The movement of an intense hurricane along our eastern seaboard should have caught our attention, enough at least to start us thinking of how easily we could be the future target. Hurricane Earl made Category 4 level with winds at one point near 145 miles per hour.
This was the first time this season a storm achieved that intensity but it is just one of possibly 4 or 5 more projected within the next couple of months at such strength. With a total of 8 to 12 hurricanes predicted this season and another 6 to 8 tropical storms, chances are better than normal we will see some activity. Hopefully it will never be at a catastrophic level if or when it hits our shores.
If you have not prepared a plan of action for potential evacuation due to a hurricane, you need to start considering such a plan now. The Regional Planning Council (RPC) has a series of maps and information that graphically show where the expected evacuation zones are depending on the storm surge from various levels of hurricanes, whether they are coming onshore or from across the peninsula. The website for the RCP is www.swfrpc.org. If you visit the site, which is loaded with local information, the link for the surge maps is on the left under maps/GIS. You should check your location against these maps.
The map for Collier County showing the land falling storm surge and evacuation zones is a great graphic representation of the areas in our county that need to get out of the way from an incoming storm based upon storm intensity. If you live south or west of U.S. 41, you are in trouble in every level of storm for most all of that area. Storm surge is the greatest potential for loss of life from a hurricane and can impact areas up to 20 miles inland. Depending on the storm intensity, if you plan to leave make sure it is to an area far enough away and that you leave in plenty of time to not get caught in miles of traffic attempting to do the same thing you are.
Planning what to do needs to be matched with constant and updated information on where the storm is and how it is building up. One common source of information is the Weather Channel. Unfortunately, the Weather Channel focuses too much on over dramatization rather than the facts needed to help quickly understand what we need to do. Watching some silly weather reporter standing on a windy beach telling us how dangerous and difficult doing so not only doesn’t give us the information we need, it makes believing they are a reliable source for that information doubtful.
There are much better alternatives to the Weather Channel for anyone with an Internet connection. A great site with excellent graphics and solid information is Weather Underground at www.wunderground.com/tropical. The computer models, satellite views, and future tracking pages of this site for each active storm are excellent for planning where and how a storm may impact our area. For those who like more colorful graphic displays along with good information, Storm Pulse is also very useful and user friendly, sometimes even more current then Weather Underground. The Storm Pulse site is located at www.stormpulse.com. Once it opens, all you need to do is navigate to the storm location, click on it and then in the upper right corner click on any of the added features to see how the storm is developing and where it is going. This is a great site to see the cloud formations as they move across Africa and thus the potential to turn into hurricanes once they reach the open waters of the Atlantic.
For the technically minded, an interactive site that provides wind and ocean currents is cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/tropic2. This site is very well laid out by one of the universities and once you open a particular storm site, the overlays provide varying levels of wind direction, ocean temperatures and even GPS locations of ships that may be in the area. One last site for the more detailed minded is www.nrlmry.navy.mil/tc_pages/tc_home.html. This site’s graphics are provided by the Naval Atlantic Meteorology and Oceanographic Center, adding a different way of looking at many aspects of a storm.
We are only a third of the way through the expected number of named storms this year. If one heads this way, we all need a plan. If we stay we will need to possibly do without electricity, water and other conveniences for some time. If we leave we need to think far enough ahead to beat the traffic in order to get somewhere safe and have a family plan to reconnect with everyone.