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For Florida, it is all about ERIKA now!

It’s been almost ten years since hurricane WILMA crossed over South Florida back of 24 October 2005 leaving a multi-billion dollar disaster in its path.

Relative to this long quiet period, in terms of tropical cyclone activity, it is important to ask: How much more vulnerable has our region grown over these ten years? Are we better prepared today than we were ten years ago? Will our investments in hurricane mitigation prove effective next time our region is impacted by a hurricane? What kind of an impact will the next storm surge bring after ten years of continuous exacerbation by sea level rise?

Since that fateful October day in 2005, except when storm surge generated by Hurricane SANDY caused million of dollars in damage along the coastal region in Broward County, Florida as it passed at a distance out to sea from South Florida in late October 2012, it has been a rather quiet decade in terms of hurricane activity in our neck-of-the-woods.

Infrared satellite image [NOAA] of 26 August 2015 showing a strengthening Tropical Storm ERIKA as it continues to move toward the Windward Islands
Infrared satellite image [NOAA] of 26 August 2015 showing a strengthening Tropical Storm ERIKA as it continues to move toward the Windward Islands
Quiet until now, that is! As of today Wednesday 26 October, there at a distance is Tropical Storm ERIKA, the fifth-named tropical cyclone of the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season, moving along ‘hurricane alley’ in the wake of now disintegrated Hurricane DANNY toward the windward islands, and the Bahamas and possibly South Florida beyond that.

Projected track for ERIKA as of 26 August 2015 [cOURTESY OF THE u.s. nAVAL rESEARCH lABORATORY]
Projected track for ERIKA as of 26 August 2015 [Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory)
Based on information from the National Hurricane Center (NHC), it would appear  the consensus of the hurricane forecasting models places a  by-then category 1 Hurricane ERIKA in the Florida Straits off the coast of South Florida by this coming Sunday 30 August, for a possible landfall on 1 September.

While the so-called ‘cone of uncertainty’ remains quite wide four days out, it is not too early for residents of vulnerable coastal communities in South Florida (Miami-Dade, Monroe, Collier, Broward, Palm Beach counties etc.) to start preparing and to implement their emergency plans.

In this regard it is critically important to not dismiss ERIKA because someone may refer to it as “just a category 1 storm”, keeping in mind that the combination of strong winds, extreme rain, flooding, storm surge and waves,  wind-borne and floating debris, has a tremendous capability for causing injury and extensive damage.

Mosaic of satellite images [NOAA] of 26 August 2015 showing low-level winds across the Atlantic basin. Notice the position of Tropical Storm ERIKA and Florida
Mosaic of satellite images [NOAA] of 26 August 2015 showing low-level winds across the Atlantic basin. Notice the position of Tropical Storm ERIKA and Florida
It is also critically important to monitor the progress of ERIKA closely over the next few days, to listen to the warnings and alerts issued by local emergency management authorities, and to pay attention to information provided by the NHC and the National Weather Service. Be prepared. Remain alert. MITIGATE!

Posted recently: TEACHING ABOUT VULNERABILITY AND MITIGATION

Ricardo A. Alvarez from Mitigat.com, Inc. and the Florida Center for Environmental Studies (CES) at Florida Atlantic University (FAU),  presented on his experience and research leading to the development of graduate-level courses and teaching on the topics of vulnerability and mitigation at a first-ever special one-day ‘1st Annual Emergency Management Theory and Research Workshop‘, which was moderated by Jessica Jensen, Ph.D. in Emergency Management, North Dakota State University and by Stephen Carter Ph.D., University of Maryland, University College, on Monday 2 June 2014, the day before the start of the ‘16th Annual Emergency Management Higher Education Symposium’,Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Ricardo’s presentation was on ‘Teaching About Vulnerability and Mitigation: An empirical approach‘ (ALVAREZpresentation)

To read more about this pioneering  and interesting 1st Annual Emergency Management Theory and Research Workshop, and about the 16th Annual Emergency Management Higher Education Symposium, go to the CONFERENCES – PRESENTATIONS Menu above and click  on TEACHING ABOUT VULNERABILITY AND MITIGATION: An empirical approach. June 2, 2014 Presentation at the ‘1st Annual Emergency Management Theory and Research Workshop. Emergency Management Institute, Emmitsburg, MD.

The full agenda for this one-day workshop may be viewed at the following link: Final Tand R Workshop Agenda 2014.