or stall over an area.
Inland flooding can be a major threat to communities hundreds of miles from the coast as intense rain falls from these huge tropical air masses. In a study from 1970 to 1999, freshwater flooding accounted for more than half (59%) of U.S. tropical cyclone deaths. These floods are why 63% of U.S. tropical cyclone deaths during that period occurred in inland counties. At least 23% of U.S. tropical cyclone deaths occur to people who drown in, or attempting to abandon, their cars. 78% of children killed by tropical cyclones drowned in freshwater floods.
What can you do?
• When you hear hurricane, think inland flooding.
• Determine whether you live in a potential flood zone.
• If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
• Keep abreast of road conditions through the news media.
• Move to a safe area before access is cut off by flood water.
• Do not attempt to cross flowing water. As little as six inches of water may cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
• Develop a flood emergency action plan.
• Have flood insurance. Flood damage is not usually covered by homeowners insurance. Do not make assumptions. Check your policy.
For more information about hurricane preparedness, please visit the Office of Emergency Management website. For questions concerning Tampa's hurricane readiness, please contact the Emergency Coordinator.
Number of Tropical Cyclones per 100 Years
The official hurricane season for the Atlantic Basin (the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico) is from 1 June to 30 November. As seen in the graph above, the peak of the season is from mid-August to late October. However, deadly hurricanes can occur anytime in the hurricane season.
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