Hurricane season is upon us once again. The time between about Memorial Day and Thanksgiving includes many holidays, festivals, birthdays, and vacations. People from all walks of life will visit the Florida Keys, and make lifetime memories, while people residing in the Keys will help visitors make those memories fondly and safely. Safety is important, is it not? Every day, we consider our personal safety, family safety, customer safety, safety on the job, fire safety, and safety of life at sea. We wear seat belts, life jackets, and safety gear at work. We develop safety policies, plans, and procedures, and then we train, exercise, and execute those plans, policies, and procedures. We do this because research, experience, and common sense tell us it works, and, in many cases, the law requires it. We should treat the hurricane and its multiple hazards with the same level of attention to detail. It could save your life.
Hurricanes are rare. Only about 50 develop each year across the planet. In the Atlantic Basin, spanning from the coast of Africa to North America, only about six hurricanes develop in an “average” year. Of those, perhaps a few will make landfall somewhere in the basin. The area within the broad storm system we call a “hurricane” which actually will experience sustained hurricane-force winds is quite small. Most people who claim to have experienced a “hurricane” have experienced only the relatively benign outer periphery. True hurricane conditions are loud, violent, and unsettling, and this is with a category one hurricane. The destructive power of the hurricane wind increases dramatically between a category one storm and a category five storm. This is because the force of the wind increases exponentially with wind speed. Catastrophic damage is always reported in association with category four and five hurricanes. However, the primary cause of death in hurricanes is drowning. Storm surge is by far the most potentially lethal hurricane hazard in the Florida Keys. Storm surge is why Monroe County issues evacuation orders. Storm surge is why the Monroe County (Florida Keys) Tourist Development Council (TDC) has a formal communications program that is tightly coordinated with local emergency management officials to provide crucial information to help visitors safely exit the Florida Keys in the event a hurricane threatens the region.
During the 2017 hurricane season, and for the first time, the National Weather Service will issue Storm Surge Watches and Warnings. The Storm Surge Watch will be issued for the possibility of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the shoreline somewhere within the specified area, generally within 48 hours, in association with an ongoing or potential tropical cyclone, a subtropical cyclone, or a post-tropical cyclone. The Storm Surge Warning will be issued for the danger of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the shoreline somewhere within the specified area, generally within 36 hours, in association with an ongoing or potential tropical cyclone, a subtropical cyclone, or a post-tropical cyclone.
Of course, in the Florida Keys, many of us cannot afford to wait to act until 48 or 36 hours prior to tropical storm or hurricane conditions. The Florida Keys have complex social, economic, and transportation networks that require early action in order for people to stay safe. Effective evasive action requires preparation, and proper preparation requires thoughtful planning. Do you have a hurricane plan for yourself, your family, or your business? If not, it is time to get a plan. Some things to consider:
• Determine your risk
• Develop an evacuation plan
• Secure an insurance checkup
• Assemble disaster supplies
• Strengthen your home
• Identify your trusted sources for information during a hurricane event
• Complete your written hurricane plan
For more information on hurricane planning and preparation, visit www.weather.gov/hurricanesafety.
As a boater, the most effective strategy is avoidance, meaning getting your boat out of the Florida Keys via sortie, haul-out, or trailering. Sheltering in a hurricane hole or haven, or securing a vessel in dry storage are strategies with only limited effectiveness, while adding extra lines or doing nothing is least effective. A marina in the Florida Keys simply is not a viable sanctuary for a vessel of any type during a direct hurricane threat. Be proactive. Move your boat out of the path of the storm, and do it early on.
If you plan to trailer your boat out of the Keys, the Overseas Highway can wreak havoc on worn trailers. Now is a good time to carefully assess the condition of your trailer (air in tires, tire cracks or rot, wheel bearings/lube, leaf springs, tie-down straps).
Boaters should have a boater hurricane preparedness plan. Include steps to be taken to prepare the physical environment of the boat itself. Review any pre-arranged agreements with storage facilities or property owners. Develop a list of tasks and time required to complete them. How many total daylight hours do you need?
Finally, if you live aboard, do not stay on your boat. A BOAT IS NO PLACE TO BE IN A HURRICANE!
Develop a hurricane plan now for yourself, your family, and/or your business. Doing so is time well spent. The men and women of the Florida Keys National Weather Service maintain a continuous surveillance of potential hazardous weather threats across the Florida Keys and adjacent coastal waters 24 hours per day, seven days a week, year-round. If you have any questions regarding tropical storm or hurricane impacts in the Florida Keys this season, please give us a call at (305) 295-1316, visit us online at weather.gov/key, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter (NWSKeyWest).
Hurricane Season is here – remember to be weather-ready, and stay safe!
Comments will be approved before showing up.