Coping With Hurricane Season
The hurricane season is upon us once again. With it comes talk of spinning storms, forecast cones, storm surge, and preparation. A hurricane is a type of “cyclone” in the tropics, a “tropical” cyclone. A cyclone is an atmospheric closed circulation rotating counter-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere. A “tropical cyclone” is such a weather system with a well-defined center surrounded by organized bands of thunderstorms and squalls. Tropical cyclones usually form over the tropics or subtropics, and always over warm ocean water. A tropical cyclone is given a name when sustained surface winds reach Force 8 on the Beaufort Scale, or 34 knots. When the system intensifies to a point in which the sustained surface winds reach Beaufort Force 12 (64 knots), then the tropical cyclone becomes known as a “hurricane”. Some named storms are forgettable; others are remembered for a lifetime, calling to mind for some a memorable story, or a simple deviation along life’s journey. For others, these names bring up memories of stressful evacuation, rising water, deafening wind, painful loss, slow healing, or recovery. In any event, history shows without a shred of doubt that hurricanes are a fact of life along Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean coasts. Residents of and visitors to these areas, among which are the fabulous Florida Keys, must cope with the ever present risk, yearly threats, and occasional impacts of these dangerous storms.
Fortunately, lessons learned from past storms in the Keys and elsewhere shed light on a path for successfully coping with future hurricane threats and impacts. Knowledge is power, and this is where it starts. In the weather forecasting and emergency management communities, we often chant “stay aware, and be prepared.” Situational awareness has been shown to be an important factor in almost every form of human endeavor. A breakdown in awareness can result in an accident, a debacle, or a tragedy. A healthy situational awareness during hurricane season is an essential component of an effective hurricane coping strategy. It is important to remain calm, but not let your attention diminish into a stupor.
Equally important is to remain vigilant without becoming obsessed. Staying aware means more than simply monitoring the web, television, radio, or social media for the latest satellite animations or forecast cones. It means knowing your risk.
Each hurricane brings particular hazards with which you must contend: storm surge flooding; violent and damaging winds; blinding and flooding rain; fast-developing and rapidly moving tornadoes and waterspouts; and powerful waves, surf, and currents. How vulnerable are you, your family, or your business to each of these hurricane hazards? Do you know the elevation of your residence or business? What kind of roof do you have? Do you or a member of your family require special medical needs? Exploring the answers to these questions will help you to assess your vulnerability and risk to the various hurricane hazards. Armed with such knowledge, you then may take action by planning, preparing, and helping others in your community, whether you live, work, or play on a boat, visit half the year, or reside year-round. Time invested in “staying aware” and “being prepared” will be time well spent.
As always, remember to be weather-ready, and stay safe!
Hurricane Awareness and Preparedness Info
Florida Keys National Weather Service Main Web Site:
National Hurricane Center:
Florida Keys National Weather Service Marine Weather:
Florida Keys Coastal Waters Forecast:
Hourly Weather Graph for Selected Florida Keys Marine Locations:
Graphical Tropical Weather Outlook:
Florida Keys Hurricane Local Statement:
Florida Keys Tropical Cyclone Potential Impact Graphics:
Monroe County Emergency Management:
Florida Division of Emergency Management:
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:
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