It’s been almost nine years since Florida got hit by a hurricane. In fact during the 2004 and 2005 Atlantic hurricane seasons Florida got hit seven times by tropical cyclones including infamous KATRINA before it continued on its way to cause a major disaster in New Orleans and other places in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Florida also got hit by WILMA, after it had pounded the Yucatan Peninsula causing extensive damage in Cancun and the Maya Riviera, which wasn’t a major storm when it traversed South Florida from west to east generating $21.0 billion in damage.
Yes we have been lucky here in Florida for the past nine years, but have we really? In 2012 we got a taste of what a large storm can do, even when it passes at considerable distance from our shores, when SANDY caused more than $100 million in damage in Florida. So not having a direct hit by a land-falling hurricane does not mean Florida can not be damaged by a tropical cyclone. Also, during this relatively long period of calm the population of Florida has grown by more than 2.0 million, with most of that growth taking place in the coastal region, which is the most vulnerable to the impact of hurricanes.
In reality, during this period of exemption from tropical cyclone impacts, the vulnerability of Florida has grown significantly in terms of population and urban development, which means there are many more and there is much more at risk today than when WILMA hit Florida in 2005. Also, the level of the sea has risen some more over the past ten years, which means that next storm surge generated by an approaching future hurricane will be higher, will travel faster and it will also have higher waves riding above it as it comes on shore. In summary the next impact will be far more damaging that one caused by a hurricane of the same category ten years ago.
To remind us of the power of tropical cyclones, super typhoon VONGFONG is approaching Okinawa, Japan today as a rather large system where hurricane strength winds are being felt almost 500 kilometers from the eye of the storm.
Another reminder closer to our neck-of-the-woods is a tropical depression bordering on tropical storm strength that is in the central Atlantic moving toward the northwest north of Puerto Rico today. While farther to the east a strong tropical wave west of the Cape Verde Islands rides along ‘hurricane alley’.
The truth is, the historical record, going back more than 162 years, shows Florida has been the most hurricane-vulnerable state in the country during this long period of time. Consequently all interests in Florida must be prepared, remain alert, and keep practicing MITIGATION!
UPDATE AS OF 11 OCTOBER 2014 AT 10:00 A.M.
Cyclonic activity in the North Atlantic basin is stirring, perhaps reacting to comments posted here on MITIGAT (ha, ha) or simply because Mother Nature will do what it does; the tropical depression in the central Atlantic has strengthened to become Tropical Storm FAY, the sixth-named tropical cyclone of the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season. now aiming toward Bermuda.
This morning we also see two tropical waves riding the northern edge of ‘hurricane alley’, including a rather large and strong disturbance west of the Cape Verde islands. So there is plenty of fuel in the system in this later stage of the season warranting a reminder: Stay alert, be prepared, MITIGATE! Keep in mind, it only takes one hit to make it a bad day!
Elsewhere super-typhoon VONGFONG has weakened somewhat during the night, but remains a rather large and dangerous storm barreling over Okinawa as it turns toward the north and then the northeast over Japan’s major islands. VONGFONG is so large that it is already affecting weather patterns over the U.S.A. and Canada as it interacts with the jet stream of its north.
Over the Indian ocean in the Bay of Bengal tropical cyclone HUDHUD is strengthening somewhat as it moves toward the northeastern coast of India.